The Bright Future of Smart Lighting

Who needs light switches when you've got an app or a sensor?


This week the LIGHTFAIR is happening in Philadelphia. That’s the expo for light bulbs, switches, lighting systems and practically anything else that puts out a glow. This year the show was full of bright ideas (sorry).

Anyway, here in a nutshell is the future, and maybe the present, of lighting: LED.

Yes, LED lighting was everywhere, by every company so much that it’s meaningless to list all the companies. One I didn’t expect though was Whirlpool. The company known for washers and dryers is planning to make a big leap into home lighting, and the first step is a series of LED bulbs in two lines, one more decorative (for house lamps, sconces etc.), the other more utilitarian for places like the a garage or work space.

But it doesn’t, or at least it won’t, end there for Whirlpool. Fixtures will come next, but the goal is to eventually come out with a smart lighting system. Whirlpool said the company is still deciding on a wireless protocol for the system, but it will probably be compatible with other smart appliances in the home, such as kitchen appliances. So we may be seeing smart coffee makers and dishwashers coming from the company too.

Speaking of smart lighting systems, there were a few on display including the Philips Hue system. Hue, if you remember, is the Zigbee-powered light kit that allows users to change the color of the light in addition to dimming it, all via an app. The first Hue kit included A19 style bulbs, but the company is now launching BR30 bulbs for can lights. I was told another big announcement regarding Hue was coming, but not for another couple of weeks.

One of the companies driving behind the scenes of some of the smart lighting systems is semiconductor company NXP. They make the wireless controller for low-powered devices that communicate on Wi-Fi 6LoWPAN as well as Zigbee Light Link. TSR is using NXP technology in a new MR16 LED light for lamps that usually take small halogen bulbs.

TCP was another company showing off IP-connected smart LED lighting. At LightFair the company debuted a new smart lighting starter kit, similar to the GreenWave kit launched last year (UPDATE: TCP confirmed that GreenWave produced the gateway and app for the TCP kit). The $199 starter kit (a cheaper compact florescent kit is also available) includes four 60 watt equivalent LED standard socket bulbs, a wireless gateway that connects to a home router, a handheld remote and a downloadable app (iOS or Android). Additional bulbs are expected to sell for about $30. TCP says the system runs on a 6LoWPAN network created by the gateway. Read a review of this system here on Electronic House.

Yet another newcomer to the market is Sharp Electronics. While the TV division of the company has been putting LEDs behind TV panels for several years, this is the company’s first step into LED bulbs. Sharp was demonstrating IP control over the bulbs that allowed dimming, color temperature adjustments and custom timing scenes.

Of course it wasn’t all about newbies to lighting. Lutron and Leviton tend to unveil their most interesting products for the home market at the CEDIA expo, but they both brought some new things to LIGHTFAIR.

Lutron showed new dimmers with occupancy sensors for the company’s CL line. All the smart control in the world is useless if people still forget to turn off the lights. Adding sensors to the CL dimmers ensures that home or business owners won’t be paying for light power in empty rooms. The new sensor/dimmers are available for Maestro, Ariadni, Diva and Skylark Contour, and all will work with LED, CFL, incandescent or halogen lights.

Leviton, which acquired home control company HAI last year, had HAI solutions on display, but the newest item for the home was an assortment of all-light dimmers, plus new USB charging wall outlets.

Cooper Lighting had an interesting under-counter LED system called the Halo. A low voltage track gets installed under a cabinet (good for kitchens or art displays on shelves). Small puck-shaped light modules attach magnetically anywhere on the track, so you can space them out, group several for more light intensity or move them around as your lighting needs evolve. They can dim down to 15 percent. Each LED puck provides 200+ lumens.

See Also:
How to Add High-tech Lighting to Your Home
Wired vs Wireless Lighting
5 Things to Know About Lighting Control


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