Digital lighting: Here come the wireless, smart bulbs

Everything’s going digital — and clearly lighting will one day be all digital, too. But before that day comes, there’s been an emergence of startups, company experiments, and DIY-ers making early versions of smart bulbs and digital lighting systems. On Monday a company called GreenWave Reality launched the next-generation of its wireless smart bulbs and lighting management system, which enables users to remotely dim, program and control LED lights.

GreenWave Reality’s smart bulbs use embedded wireless chips (from NXP Semiconductors) to connect wirelessly to a lighting gateway, then to a WiFi router, and finally to a smart phone app or remote control. Because the lights are LEDs — and they can be programmed to be managed efficiently — the GreenWave lighting systems can use about 20 percent of the energy of regular incandescent bulbs. That means a smaller energy bill.

I’d think that most people will buy these types of smart wireless LED systems more for the features they provide — like remote management, programmable lighting and controls — rather than the energy savings. Particularly people who have other smart home systems like connected video cameras, network security systems, smart thermostats and even living room connected entertainment systems, would be interested in smart wireless bulbs.

Other companies working on smart, wireless lighting systems include a Kickstarter project called LIFX, and Google(s goog), which paired with Lighting Science Group last year to work on an Android-connected LED bulb. Down the road lighting will be part of the Internet of Things, where everything is connected and everything has an IP address.

The photo of GreenWave Reality’s lighting system is from 2011.