The Philips' Web-addressable LED light bulb could be the start of a wave of Internet of Things devices. Are we ready?
Has the Internet of Things arrived at last in the shape of a Philips box available for $199 from the Apple store? Perhaps. And for once. I am inclined to agree with a company executive when he says this is a "gamechanger."
Still, the advent of wireless, IP-addressable LED light bulbs in a box begs many questions. The technical ones are fairly straightforward.
Philips has engineered a system called "hue," a necessarily complex system requiring multiple, colored LED die, driver ICs, microcontrollers, ac-to-dc voltage converters, wireless transceivers, ZigBee and thousands of lines of software. All this complexity replaces a simple evacuated glass envelope enclosing a strand of engineered metal.
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The complexity does allow the digital control of the color and brightness of household lighting via a connected tablet computer or smartphone anywhere in the world. The scenario also assumes the homeowner also has a Wi-Fi router.
It sounds appealing and looks so seductive in the box, especially since it costs only $199. That's relatively cheap considering the promised functionality. It also is probably no coincidence that a hue LED light bulb is finished in brushed metal and glass just like an Apple iPad.
Still, the social questions raised by hue may not be so easy to answer as the technical ones.