Like those Philips lighting tracks for TV shows? They take time

Philips and the SyFy channel teamed up again to produce a lighting track for a television show — this time a season of 12 Monkeys — announced at International CES. After experiencing the lighting track for Sharknado, I was keen to see the 12 Monkeys effect. Sadly, I was sick with the flu, so my in-person demo turned into a phone call, but I will make sure I get a chance to watch the show to see the effects tuned to the four Hue lights in my living room

Since I think this sort of immersive entertainment experience is a great use case for splurging on what are admittedly some expensive light bulbs ($60 a pop), and the overall experience is so neat, I’d love to see more movies and shows build lighting tracks to go with their stories.

The lighting tracks sync lighting effects or add mood to the corresponding TV shows. It can be cool like mimicking lighting during a storm or add tension by adding creepy green undertones to a grim scene. Such a track might not add much to The Good Wife, but it would be awesome for Lost or even a show like True Detective.

But in a conversation with the Philips team I found out that creating a lighting track right now takes about 10 to 12 times the length of the show you’re mapping the lights to. So a 40-minute episode of 12 Monkeys takes someone about 8 hours to “score” with lights, according to George Yianni, the Philips Hue creator and architect. Yianni said the person designing the lighting uses an extension of the Philips Hue app added as a plug-in to a program called Watchwith already in use by studios to provide interactive experiences.

Philips is also showing off a similar immersive experience as part of gaming with a game called Chariots, where code to control the Philips Hue lights is written into the game to help indicate things like in-game bonuses, but also add to the immersive experience. Again, this is an awesome idea, although it is similar to an example I heard earlier in the week from Qualcomm as part of its AllJoyn lighting discussion.

As part of Microsoft joining the AllSeen Alliance that promotes the AllJoyn protocol and the smart lighting standard, one of the ideas is to make smart light bulbs react to Xbox and console games in a similar fashion — perhaps not covering the “designed” aspects as much, but flashing red if a player dies or blue if he gets a health boost. In the AllSeen example, though, using the standard would work across any bulbs that implement the code, as opposed to just the Philips Hue bulbs.


Misfit breaks into the smart home with a color-changing lightbulb

Misfit, a startup best known for making fitness trackers, announced its newest product on Tuesday, and you don’t wear this one: Instead, the Bolt is a connected lightbulb that changes colors.

Bolt lightbulbs screw into a common Edison lightbulb socket and can produce both colored light as well as white light equivalent to the brightness of a 60-watt CFL bulb, or about 800 lumens. That’s slightly brighter than Philips Hue, a similar line of color-changing connected LED bulbs, which only puts out 600 lumens. Also unlike Hue, Bolt bulbs don’t need a hub, because they connect to your phone through Bluetooth LE.

misfit smart bulb

One Bolt feature shows why Misfit thinks the smarthome is a good fit: Misfit trackers and the Beddit measure sleep, and Bolt bulbs can use that information to gently wake you up with a “simulated sunrise.”


However, you’ll also need to download a second Misfit app if you already use the Flash or Shine. The Bolt connects to a new Misfit Home app (which will be available for iOS and Android) that gives users the ability to change the color or turn off your collection of Bolt bulbs from your phone. The Bolt will also work with Logitech’s Harmony Home hub remote and app.

It’s difficult to tell where Misfit Bolt lands in the growing list of connected lightbulbs hitting the market. At $49.99 per bulb and $129.99 for a set of three, it’s slightly less expensive than the Philips Hue, which costs $60 per bulb and requires a wireless bridge. Here’s a great guide to how the connected bulbs currently on the market stack up.

Bolt lightbulbs are available for pre-order today and are expected to ship in “mid-Febuary.”

Qualcomm and LIFX partner up for smart lighting reference design

To make it even easier to build a connected light bulb, Qualcomm Atheros and startup LIFX have teamed up to create a Wi-Fi module and software that lets lighting manufacturers get a connected product on the shelves in no time. And if that weren’t enough, anyone can buy a reference design kit containing a connected A19 bulb (the typical lamp bulb) with the connected module and software) from Arrow Electronics, a distributor. Qualcomm will be showing off the module and reference designs in Las Vegas this week at CES.

The goal here is to make the Raspberry Pi of lighting, and see what digital dividends might accrue when people combine connectivity, LEDs and their brains to the concept of lamp bulbs. As someone who talks so much about lighting on her podcast that listeners complain, I’m excited about the possibilities. Qualcomm Atheros and LIFX are already working with established lighting manufacturers such as Havells Sylvania and home networking leaders such as D-Link to build smart lighting products.

Using the Wi-FI module and LIFX software means the light bulb won’t need a hub because instead of the lower-power ZigBee mesh standard, the light bulb will just be able to hop directly on the Wi-Fi network. The manufacturer will have a choice of using colorful lights or white lights, which will impact the overall price of the bulb. A Qualcomm spokesman was unable to offer any sense of price as that would be set by the end customer. Typical LED connected bulbs can run the gamut from $15 for the connected white Wink bulbs to $99 for the colorful LIFX bulbs.

It’s worth noting that the Qualcomm module and LIFX software will work with the new All Seen Alliance standard for lightbulbs which means it should work with other AllSeen Alliance member’s products. This means that future games from fellow member Microsoft running on the Xbox might be able to turn your lights red when you get killed or flick your on and off when your baby’s Sproutling monitor wants to let you know something is wrong.

The lighting module and LED bulb reference design are available now.


Here are 15 more products that work with Nest

As I said in my article about the smart home trends leading up to CES, the consolidation of devices under a few big platforms will be a big topic at the show, and brands are not letting me down. Despite not having a huge presence at the show, Google-owned Nest is winning over the hearts and minds of developers and 15 device-makers want to announce their Nest integrations at the show.

So, if you have a Nest Thermostat or Protect, maybe you have reason to activate your Works with Nest section of the app to see how you might be able to link your Nest devices to your connected light bulbs, televisions or other gear. Apparently, according to Nest one in 10 Nest owners are using the program. I’ve tried it with LIFX bulbs and the Chamberlain garage door opener. My colleague Kevin Tofel even showed us how to talk to our Nest from our Android phones. So now, here’s the list of the most recent partners:

August smart lock silver_angled

  • August Smart Lock can use your locking or unlocking of the door to trigger the Home or Away setting on the Nest Thermostat.
  • Automatic, the connected device that tracks your driving, can tell your Nest when to start heating or cooling your home to get it closer to a comfortable temperature when you get home.
  • Insteon, the connected home system, has supported Nest unofficially for a while, but now you can control your Nest on the level from the Insteon app.
  • LG now works with Nest to help your LG appliances to help Nest figure out if you are home or not. On the flip side, if your Nest Thermostat notices you’re away, your fridge can go into an energy-saving mode. And if it realizes you are gone, LG will send you an alert if you left the oven on.
  • Lutron, like the Insteon integration, now lets you control your Nest from your Lutron app. It would be nice if an Away signal from the Nest also dimmed your Lutron lights.
  • Ooma, the IP telephone system, is also working with Nest and will call you and offer to call local emergency services if the Nest Protect notices smoke. It also offers more prosaic services such as call forwarding to your cell phone if your Nest thermostat tells it you are away.
  • Philips Hue lights can flash on and off to get your attention when the Protect senses a problem.
  • UniKey, the technology behind the Kwikset Kevo smart lock, can tell the Nest Thermostat who’s home and what temperature they like.
  • Withings, which makes the Aura Sleep System, will set your Nest Thermostat to a comfortable night-time temperature when you fall asleep and let the Thermostat know you’ve woken up.
My Lutron lights will soon work with my Nest!

My Lutron lights will soon work with my Nest!

Astute observers will notice that many of these options are replicating similar ideas across many devices, which makes sense given that many people have a variety of devices in their homes. They also will have different preferences on how they want to signal a return home, for example. One person may want their home warm when they get there and won’t mind paying a few extra bucks a month to heat their house, so they might let Automatic or their Android phone tell Nest to start heating the house when they are 10 miles from home. Others might want to start when they hit their garage door open or their front door open. With so many options they can pick and choose between their preferred scenarios and the devices they have.

Astute observers might also notice that there are not 15 partners. The remaining are coming soon so I’m going to list them and the month they are expected but skimp on what they will do since that could change and we’ll likely see a release at that time. Here they are:

  • Big Ass Fans ceiling fans (Available in February)
  • Beep speaker systems (Available in February)
  • ChargePoint EV charging (Available in June)
  • OSRAM/Lightify light bulbs (Available in March)
  • Stack light bulbs (Available in February)
  • Whirlpool washers and dryers (Available in April)
  • Zuli smart plugs (Available in April)


Hanging with my husband: His thoughts on our smart home

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The Internet of Things podcast is back this week with a short and sweet episode featuring my husband as my guest and co-host discussing life in our smart home. He’s playing the role of a normal user as he discusses his favorite device (the Hue lights) and all he really wants his smart home to do. As a note, we couldn’t figure out the name of the product during the show that offers a button that integrates with connected services, but I finally found out the correct spelling and web site. It is called Bttn.

He also shares his thoughts on the Amazon’s Echo, which we received a few weeks back (for my review check here) and graciously asked me about what I think I’ll see at the upcoming International CES next week. And speaking of CES, tune in next week as Kevin Tofel returns as my co-host and he and I discuss what we’re seeing at CES from Las Vegas on next week’s show. We may even have a guest as the show comes back from our six-week hiatus. I missed y’all, so stay tuned for our first show back. (Yes, it does include lights.)

Host: Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Andrew Allemann (Stacey’s husband)

  • We are back from break and diving in with our favorite connected device in our home
  • A common man’s perspective on the Amazon Echo
  • Building an Away button for my home using Bttn.
  • A few trends I expect to see at CES

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Learning lightbulbs, Logitech’s new hub and the ideal smart home owner

This may be the killer app for the smart home, plus thoughts on wearables

Let’s discuss IBM’s new block chain internet of things architecture and robots

In praise of a subscription plan on your smart home and wild Apple speculation

A peek at the Peq hub expected at Best Buy and making the trains run on time

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Netflix hack changes colors of living room lights based on the movie you’re streaming


This is pretty cool: A few Netflix engineers integrated the streaming service’s connected TV app with Hue connected light bulbs from Philips to change the colors of your living room light based on the movie you’re watching. This is similar to a recent SyFy experiment with Sharknado, but in Netflix’s implementation, the light color even changes while you navigate through Netflix’s TV app queue. The integration was done as part of Netflix’s most recent hack day, where other teams built an Oculus Rift UI, a command line Netflix app and a mini player Chrome extension to binge while you’re working. Sadly, all of those hacks are internal, and may never become part of any actual products.