Internet Connected LED Light Bulb Comes Home

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By Phil Wright

Hue, a new product from Philips that is just now reaching market in the Apple store, combines several of my interests including LED lighting, smartphones, tablets, displays, wireless networking and the Internet in intriguing fashion. The Hue lighting system allows the user to wirelessly and remotely control the lighting intensity and color of up to 50 individual Hue bulbs using a smartphone or tablet application.

Starting with the Hue website, http://www.meethue.com, which is an interesting example of modern web design, to the video below that illustrates the use of the Hue Personal Wireless Lighting system, Philips is launching a product that may appeal to a new and growing consumer electronics market.

The “Philips Hue Connected Bulb – Starter Pack” ($199.95 at the Apple store) consists of three Hue LED light bulbs, a Hue bridge to wirelessly connect the bulbs, and a LAN cable to connect the bridge to a wireless router. The bridge connects to each bulb using the open ZigBee Light Link wireless standard. Each Hue light bulb provides a maximum of 600 lumens (comparable to a 50 watt incandescent bulb) while dissipating only 8.5 watt (80 percent more efficient than the incandescent). The lamp can achieve white light color rendering index (CRI) greater than 90.

Additional bulbs can be purchased for $59.95 each and the bridge can control up to 50 bulbs. Although the Hue system and bulbs are initially only available from the Apple store, an Android OS app (beta version) is available in addition to the iOS version. That Philips has chosen to introduce Hue in cooperation with Apple suggests that the firm is seeking to connect with well-heeled consumers that favor Apple’s products.

The Philips Hue Lighting System joins products like the Nest wireless learning thermostat as a recent addition to the home automation market. I expect that the market success of these products will depend strongly on price. For example, if the Philips Hue Starter Pack and 47 additional bulbs were purchased, the resulting cost would be more than $3,000. Of course, few if any home users of the system would require as many as 50 lamps. An initial installation of the Hue system with five or six of the bulbs would cost less than $400. Of course, that is in addition to the cost of a smartphone or tablet which many users have likely already purchased. Time will tell if these relatively sophisticated Internet-controlled lighting systems will attain wide market acceptance. Nevertheless, Internet connectivity of household items will likely become more widely deployed as the “Internet of things” based on wireless technologies like ZigBee Light Link becomes the new reality.