My thesis covered the topic of cloud enhanced embedded systems or Cees for short. One of the requirements for such system is the ability to connect, to communicate with the surrounding world.
I briefly mentioned one such appliance in my writing. This was the Phillips Hue LED lightbulbs. They look like ordinary lightbulbs and behave as expected. You screw them in, turn the switch and presto, you have light. This is how people like their lights behaving, so nothing surprising there. What is interesting in these bulbs is that they have a ZigBee-radio and protocol stack built into them.
ZigBee allows the bulbs to communicate with each other and with a base-station that in turn is connected via Ethernet to the wider network. This makes this lighting system programmable trough a very elegant RESTful interface.
I want to be clear here. This is not advertising for Hue. I’m just convinced this is a sign how things will be soon. Connected and defined by programmable interface.
The big hurdle to connected appliances, such as Hue, is the price. The basic set with three bulbs and a base station costs nearly 200€. It’s pretty hard to justify to someone who just wants light bulbs. To Hues benefit I have to say that their energy consumption is very low putting them into the lowest consuming A-category of EU’s energy consumption raiting. Phillips promises 15000h of usage. A single bulb produces 600 lumens of light). Personally I would have hoped that the promised usage time would be longer for the price. But frankly, I consider these lamps at the moment just as a experimental tech made for prosumers and tinkerers like me.
What I have heard from various sources many companies and universities are very interested in connecting ordinary appliance. If Hue is not a enough of a sign have a look what is to come have a look at a Bloomberg Businessweeks article from January. The article is about the Consumer Electronic Show of 2013 and vast amount of connected appliances introduced there.
Like with any new innovation there is a time where the technology (or more accurately its user) is trying to figure where does this fit, what problem does this solve and is the solution worth the trouble. In the mean time we will see a wacky curiosity items mixed with something that has potential.
Naturally there is potential threats that this technology brings, such as security and privacy concerns. I will continue to follow the advancement of Cees and the like and most likely write about it time to time.
I have a strong belief in this kind of technology because the signs of a great success is visible.