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Martin LaMonica

A View from Martin LaMonica

Apple Sells Philips’ Color-Shifting Wireless Lights

Philips’ Hue wireless LED light bulbs can be controlled via a smart phone or tablet.

  • October 29, 2012

Philips today introduced its Hue networked light bulbs, a product that showcases the potential of LED lighting technology.

Starting tomorrow, Apple will sell a kit of three Philips LED bulbs and wireless hub for $199 at Apple’s stores in the U.S. and make additional bulbs available for $59.

People can download an iOS or Android app to not only adjust lighting—on, off, or dimmed—but also control the color. A person can, for example, use a whiter light in the morning or a warmer, yellow light at night. People choose from a color palette and can even reproduce colors from photos.

The app lets people schedule lighting, such as gradually turning on in the morning or dimming at night. It also comes with a “Light Recipe” setting for different moods, including relax, concentrate, energize, and reading, which correspond to different brightnesses and colors.

The bulbs use the Zigbee wireless protocol to communicate with the bulbs and can be controlled remotely via a smart phone or tablet over the Internet. The brightness of the bulbs is 600 lumens, or about the same light as a 50-watt halogen, while consuming about 8.5 watts, according to reviews. Installation appears easy: people need to connect the Zigbee hub to a home router and then install the bulbs and control app, according to Philips’ Hue Web site

The higher cost of LED bulbs has been a real barrier to consumer sales. But Hue is a good example of how solid-state lighting offers features beyond better efficiency. Integrating a wireless chip makes existing lights dimmable and controllable from a smart phone, while the color wheel in the app gives consumers the flexibility to change colors.

By selling through Apple stores, rather than its normal retail outlets, such as hardware stores, Philips is clearly targeting tech-savvy consumers who appreciate clever design.

The company isn’t the only designing wireless LED lighting. Last week, startup Greenwave Reality said it will make a wireless lighting kit available through utilities in the U.S. this year. (See, Wireless LED Light Bulbs: Gateway to Smart Home?) There is also a Kickstarter project called Lifx which offers a wireless bulb and an app for managing light color.

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