Wireless smart bulbs could scare away burglars

Qualcomm-based reference design for light bulbs may expand their functions for security, convenience and efficiency

Qualcomm executive showing off reference chip for smart bulbs

Qualcomm executive showing off reference chip for smart bulbs

Light bulbs equipped with Wi-Fi could soon lower your electric bills and do even more -- like scaring away burglars.

Connected "smart" bulbs promise to adapt lighting to different situations, moods and locations. Through an effort led by Qualcomm, smart bulbs will be able to talk to cars, appliances and other electronics, turn on and off, and even change into millions of different colors.

Qualcomm has developed a smart bulb reference design with LIFX, which has made a Wi-Fi bulb that can glow in 16 million [M] colors. The ability for the smart bulbs to adjust by communicating with mobile devices and appliances could make lighting relevant in security, gaming, health care and other applications.

The technology is based on a framework developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group formed around IoT technology originally created by Qualcomm, and is a step ahead in building smart homes and enabling home automation.

Some vendors have already signed up. For example, security company ADT plans to link up the smart lights to home security systems. When an alarm goes off, the security system will instruct lights to flash red and blue, which could draw attention to the home and scare away the burglar.

Smart lighting systems could be enhanced with machine learning for more efficient energy use in the home, and that could help cut electric bills, said Derek Aberle , president of Qualcomm, during a press conference at International CES in Las Vegas.

The technology also could help to identify bulbs that need replacing. A smart hub will be able to detect bulbs that are not working and notify the right people to replace the bulbs. That could be particularly useful in data centers or large offices.

Qualcomm is tying up with partners including lighting system vendor Havells Sylvania, which will add the chipmaker's circuitry to smart bulbs and lighting systems. Qualcomm may find other customers within the AllSeen Alliance, which already has more than 100 members, with key members being Sony, LG, Haier and home appliance maker Electrolux.

Smart lighting systems will carry the "Designed for AllSeen" certification. The lights could communicate with AllSeen-certified TVs, washing machines and refrigerators once those hit the market.

The smart lighting systems will need to support the AllSeen Alliance's AllJoyn framework, a software platform designed to help devices easily recognize and pass on commands to each other. In this case, an AllJoyn-compatible smart car could tell a smart bulb to switch on or off as the vehicle approaches a driveway. AllSeen's Lighting Service Framework will allow lighting systems to communicate and exchange data with other electronics.

Qualcomm is well known for its Snapdragon chips that go into mobile devices. But in recent years it has acquired substantial wireless connectivity assets as it tries to expand its presence in the smart home and Internet of Things market. The smart bulb reference design uses low-power Qualcomm Wi-Fi chips.

Qualcomm at CES is showing off other IoT technologies related to wearables and appliances. It is also demonstrating two smart cars that are compatible with the AllJoyn framework and can communicate with appliances, wearables, smart bulbs and mobile devices.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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