April 25, 2014

Personal Wireless Lighting: Hue by Philips and Its New Competitors, Samsung and LG

For two years, Philips has dominated the smart lighting scene with Hue, a personal wireless LED system. The system functions by using a mobile app to communicate with LED bulbs through a bridging device. The app allows the user to change the color of their home or office by using different presets.  Now, Samsung and LG have joined the game, too,  recently launching their own smart bulb systems. 

Philips’ setup uses tunable white light to control its color spectrum, with 16 million colors at the user’s disposal. The bulbs are available in E26, E27, GU10 and BR30 formats, allowing one to outfit an entire home if desired.  The bridge between the bulb and the mobile app can support up to 50 bulbs at a time.

The uses for the lighting vary.  For example, Hue can be used as an alarm or a mood setting device. Also, by linking the wireless light bulbs via the IFTTT service, users can make the light switch colors when the weather changes, when they receive an e-mail or even when their favorite team scores a goal.  Philips advertises associated health benefits as well, with the product’s “Light Recipes,” claiming to create the ideal lighting for different needs, such as reading, relaxing and concentrating. 

While Philips is the current leader in the smart lighting filed,  Samsung put its hat in the ring at the end of March, announcing its own LED Smart Bulbs.  The main difference between these lights and those of Philips Hue line, is that Samsung’s are controlled through Bluetooth, without the help of a bridge component.  Offering an estimated 10 years of high-efficiency light, the Samsung mobile app will be able to control 64 smart bulbs.

LG’s line of personal wireless lighting, SmartLamp, will premiere in South Korea, thought there is no anticipated date for wider release.  SmartLamp functions without a bridge, as well, and works through iOS and Andriod devices via Bluetooth, although, many of its more advanced features can only be used through the Android system. Howver, at $32 a bulb, it is less expensive than its competitors (compared to Philips $60), which could help LG’s line reach a larger audience once made available on the international market.  

For now, the control capabilities of both Samsung and LG are not yet as advanced as the Philips line. Philips also just announced Hue Tap, the wireless smart switch that can be used instead of the mobile app for different settings and Hue Lux, which provides exclusively white light controlling.  But, with a large renewed interest from the general public in the light bulb, expect to see more players enter the game over the next couple of years – which is good news for the electrical industry.