The Future of the Light Bulb?

Would you be ok paying £180 ($280) for 3 light bulbs?

Would you like your lights connected to the internet?

Would you like to control your lights from a smartphone app?

Would you like your lights to blink when you have a Facebook notification?

Philips Hue

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then this Philips Hue LED Lighting System might be for you.

Ok, so the price is so much more expensive than other lights and the last one could get a little annoying but what about the middle two? What are the benefits and potential drawbacks of being connected? These lights are part of a drive towards the “Internet of Things” where millions, even billions of devices would be interconnected. Do you want a notification on your iPhone when your toast has popped? While that actually might be handy, there are many more potentially more useful applications in analytics, security and controllability.

The system uses the IFTTT protocol – see the self-explanatory ifttt.com/wtf for more details. Using triggers and actions, recipes are created so that not only can the lights be controlled from a beach while on holiday via your phone, but external actions can control the lights in your house at your discretion or (in)convenience.

So why spend £180 on three light bulbs (with £50 per additional light bulb)? Philips argue:

With its high quality energy-saving LED light, Philips hue allows you to tune shades of white light or create any color. In addition, Philips hue can:
– Save your favourite light scenes for each room or time of day and recall them in an instant
– Use any photo on your phone as a colour palette to paint your room with light and bring your memories back to life
– Tune white light from warm candlelight to vibrant, cool white light
– Create ambience or complement your decor with the colours of the rainbow
– Control and monitor your lights remotely when not at home for security and peace of mind
– Set timers to help manage your daily routine
– Let light wake you up refreshed or help your loved ones fall asleep

The app for Philips’ hue also features expert LightRecipes:  four pre-programmed lighting settings based on Philips’ research around the biological effects that lighting has on the body.  These scenarios adjust bulbs to the optimum shade and brightness of white light to help you relax, read, concentrate or energise.

image-RELAX-APP-SCREEN

However, a helpful review from the Register also raises some interesting and pragmatic points:

Controlling the lights from a smartphone also becomes an issue once the novelty wears off. When it’s midnight and you’re trying to collect up the glasses from the living room and go to bed, finding a smartphone and waiting for the app to boot becomes a right palaver. At that point the temptation to flick the wall switch is almost overpowering – but give in, and all the automated stuff which makes the Hue so cool stops working until the power is back.

So as a replacement for existing lights the Hue is a bit of a non-starter; at least, until our wall switches get connected to IFTTT (which itself needs to become a good deal more responsive), begging the question: what it is good for?

As a first step towards the Internet of Things the Hue is amazing. Link it to a Raspberry Pi and one’s living room undoubtedly gains huge geek credibility. Slightly more rational might be a bedside Hue, linked to an IFTTT timer, or perhaps one in the kitchen linked to the weather and one for the living room for sports scores, with all three lighting up for Google calendar events.

Personally, I think the concept is great and I would love to have that level of control but I also have reservations presently over cost, potential security and potential hassle. However, these are new and innovative products and the internet of things is still in its infancy, but the future is bright and in fact any colour you feel like.

So what do you think?
Are you tempted?
Have you got them already?

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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