When you think about household appliances that it would be nice to control from your smartphone, lightbulbs might not immediately rise to the top on the list. After all, home lighting generally comes down to a couple of basic rules: Turn the lights on when you enter a room and remember to turn them off when you leave.
But smart-bulb maker Ilumi hopes to change that, with Bluetooth-enabled LED lights that let you turn them on and off and configure brightness and even color from an iOS or Android device.
“I think it’s a really good time for this type of technology,” says Ilumi cofounder Corey Egan. “By throwing in some intelligence and really using the mobile device as a platform, we can make ordinary things extraordinary.”
The bulbs plug into ordinary lightbulb sockets, and multiple Ilumi bulbs in a room can form their own mesh network, so as long as any device is within a phone’s range, it’s possible to control them all. Since the bulbs are equipped with their own flash memory, they can remember settings even if a wall switch gets turned off or a lamp unplugged.
And letting customers use their phones to configure the bulb instead of a custom control panel makes adoption that much easier, Egan says.
“It’s actually done through a device the user already has,” he says. “They’re already used to interacting with it.”
The bulbs can be set to automatically turn on at a certain time and even made to pulse and change color in time to music. And once the lights in a room are all set to the right color, that configuration can be saved and recalled later, Egan says.
And as far as more complex possibilities, Ilumi’s providing a software development kit to let programmers build their own apps, he says.
“We’ve seen a lot of unique things,” he says, including researchers looking to use the bulbs for scientific purposes.
“One researcher is doing research in how light can affect folks with autism,” Egan says.
And, the company says, users will soon be able to have Ilumi bulbs automatically turn on and off as they move through their homes, meaning energy-conscious Ilumi customers may no longer even have to remember to turn off the lights when they leave the room.