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Posted in: Developing Perspectives (June 2016)

Wall Light Switches: Relics of the Tungsten Age?

By Bryan Bergeron

I replaced the Tungsten bulbs in my home with 500K or daylight CFC bulbs almost a decade ago. It was an expensive upgrade; in part because the original Tungsten bulbs were still perfectly functional. About a year ago, I started replacing the CFC bulbs with LED bulbs. Again, I tossed completely functional fluorescent bulbs to move up to a cooler operating/more compact light bulb. An added feature was the ability to dim the LED bulbs — something I couldn’t do with a standard CFC.

More recently, I upgraded several of the CFC light bulbs to multi-color LED bulbs that I can operate from my Apple iOS device. With a simple app, I can change the brightness and hue of the lights, set a timer to wake me with light, and operate the lights when I’m away from home. The technology has been around for years, but I’m just getting to the point where I no longer need to look for the light switch when entering a room. My Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs are always on, awaiting my next command. As such, there isn’t a need for the light switch.

My latest journey in light bulb technology does more than simply replace one light source for another. No, the latest generation of always-on “light bulb” replacements makes use of the house wiring and light fixtures, and happens to produce light almost as an afterthought.

For example, Sengled (available at Home Depot and Amazon) offers an integrated microphone/speaker LED bulb that plugs into a standard socket. With the proper peripherals, the bulb supports voice control of cloud connected devices, as well as the ability to detect glass breaking. The Sengled Pulse base serves as a Bluetooth speaker ($150/pair) that is by no means cheap when compared with a standard battery-powered Bluetooth speaker. I found the Pulse to be the ultimate in a low clutter stereo speaker setup.

Then, there are the Wi-Fi repeater bulbs which replace the clunky plug-in desktop repeaters.

At the top on my wish-list for future light bulb “replacements” is an odor detector bulb for my refrigerator that emails me when produce or milk products go bad. I also want an emergency flashlight with a bulb that automatically dials 911 at the press of a button. There are replacement car headlights and tail lights that provide collision avoidance detection, as well. I can even envision a doctor’s penlight that doubles as an optical test device that can diagnose a variety of eye conditions.

As manufacturers are proving, just about any electronic device imaginable can be made to fit the size and power limitations of a traditional screw-in light bulb. I expect the typical technology leapfrogging, with superior offerings from the likes of Philips, GE, and eventually Apple.

Anyone interested in a slightly used set of first generation smart bulbs?  NV