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Home » Applications & Technologies » Smart Light Bulbs - The Future of Lighting
Applications & Technologies

Smart Light Bulbs - The Future of Lighting

When you go to the hardware store looking for a simple light bulb, you’re faced with a wide range of choices. First the type: incandescent, compact fluorescent, halogen, or LED? Then the hue: bright white, soft white, or cool white? Finally, power—the bulb energy efficiency—how much will it cost over time? These choices are limited by your choice of bulbs, and there are a lot of choices. In the past, if you got it wrong or you changed your mind later, your only recourse was to change the bulb.

Not anymore. Philips Lumileds has just introduced Hue, a web-enabled home lighting system that lets you control the color and brightness of your lighting from a mobile phone or tablet using Philips Hue smart light bulbs. The Hue lets you control the intensity and color spectrum of your lights from your iPhone®, iPad®, or AndroidTM smart phone or tablet simply by downloading an app. The Starter Kit itself includes a wireless router and three RF-enabled bulbs with individual IP addresses, which is a bit more complex than your hardware store would want to handle.

The wireless router required for this system isn’t even the type that many of us already have in our homes. The Philips Hue system utilizes the Zigbee wireless protocol, which is based upon the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for personal area networks. Zigbee networks are formed by joining low power digital radios into mesh type networks to pass small amounts of data from node to node until it arrives at the right recipient. These types of networks are ideal for transmitting intermittent data from a single input device. The router is based upon the ST Microelectronics STM32F2 family of microcontrollers, which won an EDN HOT 100 award in 2012. Texas Instruments furnished the major RF components, such as the CC 2530 Zigbee controller as well as the CC2590 range extender.

In fact, the Philips Hue is an example of how complex technologies can combine with fantastic results. The bulbs are based upon the Lumileds Luxeon Rebel ES LEDs, one of the most widely used power LEDs used today in lighting applications. Known for its high efficiency, color quality, and long life, the Rebel family has garnered several awards for technical innovation over the years. Hue bulbs output 600 lumens each, roughly the equivalent of a 40W incandescent bulb, yet they draw only 8.5W, which is 80% less energy than traditional bulbs.

The setup and operation are simple. You can create different configurations—for instance, bright white for reading, or a specific wall wash to complement a favorite picture. The commands to the individual bulbs travel over WiFi from your connected internet device to your home router. The message then finds its way to the Ethernet port where the Hue wireless router is connected, and then is converted to the Zigbee protocol and passed along to the correct bulb. Using the phone or tablet application, you can group the lights together to create your own personal lighting environments, or change all of the lighting at once by simply tapping that configuration on your phone. Up to 50 bulbs can be connected in a single Hue system. There is now even a Hue developer kit for those who want to create new Hue apps.

Combining flexibility, ease of use, and infinite color mixing possibilities, the Philips Lumileds Hue system represents one of the latest innovations in combining LED lighting, wireless communication, and smart devices, opening up many possibilities for commercial and home applications. Many of the LED ecosystem building blocks found in Hue are only a click away. Just grab your iPad back from the kids and visit www.mouser.com/lighting where you’ll find the latest in lighting technology and components.

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