“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” – Master Yoda.
As I was reaching down behind the couch recently to find the light switch for the lamp, I was thinking about opportunities to further automate my house with gadgets. Sadly, later as I strained for the second time to reach the switch to turn the bulb off, I was still struggling for ideas.
Once my brain caught up to the situation, I thought about building a gadget that could replace a light switch in a wall, allowing me to control a light switch with Wi-Fi. After speaking to my father about the idea, he mentioned that he’d read about Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs.
It turns out that there are several manufactures making Wi-Fi light bulbs – the two most popular products appear to be the LIFX and the Philips HUE. I ended up selecting the LIFX because the LIFX bulbs don’t require a “base station” of sorts, and they are significantly brighter. However, they are also a little more expensive, although with a lower start-up cost. You can buy a single LIFX bulb and get started, where as with the HUE, you need to buy I believe a 4 bulb starter pack with base station. That and the HUE only comes in Edison Screw configuration.
You can order the LIFX bulb online or purchase through a few companies like Harvey Norman. It’s very cool though, you can order them with a Bayonet, Edison Screw or GU-10 Downlight configuration (although that’s preorder only).
The big day arrived and I received my first LIFX bulb.
Oh, you can also order the bulb in a white or grey colour. I went for white obviously.
It’s quite a large bulb so it works very well in a floor or desk lamp, but you’d really need to ensure that in a ceiling lamp the bowl/glass is big enough to accommodate the bulb.
So, bulb plugged in. Check. LIFX application for iPhone installed. Check. The initial setup is very easy – the light bulb generates its own wireless access point. You simply connect the phone to the bulb’s access point, provide the bulb with connection details to your home access point, and the bulb reboots and joins your wireless network. You connect your phone back to your home wireless and then you’re good to go.
You can rename the bulb, add the bulb to a group, and then control either the bulbs all at once, by group or individually. After that, you pick a colour and turn the bulb on.
The bulbs can do a wide range of whites, from a very warm white to a daylight white. They can also do 16 million colour combinations, although I suspect I wouldn’t be able to identify each one of those. Add to that a brightness control and you’ve got a very functional light.
They have some other features as well – I particularly liked the candle flicker effect, where the bulb changes colour and intensity with the appearance of a gentle candle flicker.
Lots of fun, and completely controllable from the phone.