TECHNOLOGY

Home lighting control could be set to take off – thanks to the recent emergence of LED lamps with IP addresses that can be controlled by smartphones. Mark Burgess reports

What if every lamp had its own unique internet IP address? The possibilities are endless: you could monitor, manage and control each light source from any internet-enabled device – turning lights on and off individually, dimming or creating scenes from your iPhone, iPad, PC or even your television.

A domestic smart-lighting network would mean that the holy grail of the industy – lighting controls in every home in the land – could be achieved simply by using sources with IP addresses and dimming technology.

Google has announced a range of IP-enabled devices – including lamps, dishwashers, thermostats and ‘almost anything electrical’ – which it says it will launch by the end of the year. The company says the project, dubbed Tungsten, is designed to let a range of devices ‘discover, connect and communicate’ with each other.

Android invasion

In a demonstration using its Android operating system, Google showed how a tablet PC could control lamps wirelessly. Google’s entry into the lighting and home automation market would shake up the current players – more than 400,000 Android devices are activated every day, so its users represent a huge potential market.

IP lamps could revolutionise home control

IP lamps could revolutionise home control

The search giant said that apps integrated into the home environment, such as an alarm clock application that gradually raised the lights, were the next logical extension.

LightFair debut

At LightFair in Philadelphia last month, NXP Semiconductors demonstrated its IP-enabled LED lamps. The company makes smart integrated circuits that are small enough (and cheap enough) to let lamps communicate on IP networks.

The company teamed up with TCP and GreenWave Reality to wow visitors with internet- enabled LED lamps with NXP’s GreenChip on board.‘The GreenChip technology signals a fundamental shift in the way we interact with lights – at home, in the office, even outdoors,’ said John Croteau of NXP. ‘By bringing together wireless IP connectivity with our energy-efficient lighting and power conversion technologies in a compact, low- cost solution, we are transforming the way we design, control and manage lights.

GreenWave technology creates a home network

GreenWave technology creates a home network

‘For consumers, this will mean lights that turn on and off when and where you need them, at the desired level of brightness.

‘This brings us one step closer to the ‘internet of things’ – a world in which every home appliance can be monitored and controlled through its IP address. And the price point will be compelling for consumers.’

NXP’s GreenChip distills the electronics needed to the size, cost and power consumption necessary to fit inside an everyday lamp. It brings together wireless IP connections, energy-efficient lighting and a paltry standby power of 50mW. Low standby power is important in smart lighting applications because lamps are continuously ‘listening’ for the command from the user or the network.

Two versions

There are two versions of the chip at the moment, one for compact fluorescents and one for LED lamps.

GreenChip-enabled lamps will operate on the same wireless sensor networks that consumers may already be using in their homes for energy metering, smart appliances and security systems.

TCP, one of America’s largest suppliers of CFL and LED lamps has been testing GreenChip in its lamps.

An NXP chip in an LED lamp

An NXP chip in an LED lamp

TCP chief Ellis Yan says: ‘We’re able to match the quality of light and user experience of an incandescent lamp with up to 20,000 hours of life. As a next step, we are developing internet-enabled CFL and LED lamps accessible to mainstream consumers and commercial applications.’

TCP uses GreenWave to help consumers dim or turn lights on and off from any combination of devices such as PCs, smartphones and even televisions. One option the company thinks will be a hit with consumers is the ability for the network to work with sensors wirelessly. So, for example, the system could adjust the indoor lighting in response to daylight. Also, the lamps will interface wirelessly with presence and absence detectors, allowing the sort of lighting control common in commercial buildings to make its debut in the home.

‘Consumers and commercial customers now can easily and cost-effectively reduce their energy consumption associated with lighting, saving them money, simplifying their lives, and making a positive impact on the environment,’ says Greg Memo, chief of GreenWave Reality.

RELATED
IP lamp market set to soar

A Maker of IP-enabling chips for lamps has made its technology available to all, so big players such as Philips and Osram are set to join the bandwagon. Many predict the market for IP light sources will explode. Ray Molony reports

RELATED
Best of the killer apps

There’s a wealth of apps available for smartphones – be they iPhone, Android or BlackBerry – and some of them promise to be useful, or at least entertaining, for those in the lighting business. We put a few of them through their paces