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Wifi Light Bulbs: Smart Step or High-Tech Clutter?

5/20/2011 2:00:59 PM

Tags: NXP GreenChip smart lighting solution, NXP Semiconductors, smart lighting, smart homes, wifi light bulbs, energy-efficient light bulbs, energy-efficient lighting, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailWhat if every light bulb had its own unique Internet IP address?

Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors asks this question in announcing its new Internet-enabled Smart Lighting network powered by the GreenChip this week. My immediate question: Why would I want my bulbs to have IP addresses?

NXP believes the possibilities with its new smart lighting technology, which allows compact fluorescent and LED lights to be controlled by any Internet-enabled device, are endless: “You could monitor, manage and control every light bulb from any Internet-enabled device–turning lights on and off individually, dimming or creating scenes from your smartphone, tablet, PC or TV–to save energy as well as electricity costs,” NXP states. “Your ‘smart lighting’ network could have dozens or even hundreds of appliances connected through a wireless network designed for maximum energy savings, communicating information about their environment, about power consumption levels, and alerting you to any problems.”

John Croteau, senior vice president and general manager, power lighting solutions and high performance RF for NXP Semiconductors, says GreenChip “signals a fundamental shift in the way we interact with lights.” Homeowners can turn on and off lights when and where they need them, at the desired level of brightness, from anywhere. “Our Smart Lighting solution also brings us one step closer to the ‘Internet of Things’–a world in which every home appliance can be monitored and controlled via an IP address–at a very compelling price point for consumers,” Croteau adds.

Kit Eaton, writing in Fast Company, buys into the possibilities. “You'll also be able to control mood lighting `states’ with a remote control, or via your iPad, as if you were a theater lighting designer; you'll be able to quickly and easily incorporate movement sensing automated lighting, that could even turn on dimly if it detects you're stumbling to the bathroom at midnight; and you'll be able to download apps to hone and polish your home's lighting energy needs so that you end up with a smaller power bill,” he writes.

What do you think? Are these the logical first step toward building “smart” homes controlled and monitored by our smart phones, or just another gadget to add to our high-tech clutter? When will this party be over?

nxp bulbs 

NXP's GreenChip smart lighting solution lets homeowners remotely turn on and off the lights. Photo courtesy of NXP 

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Keith Karolyi
5/24/2011 9:45:58 PM
Hey brandt! While I agree that lighting will only save the average individual homeowner about 5-10 dollars per month, the policy to phase out incandescent bulbs actually makes sense on a national level. I doubt GE pushed CFL bulbs to turn them into a profit center (they last about ten times longer than incandescents) but if you can save that small amount of power over a huge number of users, you can make it unnecessary to build any additional power plants. It has been said that if every household in the U.S. replaced one 100 watt bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb of comparable light output, it would remove the need for a nuke plant the size of the one at Three Mile Island. (no doubt the anti-nuke lobby chose that facility for a reason). In any case, utilities would rather not build out any more grid infrastructure if they can avoid it right now.

t brandt
5/23/2011 12:00:02 AM
Hey Keith--somebody beat you to it- 60 yrs ago: #2- With Folded Hands-- and a variation on the theme: #8- A Logic Named Joe and another variation at #3 The Trouble With Robots

Keith Karolyi
5/21/2011 10:00:18 PM
The funny thing about this story is that we used to use ideas like this one as material for jokes in the IT field. We always wondered if, one day, everything in our house, car and office would be interconnected to the Internet and to each other. What happens when my personal fitness app on my phone, asks my refrigerator about what I've been eating while asking my exercise equipment how often they've been used. They all ask the scale in my bathroom what my last weight reading was and decide I need a little more exercise and a little less beer. My personal organizer will automatically revise my grocery list, the refrigerator sets itself to lock the door after 8pm and my car refuses to start after I get home, forcing me to use my bike for at least a five mile ride. The TV decides it will only turn itself on if the rest of the house certifies that no household maintenance is necessary and I've stuck to the diet emailed to me by my doctor after the fridge ratted me out. That's about the time we discover that our home network is intelligent and has decided we are too inferior to run our own affairs and turns us into it's forced laborers. (And yes, I've already got the copyright on the short story )

t brandt
5/20/2011 4:46:46 PM
Smart Lighting might make sense if you owned a theatre on Broadway or a casino on The Strip, but for most of us, lights only account for less than 10% of our electricity usage. With new mandated lite bulbs costing $50 each (how many would you need in your house?) you'd only save about $5/month in electricity. It doesn't make sense. The whole legislative push to outlaw incandescent bulbs was orchestrated by J. Imelt, top counselor to The President and also, by chance, CEO of GE. With that regulation in place, he got his excuse to close all the American factories producing incandescents and contract out the new jobs to China. "No lobbyists in govt" at work. Thanks, Jeff & Barack.

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