Lighting the Home in the Internet-of-Things
Interweb thingymawidget technology is taking over. Not content with being a communication infrastructure delivering information and content for computers, tablets, smartphones and increasingly for traditional home entertainment devices like TVs, it is now pervading the realm of lighting and enabling advanced and affordable smart-lighting systems for the home.
While it is perfectly possible to wire up control signals to individual lamps in every room in a house to deliver both remote access and more sophisticated control, in practice installation costs are prohibitive: cabling is expensive, even for a new build. The ‘Internet-of-Things’ (IoT) changes all that! The introduction earlier this year of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6, the successor to IPv4) offers approximately 5 x 1028 addresses for every person on the planet, making it possible for any device in our homes to own a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address – and clearly this includes light bulbs. This ability enables objects to be seamlessly integrated into an Internet-based information network and monitored and controlled, either individually or in groups. Not so far away in the future, the smart home is likely to have a mixed network topology with high-bandwidth nodes using Wi-Fi, alongside ultra-low-power nodes using only one-tenth of the power. So, the IoT, in conjunction with low-power wireless technology, offers a means to install many lights, sensors and actuators at very low cost, enabling a highly cost-effective retrofitted smart-lighting system for the domestic home.
Several factors are bringing about this new lighting reality: the emergence of LED lamps (and also their dimming capabilities); the availability of lamps, gateways and kits that are easy to install out-of-the-box, such as the recently announced GreenWave Reality Connected Lighting Solution; the relatively recent emergence and availability of IEEE 802.15.4 based wireless communication standards such as JenNet-IP and 6LoWPAN (IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks), in addition to ZigBee of course, for controlling low-power transceivers in wireless personal- or home-area networks; and the increasing capabilities of ultra-low-power wireless microcontrollers, which are fast reaching the dollar price point and therefore can be affordably used in light bulbs.
Embedding a low-cost wireless microcontroller inside a lamp enables wireless connectivity to each light source, making it possible to provide remote control in a variety of scenarios, ranging from a single lamp to clusters of lamps in a single light fitting, or several lamps in a room or across a whole house. And, what is more, all this flexibility can be controlled from a smart phone, or a tablet or PC, running easy-to-use application software…