Troubling questions of a wireless future

The idea that lamps connected to the internet would have been stuff of science fiction just a few years ago.

But today, thanks to the miniaturisation of the necessary integrated circuits, the technology is small enough and cheap enough to be integrated into the base of a standard GLS shape.

The developer of the chips is NXP which, significantly, is Philips’ former electronics division. The company says it will ‘open source’ the technology. The kit won’t be free of course, but on paying for the necessary licence, lamp manufacturers and controls companies will be free to create their own topologies and systems. Google is already working on its own range of lamps (a sentence I never thought I’d write) and no doubt other chipmakers will follow suit as an ‘internet of things’ is created to complement the ‘internet of people’.

The goal is lighting control for every home in the land. With IP lamps, it’s a simple leap to scene-setting in your home with your smart phone, TV or games console.

Of course, this technological leap raises all sorts of troubling questions for the lighting controls industry, particularly those companies focused on the residential market. Will Google and the electronics industry eat our lunch? Will they succeed where we have failed by making lighting control as simple as downloading an app? Will TCP/IP become the standard protocol in the future? Do we ignore this technology or jump in while we can?

The keys issues here are that the hardware is relatively cheap, and it’s wireless. Who would have thought 10 years ago that the standard delivery mechanism for the internet in the home would be wireless? It’s not a great leap of imagination to see that lighting should follow suit; it’s a proven model after all.

In the UK particularly, where 98 per cent of 2050’s housing stock is already built, wireless is realistically the only way a mass conversion of homes to lighting control can take place.

Greg Memo, chief of Greenwave Reality, one of the first developers of a IP-based lighting control product, says the development will reduce energy consumption and make a positive impact on the environment. I’m not so sure. The case that home lighting control automatically leads to a reduction in energy is not proven.

But with soaring energy prices, householders with controllers in their pockets will have no excuse for excessive consumption.

The great lamps and luminaires rapprochement

It’s funny how things come full circle. Older hands in the lighting business will remember how the big lamp companies were once keen to divest themselves of their luminaire brands.

Seeing is believing

This is my first post as editor of Lux, as Ray Molony moves to our new international sister title Lux Review. And in the short period I’ve so far spent in the world of lighting, there’s one thing almost everybody I’ve spoken to has said: this is a time of huge change.