Our homes should be comfortable but not mundane. They should nurture and inspire. They should be as personal and easy to modify as a playlist or profile pic and as creative as our imagination allows. Home automation is a giant step in this direction.
At home, work or anywhere, lighting moves us, shapes our moods, our attitudes, our world. Perhaps even more than fire, it was human control over light that moved our species forward, from the first cave paintings created by firelight to our modern-day 24-hour economy lit by a million electric bulbs.
So, how can we incorporate personalized lighting into the automated smart home of the future, of the now? How can current technology empower us to use light to create the environment we want, conveniently, economically and beautifully?
My partners, engineer/designer Andrew Wen and technologist/designer John Sosoka, and I set out to answer these questions a year ago.
We found that coupling Bluetooth Smart’s power-saving wireless connectivity with efficient LED lighting lays the foundation for something truly powerful and elegant, from a design, technology and environmental perspective. By integrating the latest in LED, Bluetooth Smart and sensor technologies, we developed a convenient, portable, low-power lighting system that is fully programmable, responds to motion and can be controlled by your smart device. We call it LumiLife, the first and only product to bring light to life in this way.
The LumiLife system consists of two separate, easy-to-use parts: a portable rechargeable globe and a wave-shaped lighted base with built-in charging dock. The absence of cords, as well as the 8-hour battery life, frees people to take their lighting experience anywhere. The low heat emitted by LEDs allows you to easily hold the glowing globe in your hands – you can literally touch light and color.
After downloading a free app for their smart phone or tablet, users can shape their environment in dozens of ways:
- select from 16 million+ colors for one or more portable glowing globes to create instant romance, meditation or celebration
- set the alarm and wake up with a gradually increasing light
- let LumiLife’s portable globes gently remind them when it’s time to get out of their warm bath or shine a bright red light when their egg is boiled
- use light alerts to see their phone “ring” while their phone is in another room
- set proximity sensors to make lights come alive as they approach and turn off again when they leave, saving power and ensuring they have light when they need it
LED lighting is developing at a rapid pace, as chips become cheaper and people clammer for lighting that is attractive and environmentally friendly (LEDs have no mercury, no lead and draw very low power). In keeping with this trend, LED lighting has been a successful category for Kickstarter. LumiLife was recently featured on the crowdfunding site’s home page and continues to gain support. (To pledge your support and receive a special preview Kickstarter edition of the LumiLife system before it goes into general production, go to http://bit.ly/MeetLumiLife.)
LED’s growing popularity isn’t surprising. Lighting is such a basic need, and LED systems are colorful, efficient and programmable — a powerful medium for creativity. As with many wireless-enabled devices, LumiLife’s creative capabilities can be expanded with a simple firmware upgrade. For the near future, we are planning features like visualize your music – watch your LumiLife pulse with your favorite song, or program a light show for your playlist. The possibilities are nearly endless!
Bluetooth Smart was the obvious choice to control LumiLife given its low power use, low cost, stability, range and extensive adoption. Android, Microsoft and Apple support Bluetooth Smart at the operating system level, enabling millions of phones, tablets and laptops to connect with devices in the home. And Bluetooth Smart already has a strong presence in home automation, with locks, lights, security systems, thermostats and many more products. According to Machine-to-Machine World News, analysts project that Bluetooth Smart will lead the home automation market.
Smart homes will significantly change the way we live, and widespread home automation is around the corner, like it or not. But as we strive to make our homes more efficient and convenient through automation, it’s critical that we retain the personal, the human, the natural. As a symbolic re-creation of our natural environment with the glowing orbs of its sky and the million colors of its sunsets, LumiLife helps us do just that.
Ellen Wang is a Global Go-to-Market consultant and the co-founder of LumiLife, which she started in Berkeley, CA, in April 2013 with two other tech-driven entrepreneurs to explore how LED lighting technology can bring colorful inspiration to people’s lives.