back to article Joining the illuminati? Just how bright can a smart bulb really be?

There's no getting away from it: talking about a smart light bulb is liable to subject you to immediate mockery. Oh really? It's smart enough to turn itself on and off? Anything else? No? Okay, I think I'll just keep using my fingers then. The image of someone pulling out their phone to turn on a lamp is ludicrous and here's …

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  1. Mage Silver badge

    No

    Still pointless.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: No

      Still pointless

      ...and expensive.

      At the moment the Internet of Tat seems to offer benefits that range from "none" through the whole gamut of insignificance up to an including "negligible", whilst still costing a ridiculous amount.

      1. Bluto Nash

        Re: No

        +1 for "Internet of Tat."

        1. Charles Manning

          Not pointless

          It makes money out of dumbshits. No more pointless than a Rolex.

          As for Smart..... It only has to be smarter than the buyer. ie. not very smart. Not very bright either. 4W of LED should do nicely.

          1. Turtle

            @Charles Manning Re: Not pointless

            "It makes money out of dumbshits. No more pointless than a Rolex."

            From the buyer's perspective, showing off the fact that you have $200 to waste on light-bulbs is one thing, but showing off the fact that you have $10,000 to waste on a wristwatch is in another league entirely.

          2. Emmeran

            Re: Not pointless

            "No more pointless than a Rolex"

            I don't know, "My dad left me a light bulb" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

            1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

              Not that I could afford one...

              but with a Rolex you'll have a precise watch that will work for decades and still be worth quite a bit (if not even more) - try this with anything vaguely IT-related...

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: Not that I could afford one...

                And between £200 and £400 shelled out every 3 years just to keep the thing serviced to manufacturers recommendation.

          3. icetrout

            Re: Not pointless

            GoodBang has clones for $!.00 & free shipping... lol :)

      2. Fazal Majid

        You're overstating the benefits

        When you factor in the costs of privacy infringement and insecurity, the ledger is firmly in negative territory.

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: No

      The best thing is the "light off after 10 seconds" but that essentially means you put the switch in the wrong place. You might be able to move it for less than $200 plus a monthly subscription....

      I'm sure you could also easily get a delayed switch. That can't be too hard to do.

      I'm wondering if the problem is not the tech. Is the tech actually quite cheap, but the problem is that its almost impossible to make a living selling it? Small demand -> high prices.

      Which brings us back to the original point, or identified lack of it.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: No

        Well, in our (certainly far from special) home:

        10 second fadeout - all our light switches, tap once to fade on/off, twice for immediate on/off, hold to manually dim, same for the remotes.

        Porch light - comes on when it detects movement, stays on 30 seconds after movementhas stopped.

        Garage lights - come on when the door rolls up. Admittedly, there's a transponder in each car which opens the door as you approach, but hey, if you heve to open a double roller door manually once, you never want to do it again!

        Smokealarms - built in lights which come on when the alarm sounds, one at each end of the house and one in the middle.

        Doorbell - bloody loud, intercom screen turns on to ahow you who's there

        And all of this with technology built into the house in 2004, probably at a cost no higher than the $1,000 or so it would cost to put a 'smart' light bulb in every room, and not an internet connection to be seen.

      3. david 12 Bronze badge

        Re: No

        You can also get simple delay lightbulbs, that turn off slowly. Perfect for getting from my door switch, across the large cluttered room, to my bed. Or would have been, if they hadn't each died with a couple of weeks.

        Much cheaper than this, no installation problems in the rental. If they had worked.

  2. Andy Non
    Meh

    Burglar deterent?

    @ $200 any self respecting burglar will just nick the bulbs too.

    1. Drs. Security

      Re: Burglar deterent?

      that would mean A) the burglar knows you have these lights and B) he dares to go in even though there are lights on as well and C) he knows enough of bluetooth or wireless technology that he has the tools to detect the bluetooth signals from the bulbs.

      That is if they do transmit a signal when in idle mode at all instead of just listening for your phone to connect to them which would from a security point of view be smarter.

      1. Old Handle

        Re: Burglar deterent?

        They would have to know about these bulbs, but what if you've put one on the front porch so they can see it directly? They look very distinctive.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Burglar deterent?

          the bulbs are distinctive, and any self-respecting burgler should keep on top of developing technologies to factor it in (and pocket the bulbs :)

    2. PNGuinn Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Burglar deterent?

      No.

      As a professional, and having full access to the Internet of Tat, he'll ahve turned all the lights on as he arrived at the house to make his work easier. If he's a decent sort of chap he'll turn them all off again as he leaves to save your leccy bill.

      In his own house he'll stick to the simple cheap reliable self contained devices already on the market. For security, you know.

    3. Charles Manning

      Burglar attractant surely

      If someone has $200 to piss away on "smart lightbulbs", then they probably have some cool stuff worth nicking.

      For the same reason, you want to go burgle the house with the new Audi, not the 20 year old Toyota station wagon.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        Re: Burglar attractant surely

        Burglary and housebreaking are not usually considered high IQ professions though.

  3. stucs201

    Even if you want this...

    ...I still don't see a single feature which wouldn't be better if it was part of a smart switch or fitting which used ordinary bulbs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even if you want this...

      And you stand a better chance of getting enough light to see with over a wide area.

    2. Charles Manning

      .re: Even if you want this...

      The killer feature... being smug with your Internet Of Twat mates.

      It's really no more stupid than $150/metre gold speaker cables with $4000 speakers on the ends. The sound isn't any better than speakers and wire a tenth of that price.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: .re: Even if you want this...

        @Charles Manning - It's really no more stupid than $150/metre gold speaker cables with $4000 speakers on the ends. The sound isn't any better than speakers and wire a tenth of that price.

        That really depends on how much you've spent on the acoustics of the room (well, it does for the speakers, if not the cable)

  4. graeme leggett Silver badge

    cart before horse

    Rather than put the 'cleverness' into the bulb, why not put it into the wall switch?

    Then you can use whatever LED bulbs fit the sockets in whatever light fittings you have.

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: cart before horse

      I should have added, because it ought to be easier to get permanent power to a seldom used switch than to a seldom used bulb.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: cart before horse

        >it ought to be easier to get permanent power to a seldom used switch than to a seldom used bulb

        Unfortunately, at least in the UK, permanent power is normally available only at the ceiling fitting - only one side of the supply goes to the switch from where it is routed back to the primary load (lamp). The traditional way "smart" switches would deal with this would be to constantly leak some current, enough to generate a potential difference across a series secondary load in the switch, just not enough to make the bulb light up.

        You'd be better off with a smart ceiling rose than a smart switch.

        1. graeme leggett Silver badge

          Re: cart before horse

          "smart ceiling rose" You are right that would be a better idea for a lot of places.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: cart before horse

            We've been selling those for years - cheaper than these lamps and last much longer as well.

            Including genuinely wireless and batteryless light switches to control them - yes, you can buy a stickyback light switch.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: cart before horse

        The "seldom used" part is easy - leave the things switched on permanently and control them via the app.

        If you must have physical switches, then just have wall-mounted control modules and permanently link out the switch in the wallbox. (X10 has been doing that for 30 years)

        The dead loss in this instance is that LED bulbs are really only for replacing lamps in traditional fittings which can't be (economically) replaced. Bear in mind that the shape and connector are for a device which traditionally required replacment every 1000 operating hours, or 1500 switch-on cycles (The light bulb cartel really did exist, look it up)

        At $75 apiece you may as well have a permanently fitted device with a much nicer form factor than that of a light bulb (and a lot more light output, plus more room for the whizzy bits). These are a solution looking for the wrong problem.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: cart before horse

      And all the switch needs is a way to receive signals to tell it when to turn on/off, and send signals when it is manually turned on/off. A very rudimentary form of power line networking could accomplish that simple signaling at 110 baud (so it would only pennies to the cost of the switch, as opposed to the complicated and expensive chips needed to demodulate high order QAM in ethernet speed powerline networking)

      The software to run all this can be in your PC, in your wireless router, in your game console, in your Roku or Apple TV...doesn't matter. All it has to do is be able to access that simple signaling from the switches and outlets, and it could do everything this system does and much more, with light bulbs that only cost a few bucks.

      Light bulbs with microphones to listen for the doorbell....my god, did someone actually think that could ever possibly be useful? I wish I knew what venture capitalist funded this company, I could come up with an equally harebrained scheme on the back of napkin during breakfast and pay myself $500K for a few years as CEO until it goes belly up.

      1. Drs. Security

        Re: cart before horse

        hope all that power line stuff will never be available overhere, we have enough PLC noise on the power lines that sometimes even lights dim out of themselves, radio equipment picks up extreme wide-band interference and generally other equipment (even networked once) experience issues with those things.

        Power lines are not meant for digital communications and misusing them for such is bound to lead to a lot of problems, including all your walls radiating radio frequency interference.

        Oh and if the communication isn’t secure I may be able to control your IOT equipment from 3 or 4 houses away because those PLC signals don’t mind traveling on the entire power grid near your home at all.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: cart before horse

          The sort of simple FSK tones you'd use to implement this aren't going to cause radio interference, you'd use some low frequencies like maybe 75/150 Hz for the tones. Transformers would prevent propagation, so you don't have to worry about neighbors the next house over. It would be a problem in apartment buildings though since you aren't separated from your neighbor by a transformer, so for those people some simple PKI for security would be a good idea.

          1. Richard Jones 1
            Stop

            Re: cart before horse

            If the signalling is from smart switch to semi responsive light bulb only, the transformer or other isolation device can be cheaply built into the switch to block the signals. Without it back propagation would likely play havoc with all of your other bulbs..

            Even then this is a solution crying in a wilderness for a problem. It appears most likely to appeal to those who possible live in a flat already since those with larger and perhaps isolated properties will likely have built in solutions that do more than light bulbs already.

            Perhaps I wish them well, but as they say in programmes seeking investors, I'm out.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: cart before horse

              If the signalling is from smart switch to semi responsive light bulb only, the transformer or other isolation device can be cheaply built into the switch to block the signals. Without it back propagation would likely play havoc with all of your other bulbs..

              One could use back propagation as a feature, provided there is a way to set device addresses on the switches and the sockets, and assign function groups to them. This would allow several switches (in a corridor or a living room, for instance) to control a group of bulbs.

              This is one of the features of the home control system I'm using. In my installation it's not using mains signalling (you can, using the appropriate devices and a signal adapter); there's a two-wire serial power/data bus running past all devices in a star topology. It's not doing much fancy stuff at the moment, but apart from the obvious stuff like switching off the lights in an empty room, opening skylights when the temperatures outside and inside are in a certain range and it's not raining, etcetera, it reports if all the pertinent closeable items are closed when you want to leave, and sends an SMS in case of something being amiss when you're out.

              It is NOT remotely controlleable, although I can check its status when I'm ssh-ed in to my home network.

          2. Mage Silver badge

            Re: cart before horse

            "some low frequencies like maybe 75/150 Hz for the tones"

            Not any multiple of 25, 30, 50 or 60 due to TV and mains. But yes, the signalling can be low bit rate FSK, or even spread spectrum below 300Hz as spread spectrum is more immune to interference and allows multiple controllers using different pseudo random hopping sequences. So an apartment or hotel isn't a problem. At up to several kHz any transformers won't make much difference and range is considerable with low baud rate and less than 300Hz. So apart from aspect of security, which isn't optional for anything, you need a scheme with no need for collision detection.

            New switches would be paired via detachable IR USB stick (self powered) on controller direct via IR near the switch. The IR USB dongle would give the switch its address, unique hopping sequence and the encryption key used for the data.

            The minimum baud rate is set by command latency acceptable for minimum message size which is set by encryption scheme (I suppose a key fob type scheme could be used to reduce message size). The actual amount of bits needed for addressing and data is tiny.

          3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: cart before horse

            @DougS - "Transformers would prevent propagation, so you don't have to worry about neighbors the next house over"

            Not everyone lives in rural America, with transformers on poles. I think having a sub-station for a whole street in quite common.

            "simple PKI" - Good idea, but probably harder to find than unicorn droppings.

          4. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: cart before horse

            Transformers would prevent propagation, so you don't have to worry about neighbors the next house over

            Ah yes, the US of A, with its wiring overhead and transformers on a pole, waiting for a vehicle to ram into it and knock out your mains. Europe has that stuff only in rural areas, if at all, and it's very well possible that your Powerline signals will reach a few neighbours.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: cart before horse

              At least if it goes down, it's quick to get back up. You can't say the same with underground wiring which can be broken up by a stray shovel or swamped by a flood or storm surge. Trust me, we checked the numbers and determined (especially on the coast with their high water tables) that it wasn't worth it.

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: cart before horse

        The low speed networking over mains to smart light switches also unlike ethernet PLT creates ZERO interference. It also can be as secure as you like. I know someone that implemented secure signalling and paired devices for RC5 / RC6 IR remote protocols.

        You don't even need 110 bps. RC5 or RC6 with addressing and security can be used over the mains, via IR to switch and also even 433MHz /3xx MHz for outside shed, wireless doorbell etc (world vs USA, I forget the USA frequency).

      3. Fibbles

        Re: cart before horse

        I'm not a spark but AFAIK wall sockets and lighting must be on separate circuits (at least in the UK anyway). How would a PC plugged into a wall socket communicate with a light switch via power line networking?

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: cart before horse

          "Lighting" and "Power" are on separate circuits, but only from the fusebox, so PLT should be able to get from one to the other.

          Along with all the neighbours' PLT as well, of course, or at least those who are on the same phase. There will be attenuation of distant PLT signals, but will it be enough if homeowners saturate the housing stock with the pestilential stuff?

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: cart before horse

            "Along with all the neighbours' PLT as well, of course, or at least those who are on the same phase."

            A clamp-on RF choke on each of the incoming power wires works nicely and it's cheap.

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: cart before horse

            Yep. PLT happily goes between the lighting and ring final circuits.

            Also through your electric meter, your neighbours meter and into their house.

            And everyone else on your phase of the local substation.

            You need a really big inductor to block it - or a passive termination circuit specifically designed for the task.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: cart before horse - I'm not a spark

          Agatha Heterodyne would have a clank for it.

        3. Charles Manning

          Re: cart before horse

          " How would a PC plugged into a wall socket communicate with a light switch via power line networking?"

          They're normally connected together back at the fuse box.

          There's also a lot of inductive coupling between circuits too.

      4. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @DougS -- Re: cart before horse

        Light bulbs with microphones to listen for the doorbell....my god, did someone actually think that could ever possibly be useful? I wish I knew what venture capitalist funded this company,

        This is useful if you are deaf. However, the existing systems are less expensive and don't require a smartphone, etc. So why bother with these bulbs...?

        1. FlossyThePig

          Re: @DougS -- cart before horse

          @Mark 85

          I'm deaf and our front door has a cast iron knocker. It's effing loud, much louder than the dingly dong electrickery ones. No batteries to replace, and not affected by power cuts.

    3. Your alien overlord - fear me

      Re: cart before horse

      Alas no. Been there, tried that. Years ago (over 6 now), changed all my bulbs for LED ones (from that Emporium of Budget Asian Yuk - you know it). They are either one or off.

      Putting things like dimmer switches in means replacing all the bulbs which I'm not planning on doing for the next 20 years or so. Putting things like bluetooth in them means they are drawing a little bit of power always which is not why I went that direction.

      And yes, a decent 5 watt LED is comparable to ye olde 100 watt one, cheap 5 watt ones are comparable to 5 watt incandecant ones !!!

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