iOS-controlled BlueBulb LED lightbulb looks to kill light switches

“After nearly nine months of research and development, bluetooth lighting startup BlueBulb is finally ready to ship a small batch of initial units to customers in a bid to bring remotely-controlled, multi-color lighting into the mainstream,” Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider. “While mass production of BlueBulb may be months away, AppleInsider was able to spend some time with one of the first units to roll off the assembly line.”

“Not quite satisfied with plain white light, BlueBulb uses a unified RGB+White LED array, allowing for a wide variety of color outputs — one million in all according to founder and CEO Peter Lakits,” Campbell reports. “Color changing is a neat trick, but the real draw for many BlueBulb users is the promise of a simple to setup iOS-controlled light. Lakits noted that the iPhone is especially well suited for the task, as the handset rarely leaves a user’s side… Notably, BlueBulb carries a white LED which, when combined with the light from supporting RGB LEDs, can produce varying color temperatures to suit a user’s needs. ‘You can soften or harden the whiteness,” Lakits said, referring to the gradients of white light offered by BlueBulb. “Sometimes I want a warmer light to relax, or maybe more blue for reading.'”

Campbell reports, “Unlike the Philips hue light bulb, which is controlled over Wi-Fi via a wireless gateway, BlueBulb uses energy-sipping Bluetooth 4.0 technology to make a direct connection with an Apple iOS device. For now, support is limited to the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, third and fourth-generation iPads, and the iPad mini.”

Much more, including iPhone app screenshots, in the full article here.

49 Comments

  1. This product will not likely be very successful. People like the directness of hitting a switch. Pulling your iPhone app up to turn off lighting in your house when you are ready to go to sleep borders on being awkward.
    Believe me, I have had the Philips HUE lights in my house for months now. The Philips lights are fantastic in terms of quick, direct control, especially when you don’t use the Philips software which is very limited but something more serious to control them. The good thing is that with the Philips HUE lights and a home automation system like Toolip you can easily get the best of both worlds. Switches on the wall to select scenes (or turn lights off) and direct iPhone access to control individual lights or create and change light scenes.
    The Philips lights have Zigbee communication which is an emerging world standard for short control messaging over wireless mesh networking in the same frequency range as WiFi. Much more robust and suited for controlling devices like lamps than Bluetooth. Other manufacturers are joining the direction Philips is taking as well so expect to see more choices using similar technology.
    Even though I do laud the efforts made, it would be much better for broad market adoption if standardization of protocols would be achieved. At least Philips released their protocols, so other developers can come up with interesting solutions using their product.

    1. “[Zigbee] Much more robust and suited for controlling devices like lamps than Bluetooth.” Oh really… Why?

      The main problem with Zigbee is it needs expensive and complicated gateway devices which only give developers the access the hardware makers allow. For example with the Hue you’re stuck with the JSON APIs that Philips gives you and another Zigbee system will use something else entirely. Philips isn’t playing ball with anyone else either, just try and copy their protocol without breaking the license. So much for standards.

      Also Zigbee suffers from the long list of incompatible profiles – theres two different standards just to turn lights on! This was an actual problem for the Almond+ router which while supporting Zigbee did not support the profile Philips uses for the Hue.

      Meanwhile Bluetooth LE has software developer friendly APIs and comes built-in to every current Mac and iOS device on the market. Plus, for anything else, with a $5 USB fob you can add Bluetooth LE to anything out there that has a USB port.

      Want to bet which one will end up being more popular? I’ll give you an hint, read the history of X.25 and you’ll figure it out.

      1. I hope Bluetooth LE can become successful, but the market’s a strange and fickle place. You can’t count on the best tech to win: remember Betamax v VHS?

      2. However, your new smart electric meter is already Zigbee compatible, and the software provided by smart metering vendors to your electric utility company, such as Sensus, is already Zigbee capable, allowing you and your electric utility to directly control Zigbee equipped appliances. There are already tens of millions of smart meters installed and in use, and there will be hundreds of millions more very shortly. Going against the Zigbee utility standard is likely not going to be successful.

    1. Have you ever heard of total cost of ownership? A $59 LED bulb that lasts 20 years costs $2.95 per year and sips electricity. Incandescents can cost $4.00 for a Reveal bulb that lasts 700 hours and guzzles electricity compared to the lumens produced.

      1. I’m all for LED bulbs, as I’ve replaced 90% of the bulbs in my home with them in the last 2 years, but $60 is too much when you can get A19 40-watt equivalent LED bulbs for $5 from HD or Lowes on sale. Yes, the Philips prize-winning ones.

        1. It always amazes me how many people think that “saving” money = choosing the lowest retail price tag.

          One could also buy Wintel PCs at the thrift shop for $20. Why don’t you “save” money there?

          Why live in a house when a cave can do?

          Who needs an automobile when running shoes are so much more cost effective?

          Why bother eating “expensive” healthy food when greaseburgers are so cheap — and by dying of a coronary at a relatively young age, you’ll save so much money by not having any pesky living expenses that health-conscious folks must endure.

          Long-term thinking saves money. Buying last year’s tech at big box stores does not.

        1. Compared to power for light Bluetooth power consumption is miniscule. Actual data transmission is rare. When waiting for a signal average power consumption is probably on the order of tens of micro watts so you could run the BT for a million hours using power from one hour of providing light.

    2. I’ve been thinking about installing the Hue in my pool lights. They could be changed for all kinds of parties, relaxation in the spa, etc.

    1. There’s a simple solution, just connect to your home Mac remotely and use it’s built-in Bluetooth to control the bulbs.

      Alternatively set-up a Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone or any other small cheap computer to do that. All a lot cheaper than the Philips gateway.

  2. I don’t know why, but this makes me think of the Stairmaster. We use elevators instead of walking up stairs, so we have an exercise machine to simulate the experience. Will we now need an exercise machine that simulates reaching out and flipping a switch?

    1. Chuckle. True, but avoiding the stairs when going to a business meeting allows you to not be all hot and sweaty during that critical presentation you need to make. Well, at least not because of physical exertion.

  3. I think the only thing better than a light switch is hand air gestures and voice control. Minority Report is a good example when Cruise says something like “Dim the lights” and his apartment lighting goes down. Smartphones are too awkward.

    The network connectivity is one thing. Siri could be set to “always listen” for certain applications and commands. So then you can call out lighting commands without touching anything snd the lights will respond.

  4. For specific uses in work-reading locations this may have a place.

    Too pricey to run through the entire house, but if successful, this company is likely to make other variations, so I hope they are successful.

    1. The price will go down as adoption increases. We have already seen LED lights come down dramatically, and they’ll probably come down another 50% in the next year or so. LEDs are being pushed hard to replace CFLs, which don’t last as long as advertised and which are difficult to recycle with their mercury content.

    1. I’m with you. I like my Insteon set up, but having motion and heat detectors to sense when a mammal is in the room seems so ’80s. My dogs don’t carry a Bluetooth device around with them (yet?) and they don’t need the lights to come on as then enter a room. On the other hand, my teenagers……..

  5. Check out lifx.co their bulbs come in 3 different styles to fit any holder and they can be controlled directly by the switch and their output adjusted via ios. Initial cost is about $73 each (cheaper in multiples) but they should last about 20 years. A led upgrade kit will cost you $35-40 so you’re essentially getting cbus/dynamite functionality for $30 a fitting.

    1. You never sat down to watch a movie and forgot to turn off the lights? I use my phone as remote for tv, why not lights…
      Call it lazy if you want, but its no more lazy than having a tv remote. And changing the color temperature is pretty sweet. I agree that $60 is a bit excessive, but I fully expect that price to come down as more manufacturers ramp up production. There is also the problem of them lasting for 20 years. Light bulbs could always be designed to last years longer than they do, but then they wouldn’t be able to sell as many. Same with cars, car tires, pretty much everything has a built in life. So things that last longer have a higher price so the companies that make them don’t go out of business…

  6. Looks to me that the solution to lights on and off problem is a Clapper App. In the dark you just find your iPhone, switch it on, open the App, put the iPhone on the table, and clap your hands to get the lights to come on. Wait! What?

    I predict bunch of small (wall mounted) Bluetooth smart light switches to arrive soon.

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