It doesn’t take much effort to switch a light on or off, but we don’t do it nearly enough to save a lot of energy. And sometimes, even making the effort to get lighting just right can be a pain. That’s why companies are betting on smart lighting, which can set the lights in your home to suit your preferences and be controlled remotely.
Communications chip giant Qualcomm and its partner Lifx hope to usher in the era of Wi-Fi-based smart lighting by introducing standards and platforms that will enable an ecosystem of lighting manufacturers, chip makers, and application developers to work together. The company unveiled its AllJoyn Lighting Service Framework at the 2015 International CES, the big tech trade show this week in Las Vegas. Qualcomm announced the news at its own press conference.
To make lightbulbs smart, Qualcomm intends to work with lightbulb makers to include the electronics for Wi-Fi connectivity in the bulbs, which, thanks to light-emitting diodes, have a lot more digital electronics in them than older analog technology. That allows you to turn on or off the lights using an app on a smartphone, or some other remote device. Over time, billions of devices could connect to each other using this kind of technology.
“Our view is to make it easy for companies to get into the smart-lighting market,” Dragan Petrovic, staff product manager at the Qualcomm Atheros division, told VentureBeat. “We are providing hardware and software turnkey solutions to make this happen. In addition to our module, we are providing the whole lightbulb solution with our partners.”
Qualcomm previously led a group of companies in its AllSeen alliance for smart home devices. The AllJoyn technology will fit within that larger AllSeen ecosystem. Intel, MediaTek, Samsung, and others have joined a competing alliance, dubbed the Open Interconnect Consortium.
Petrovic said that you could link smart lighting effects to actions that you take in video games. The lights could flash in your home if you do something like make a big discovery in a game. Security devices could also be connected to the smart lights, making lights flash in a dramatic red color if an alarm is going off, Petrovic said.
Besides Lifx, Qualcomm is working with lighting manufacturers such as Havells Sylvania and home networking companies such as D-Link. Lifx and Arrow Electronics are also working to enable global distribution for AllJoyn products, which should enable manufacturers of any size to quickly develop smart lighting solutions.
The platform includes a Lighting Connectivity Module (LCM) and complete LED bulb design. They both use Qualcomm Atheros low-power Wi-Fi chips to connect directly to a home Wi-Fi network without the need for a hub or translator. The alliance will certify products as “Designed for AllSeen.”
You can expect rival chip makers such as Intel to come up with their own competing technologies or standards, especially if Qualcomm does anything to favor its own chips.
“Through our collaboration with Qualcomm Atheros, we are enabling the growth of a vibrant ecosystem of interoperable devices for the smart home,” said Marc Alexander, chief technology officer at Lifx, in a statement. “Interoperability between our lighting and many other products provides consumers with rich user experiences and helps grow the overall ecosystem. Any Designed for AllSeen TV, fridge, washing machine, audio or visual product can interact with our lights and vice versa. By integrating low power Wi-Fi connectivity into lighting solutions and leveraging the AllJoyn framework, we are making it easy for consumers to make their homes connected and smart. ”