back to article Taken a while but finally here's the first proper smart-home gizmo

It's been three years since we, here at El Reg, first started taking the introduction of a new generation of "smart home" devices seriously – and that was mostly focusing on the security implications. As well as stunningly poor security there is a plethora of competing standards. Back in 2014: X10, ZigBee, LightwaveRF, Z-Wave …

  1. pdh

    Double-edged sword?

    > Following a firmware update sent late last week, the Trådfri smart lighting system will work with competitor Hue, Philips' wireless lighting system. Thanks to a more open approach taken by big tech companies, it also works with Amazon's Alexa/Echo digital assistant and the Google Home.

    Does that mean that a security hole in any one of those systems other can now be leveraged to compromise Tradfri as well?

    1. gerdesj Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Double-edged sword?

      "Does that mean that a security hole in any one of those systems other can now be leveraged to compromise Tradfri as well?"

      Yes but just like all other home users you will be deploying a separate VLAN for these with internets only via a transparent, SSL MitM proxy.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Double-edged sword?

        Yes but just like all other home users you will be deploying a separate VLAN for these with internets only via a transparent, SSL MitM proxy.

        So by "will be deploying" make it mandatory? I'm thinking of an awful lot of Joe Consumers who have to have everything "plug and play" with no additional hardware or knowledge.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Double-edged sword?

          "So by "will be deploying" make it mandatory?"

          That whooshing sound you hear is gerdesj's point passing waaaay over your head :-):-)

  2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    A lightbulb from Ikea?

    Great, that means we'll have to assemble it ourselves!

    *Wanders off muttering about fitting tabs into slots, incomprehensible hieroglyphic-like assembly instructions, & winding up with a handfull of extra bits*

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Want/need?

    Setting aside the issue of whether you actually need or want a smart app-controlled lightbulb

    That's quite a big thing to set aside. If something is totally pointless it doesn't matter how many protocols it supports. Anyone for an internet connected corkscrew?

    And, being a bit picky, what does this light-bulb use the internet for that makes it smart? I assume it illuminates a room, but that is usually controlled from a switch on the wall. Does it let you switch on your bedroom light at home in Edinburgh while in a hotel in Sydney?

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Want/need?

      "Anyone for an internet connected corkscrew?"
      That actually almost makes sense. Here in Australia stelvin seals are ubiquitous and I seldom see a cork. In the meantime, the corkscrew has decided to hide itself so when I need one I can't find it! Being able to log onto the interwebs and locate it would be quite useful. In the meantime, more useful still would be an Internet connected wine merchant. Oh wait; I've already got one! Get Wines Direct

      "Does it let you switch on your bedroom light at home in Edinburgh while in a hotel in Sydney?"
      Or does it allow you to instruct Tommy the Talking Lightbulb to say to your wife and her lover: "That's a very interesting technique! I haven't seen her do that since she took on three German shepherds at once!"

      1. missingegg

        Re: Want/need?

        So now corkscrews will need an antennae, a GPS chip, and enough power to operate them? No thanks, I stick to my trusty analog one.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Want/need?

          I always know where my corkscrew is. Partly because there's one in my briefcase - and partly because there's one in the bar in the sitting room.

          Erm, oh dear. Should I have admitted that in public?

          To be fair, and in a vain attempt to argue I'm not a raging alcoholic, my briefcase also contains a set of jewellers screwdrivers (glasses repair), a leatherman, a small ratchet screwdriver with 12 different bits in the handle, a torch, plus whatever paperwork I might actually need for work.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Want/need?

            "I always know where my corkscrew is."
            But then you're not married to Mrs Git. You may recall (or not) that Mrs Git lost her mobile phone and we deduced it had to be in the house somewhere, but being turned off to conserve electricity, could not be located. Some five months and one new mobile phone later, it turned up in a bag containing various shoe polishes, rags and brushes under the kitchen sink. I have found not only a bottle of red wine in the fridge "chambré-ing", but the clothes iron... and I'd better stop there.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Want/need?

        Australia stelvin seals are ubiquitous

        Not heard of that breed of seal.. Are they as lethal as the rest of the Australian flora and fauna?

        (They'd have to be pretty nasty to compete with leopard seals - the marine equivalent of wolves..)

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Want/need?

      > That's quite a big thing to set aside. If something is totally pointless

      Good to see you thinking about people with limited mobility there Pen-y-gors. Whilst I hope you are in good health today, I must sadly observe that the human body doesn't last forever. Damned biology.

      It does you no harm to let the first adopters and their inexpensive IoT lightbulbs start to iron out the creases in a framework that could help people continue independent lives for longer. We won't all be able to afford a young helper at our heck and call when infirmity strikes us. Damned economics.

      And in the mean time, with a bit of imagination, this stuff can be fun.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: thinking about people with limited mobility

        It is good to be thinking about folks who can't or won't use the existing wall switches for lighting and sockets. In the UK (and presumably elsewhere) there are already products available to address that market. Some of the products have been around for years, and don't even need a cloud connection. Buy it - fit it - own it :) Remember, the S in IoT is for security.

        See e.g. http://www.screwfix.com/c/electrical-lighting/smart-switches-sockets/cat9340001

        (some cloudy products, others just with what you might call a 'local remote' capability). Other retailers may be avalable.

        Remote control socket adapters (plug it in the wall socket and you instantly have a remotely controllable power socket) and such now even make regular appearances as Aldi special buys.

        "with a bit of imagination, this stuff can be fun."

        Fun's good. IoT marketing hype less so.

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Want/need?

        @Dave 126

        Good to see you thinking about people with limited mobility there

        I'm not convinced that the only way for someone with 'limited mobility' (whatever that may actually mean in each individual case) to switch a light on is for them to use a smartphone app to connect to a server in wherever before actually getting light. Particularly if their mobility limitation involves e.g. Parkinsons which might make accurately pressing keys on a phone a bit tricky. I suspect there are a lot of much simpler, low tech solutions to switching a light (or other switch) on and off without leaving a chair. Possibly involving radio waves, or even some sort of clever wizardry involving a small box that sends infra-red signals to a receiver when a button is pressed. I'm sure some smart person could develop something. Maybe I should patent the idea.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Want/need?

          "I suspect there are a lot of much simpler, low tech solutions to switching a light (or other switch) on and off without leaving a chair."
          Sound activated switches have been around for a very long time. They were being advertised in men's magazines in the 1970s as a way to impress the girl you were seducing. I thought that a particularly stupid idea at the time. I preferred leaving the light on all the better to appreciate the pulchritude of my partner. When you are as myopic as me you need all the light you can muster.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Want/need?

          if their mobility limitation involves e.g. Parkinsons

          Who are more likely to have problems moving rather than the stereotypical shaking..

          (My father died of complications caused by Parkinsons. After his diagnosis, as a pharmacist, he assisted with the modification of treatment plans, using himself as the test subject. He pretty comprehensively proved that, in general, the typical shaking is usually caused by incorrect dosing of dopamine rather than the Parkinsons itself. You do get some parks patients that exhibit shaking even when correctly treated but that's usually caused by collateral damage caused in the brain by the die-off of neurons).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Back in my day...

      ...we had to flick the light switch by hand. We were so deprived.

      Except for those few elites who were lucky enough to have a clapper.

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Want/need?

      I see your lightbulb and raise you one salt shaker with bluetooth and Alexa integration.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh thank goodness

    The wheel was a long time coming but the advantages have really paid off, this will revolutionise indoor lighting in my opinion.

    /s

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    John Henry Holmes would be turning in his grave.

    It's a f*cking switch.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You Kids Today With Your Blueteeth

    When I was your age, all we had was X10, and we were glad to have it!

    If your Internet-connected lights ever start blinking strangely, it's me saying, "You've Been Haxx0red!" in Morse code.

    1. Down not across

      Re: You Kids Today With Your Blueteeth

      When I was your age, all we had was X10, and we were glad to have it!

      What do you you mean had?

      Still works great within the inherent limitations of its communications technology. Doesn't need someone's cloud either.

  7. DougS Silver badge

    First "proper" smart home gadget?

    When I read that headline I thought it was going to be something actually useful, which a 'smart' light bulb is not. Having greater compatibility with different smart home vendors doesn't make it useful, sorry.

    1. Ian Watkinson

      Re: First "proper" smart home gadget?

      Useful to you in your limited view of the world you mean?

      I've not got one, but a quick think gives me 3 reasonable usecases.

      Stress reduction. I can set it to turn off all the lights when no one is home. Which will stop me yelling at teenagers that they've left every fricking light in the house on as they leave for school.

      Security. I could buy a timer for each lamp, or I could set them to come on in the house at 15 minutes after sun down, moving each day.

      Laziness. I'm watching a movie. I want all the lights off now...

      Yeah you're right, in no way useful to anyone at all...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a quick think gives me 3 reasonable usecases.

        OK.

        Now which of those very reasonable use cases can't conveniently be done without IKEA's latest announcement? Which of those can't conveniently be done without an integrated connection to a remote server out in someone's cloud so that your use can be 'optimised' and your firmware can be updated (if the vendor chooses to do so)?

        The workl awaits...

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: a quick think gives me 3 reasonable usecases.

          "The workl awaits..."
          Apparently so, but what is it waiting for? Google translate is no help...

          Workl workl

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: workl

            " "The workl awaits..."

            Apparently so, but what is it waiting for?"

            In my browser's font, with my typing and eyesight, world and workl look quite similar, especially in the "Enter your comment" window. Like modem and modern often do in various places.

            I'm the one that writ workl, and I should have been at the opticians today. Opticians visit didn't happen (reasons not relevant), so I'm still waiting for my visit to the opticians. In the meantime please forgive my occasional unspotted tryping errors.

            Happy now?

            1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
      2. davemcwish

        Re: First "proper" smart home gadget?

        @Ian Watkinson

        "Stress reduction. I can set it to turn off all the lights when no one is home. Which will stop me yelling at teenagers that they've left every fricking light in the house on as they leave for school."

        Mrs W insists on leaving the landing light on during the sometimes bright and warm daylight hours that we occasionally get in Blighty.

        1. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: First "proper" smart home gadget?

          "Mrs W insists on leaving the landing light on during the sometimes bright and warm daylight hours that we occasionally get in Blighty."

          And I bet she doesn't deal the resulting plane influx either!

          (sorry it's an old and childish one but a good one)

      3. DougS Silver badge

        Re: First "proper" smart home gadget?

        And that 'stress reduction', 'security' or 'laziness' scenario requires individually addressable light bulbs why, exactly?

  8. Adam JC

    HomePlug?

    I'm just thinking out loud here, but with the massive widespread use of HomePlug, why aren't router(s) readily available with the tech built in? The last home router I saw with HomePlug (85mbps in the early days I believe) available was the ZyXEL NBG318S. I don't think I've seen one since, but it would be silly especially as these devices are all connected directly to the electricity.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: HomePlug?

      The only thing I can think of is that, in general, routers are not connected directly to the mains electricity. They are connected to a low voltage DC supply via a PSU 'brick' or 'wall wart'. These arrangements are standard and the DC PSU is bought-in or copied-in as a no risk decison, as are reference designs for domestic routers.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: HomePlug?

        "in general, routers are not connected directly to the mains electricity"
        You can though. It does let all the smoke out of the wires so they don't work anymore unfortunately...

  9. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Excellent. A solution I didn't want for a problem I don't have*. (or The Internets of Shit Things in a nutshell).

    *assuming that the problem in question is "how can I switch on my lights from my iPhone".

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      The Register already took that into account in the article:

      Setting aside the issue of whether you actually need or want a smart app-controlled lightbulb,

      My, they do have a bit of a handle on their readers.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Devil

        My, they do have a bit of a handle on their readers.

        Is that the pickaxe handle they regularly use on those of us foolish enough to complain...

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge
        Coat

        My, they do have a bit of a handle on their readers.

        Indeed they do. And sometimes, it chafes or gets caught on my clothes..

  10. Snowy
    Facepalm

    Smart things need smart solutions!

    Smart light bulb is anything but smart. If you rarely want a smart light then the better solution would be to make the light fitting. The bulb would then be simpler to make and should be cheaper.

    You could also connect the all you lights together using the wiring you already have to do smart things.

    1. Justin Case

      Re: Smart things need smart solutions!

      Or even make the light switch the clever thing...

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Smart things need smart solutions!

        I've probably said it before in a similar discussion, but your best bet is probably the smart ceiling rose - assuming you want such a thing. At least as houses are presently wired, there is no permanent power at the switch, which makes it a bit hard to embed smarts - the IKEA stuff mostly uses battery-powered (button cell) controllers, which seems like a retrograde step.

        Having just moved to a house with one central ceiling light in a large living room, I'd quite like to be able to install some additional lighting without tearing the walls and ceiling apart to add more cables and switches and having individually controllable lights on a ceiling track (for example) would be quite useful. However, I intend to live here for rather longer than any smart lighting system control app is likely to be maintained and today's generation of lightbulbs is likely to be availalble and I notice that the TRÅDFRI Android app has decidedly mixed reviews. Having previously had an X10 system for more than a decade that I could operate with the TV remote, this does seem like a step backwards.

        1. The First Dave

          Re: Smart things need smart solutions!

          "there is no permanent power at the switch"

          Wrong. That is what the switch, you know, _switches_ !?

          The ceiling rose on the other hand, only gets power when the switch is on. Unless it's wired up 'strangely'...

          1. druck

            Re: Smart things need smart solutions!

            No, the switch only has the live side of the circuit, where as the rose will have permanent live, switched live, neutral and earth. At least in civilised countries such as the UK.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: simple UK light switch wiring diagram

              See e.g. http://www.ultimatehandyman.co.uk/diy/electrics/light_fitting/light_ceiling_rose_single.jpg

              Plenty of ten minute Youtube videos to explain the concept in more detail.

              When the switch is open it has 230v across it, and the light is off. Historically you could connect a low current device (e.g. a couple of neons) across the switch and they'd light when the switch is open (so you could have a backlit switch), but they wouldn't pass enough current to light the main light.

              When the switch is closed, no volts across the switch, and in the absence of a neutral in the switch box there is nowhere to derive power for the neons (or whatever).

              Have folk seen the light now?

            2. The First Dave

              Re: Smart things need smart solutions!

              Not one single rose in any of the houses I've lived in has a permanent live. The feed goes {Ring main} -> [switch] -> [rose] -> [bulb][s]

              Return goes [bulb] -> [rose] -> [terminal in switch back-box] -> {Ring main}

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Smart things need smart solutions!

      You can get the smart light fitting, there's a few makes knocking around. They were double the price of the TP-Link smart bulb I got though and since I was just giving having a smart bulb a go I didn't want to invest that much.

  11. eldakka Silver badge

    firmware update

    Following a firmware update sent late last week, the Trådfri smart lighting system will work with competitor Hue, Philips' wireless lighting system.

    What a firmware update giveth, a firmware update can taketh away too!

    1. Justin Case
      FAIL

      Re: firmware update

      Light bulbs with firmware? FFS!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: firmware update

        Read up on Philips smart bulbs. Hint - search for Philips smart bulbs DRM

        Enjoy.

  12. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    One day I will perhaps understand

    Why it is that house interior designers and their shills on TV and in the glossy magazines seem to think that lights are for 'accent' and 'hue' and 'mood' and *not for bloody well seeing things with*.

    </rant>

    1. Justin Case

      Re: One day I will perhaps understand

      When I was younger, how I laughed at those further along life's highway than I with their craving for 150W lightbulbs. Now, as presbyopia sets in and a wide open iris results in unfocused images, I too seek out ever brighter illumination...

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: I too seek out ever brighter illumination

        No, you're actually looking for a vivifying accent in an energetic mood in a solar hue (ie white).

  13. Norman Nescio Bronze badge

    Smart?

    For me, a smart light source will:

    - not produce radio-frequency interference

    - not flicker or glimmer

    - be silent

    - have a continuous spectrum with excellent colour rendition across the spectrum

    - have a variable colour temperature

    - be energy efficient

    - be cost effective (cheap!)

    and my personal preference is for indirect lighting via diffuse reflection/transmission.

    Of course, such a light source doesn't exist, and ugly compromises are made to best meet the most important criteria in the opinion of the people specifying lighting systems.

    For an overview of some of the issues, this 172 page slideshow (pdf document) from 2012 is worth a skim-read.

    Dimming LED sources: what’s working and what still needs fixing

    1. Ian Watkinson

      Re: Smart?

      "For me, a smart light source will:

      - not produce radio-frequency interference"

      Oops, best not go outside then..

      https://www.spaceweatherlive.com/en/solar-activity

      1. Norman Nescio Bronze badge

        Re: Smart?

        Have an upvote for a good quibble. Made me smile.

        Have some random URLs illustrating the issue:

        http://www.ledbenchmark.com/faq/LED-interference-issues.html

        http://cxmagblog.com/2012/05/12/video-matters-rf-interference-from-led-screens-is-a-big-problem/

        http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-s-oet-clarifies-emissions-compliance-testing-for-rf-led-lighting-devices

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Smart?

          Ah, you've reminded me of my Mum's LED lightbulbs. I don't know why she felt the need to have a dimmer switch in her kitchen - though I can understand the one in the sitting room.

          But if you want the dimmer switch, you have to buy the more expensive bulbs. The ones in the kitchen flicker, and are a horrible greenish colour - and make me feel queasy. She doesn't even seem to notice the nasty green-ness. The sitting room ones are a nice colour, but still flicker. Especially if the dimmer isn't at full.

          To be fair, I think I'm more sensitive to flicker than most. Which I put down to nystagmus.

          1. David Roberts Silver badge

            Re: Smart?

            You probably need the more expensive dimmer switch as well.

  14. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

    Intelligence in the bulb?

    I know we all love a good snipe at IoT, but isn't the reason the intelligence (for want of a better word) is in the bulb is that it is the best way to keep the average luser away from sparky wires? Plug in light bulb, job (almost) done.

    All the other suggestions such as smart wiring, smart switches, smart ceiling roses require some change to the physical infrastructure.

    For similar reasons, WiFi is much more common in the home than wired Ethernet even though the technically minded usually prefer wires. Man comes and plugs in magic box, job done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Intelligence in the reader

      "smart switches, smart ceiling roses require some change to the physical infrastructure

      Do they?

      What changes to the physical infrastructure does something like a Belkin (yeah, I know) WeMo Switch require? Various equivalents are available at different prices for differetn countries and with different badges. E.g.

      http://www.belkin.com/uk/Products/home-automation/c/wemo-home-automation/

      1. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

        Re: Intelligence in the reader

        The switch and the dimmer do. For a light that isn't plugged into a wall socket (which is over half the lighting in my house) you're working with the physical wiring.

        The problem with a smart bulb in those installations is that if someone turns off the switch, no matter how smart the bulb is, it will not turn on from the app.

  15. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

    Calling it a bit early, El Reg?

    "It took far too long to get here but the smart home may have finally become a reality"

    I think that may be a little early to make that call - what we have here is the ability to illuminate all of the other IoT gadgets that aren't working.

  16. Chemical Bob
    FAIL

    "The end result is multiple ways to access the system – which fits what consumers really want."

    No, we just want the fucking light to go on when we want and off when we want!

  17. Nimby Bronze badge
    Coat

    To sum up...

    Using only the words from this piece of trash we can sum up nicely as:

    Setting aside the issue of whether you actually need or want a smart app-controlled lightbulb, here's a light bulb from Ikea. It is still some way from perfect. As well as stunningly poor security, it still requires a special Ikea Trådfri hub. Z-Wave products and SOME Apple HomeKit functions are still not going to work with it. No one is going to want to have to buy new networking equipment, on top of a firmware update, just to install some lightbulbs. None have yet to become a proper consumer device that you can set up and rely on to simply work with whatever system you already have.

  18. seanb-uk

    Taken a while?

    This is supposed to be a breakthrough because it allows us to mix and match products?

    I'd say you should take another look at Samsung SmartThings. The hub has radios for both Z-Wave and Zigbee and can work with Hue (and I daresay Ikea, if not now then soon). It's not the only general purpose hub that can tie together different products and protocols, and it's been around at least a couple of years now.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Taken a while?

      Kieren's point is that lightbulbs made by popular manufacturer A work with lightbulbs by popular manufacturer B - it's interoperability between competing devices, not competing hubs.

      C.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019