Here's how it goes: I say, "It feels like we're living in the future," and you all yell, "So where are the jetpacks?" There are plenty of missing pieces from the Jetsons-style view of the future, but at least the smart home -- controllable, reactive, energy-efficient and easy to use -- is on its way.
One of the companies trying to push that vision forward is lighting vendor Greenwave Reality [their site is a little overwhelmed right now]. Founded by veterans of Cisco's consumer networking business, Greenwave has spent the past few years developing products intended for distribution by European utilities, and it's now rolling out its Connected Lighting Solution for homeowners in the EU with certification for the US market as well. With the Greenwave kit -- not sold directly, but through distribution and utility partners -- and your iPhone or iPad, it will be simple to set up a custom lighting environment with up to 500 devices.
Rather than controlling lighting at the switch or outlet level, the CLS actually takes the network smarts all the way down to the bulb. The LED diffuse bulbs fit standard sockets and (like CFL and other efficient bulbs) deliver the equivalent light of incandescents with a fraction of the power consumption. Unlike conventional bulbs, however, each of these sports a chipset from Dutch semiconductor giant NXP, known for making near-field communications (NFC) modules for cellphones and tablets.
The NXP module wirelessly connects to other bulbs and to a remote control via a JenNet-IP mesh, an ultra-low-power IPv6 wireless network. Disconnecting a bulb makes no difference to the overall health of the mesh; the remaining bulbs autoconfigure and keep talking. The wireless chipset sips a tiny amount of power, so it doesn't impair the energy efficiency of the bulbs (the product is now Energy Star certified for the US market).
The heart of the JenNet mesh is the Greenwave wireless controller, which connects to your home network to bridge your WiFi to the lighting WLAN and provide anywhere, anytime access to your lights. As soon as a bulb is powered on for the first time, it begins to dim up and down to indicate that it's ready for setup.
You can use the iOS app to control the light individually, or bind it with other bulbs in a fixture. Turn on a whole room or just one lamp; it's simple with either the app or the hard remote. The app works in your house or anywhere in the world, letting you turn on and off lights when you're on the road. Of course, you can still use your conventional light switches in a pinch; flick off and back on two times to override the soft controls.
With custom dimming timers and sunrise/sunset awareness, the automation possibilities of the CLS are impressive -- create a preset for early mornings, late romantic lights or whatever look you like. You can even take pictures of your lighting fixtures to customize the iOS app controls if you want. When combined with the company's Smart Home Platform, the automation opportunities extend beyond lighting to climate controls, security, appliances and more. Greenwave's technology has received enthusiastic support from the IPSO Alliance, the trade group working to deliver "the Internet of Things" for networked device awareness.
Sounds great, so when and where can you buy it? The company's iOS app is in the App Store now, but as for the hardware, you're somewhat at the mercy of distribution partners at utilities that buy into Greenwave's approach. CEO Greg Memo describes Greenwave as "the brand behind the brand" for connected home lighting, so you're most likely to see "powered by Greenwave Reality" somewhere on the package rather than on its own.
Exact prices will vary by region and provider, but with Energy Star rebates and other incentives the company expects bulbs to be available for around US$20 or less; a four-bulb kit with remote and wireless controller (one-time purchases) will come in at or under US$200. That may sound steep, but the company estimates that replacing 10 bulbs with LED Greenwave bulbs (a net cost of $320 counting the controller) will save about $150 in energy costs in the first year of operation vs. incandescent bulbs... and the LED bulbs have a projected lifespan of 10 years or more.
Check out the Greenwave Reality video below for more on the Connected Lighting Solution.