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Philips' advanced LED light bulb could revolutionize electronics

In 2013, Philips introduced an intelligent LED light bulb that could transform the consumer electronics industry. The company calls its smart bulbs the Hue 1.1 which has a “geofencing” feature, among others.

An incandescent light bulb (C) is shown with an LED light bulb (L) and a compact florescent (CFL) light bulb on December 27, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Yes, smart LED bulbs now have version numbers (1.1) just as iPhones do. Geofencing lets the light change colors, as well as, turn on or off when the user arrives at home or at the office. As stated on the Philips website, Hue users “don't ever worry if [they’ve] switched [their] lights off or not. Just walk out the front door and they'll switch themselves off”.

Smart Light Bulbs

As an alarm, the Hue can gradually turn on the lights which means users won’t have to be jarred by the blaring of sound-based alarm clocks. There’s also a timer feature. “With the new timer function, [Hue] can turn the lights off, flash, or change color after a set amount of time.”

Here are additional IFTTT features:

  • Change your light's color to let you know when it's raining outside
  • Blink your lights when your favorite sports team starts a new game
  • Randomly change your light's color with a text message

Bulb Apps

Philips opened up the API to allow developers to write their own apps for the colorful, smart bulb. The company also partnered with Apple in an attempt to add branded value to the technology as well as gain distribution among early adopters.

The Hue starter kit is available at Apple stores for $200 or $60 per bulb. That’s a hefty price given that a room full of such LED bulbs could cost hundreds of dollars. However, Philips is banking on Hue to become the next cool “must have” product for techies.

The company announced that it will sell the smart bulb at and other retail partners in the United States and Europe.

What is motivating Philips to manufacture high-end, expensive LED lighting?

For one, the company should reap much higher profit margins at $60 per bulb. The economics of light bulbs is threatening Philips’ revenues and profit margins. The price of LED light bulbs is projected to drop by half by the year 2020, according to an August 2012 press release by BulbAmerica. “The overall costs of the central LED package will fall by more than 70 percent to $2.14 in the next decade” because of a shift in technological innovation towards areas such as thermal management, drivers, and optics.

Philips wants to transform what has previously been a commoditized product into an innovative technology that commands a premium because of its branding.

For years, General Electric has reaped the benefits of advanced lighting through eco-friendly bulbs that, while more expensive, lasts longer than traditional bulbs. Executives at Philips believe that there is a market beyond environmentally-friendly bulbs and that innovation in a relatively static product line can transform the consumer electronics industry.

What are some future applications for smart LED lighting? A child who has gotten in trouble in school may find the house’s lights turn red when daddy is coming home. A user’s front porch may turn blue when a Facebook friend is about to arrive. Or the kitchen may turn green when the chicken in the oven is cooked to perfection.

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