By Kirakiraouji (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the past several years, “smart” lighting systems have become an increasingly popular option for consumers willing to spend some extra cash in exchange for more flexible control of the hue, brightness, and even color of the lights in their homes. One of the most popular options, which introduced the concept of smart lighting to many consumers, is the Philips Hue system, which connects to the internet to allow users to control their lights via their smartphones. Other similar lighting systems, which operate over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or via remote control, have also been introduced to compete with Philips’ product.

Now, the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea has entered the marketplace with their line of lighting products called Trådfri, which means “wireless” in Swedish. Ikea has updated the Swedish version of their website with information about the various products in this line that are being made available; these include light bulbs, light panels, cabinet lights, and accessories, including remote controls and motion sensors. Although the company’s line of light bulbs seem to resemble products by competing manufacturers, the inclusion of light panels, which can be attached to a ceiling or wall for decorative purposes, distinguishes Ikea’s take on smart lighting from the competition.

Like Philips’ system, Ikea’s products use Zigbee’s standard for smart lighting devices. Under this standard, lights are wirelessly connected to a gateway device, which is linked to a user’s router to give internet access. From there, users can install applications to their smartphones which allow them to control their lighting equipment, even when they are not at home, as long as they are connected to the internet. As Ikea is adopting Zigbee’s popular standard, it is possible that their lighting system could work in tandem with other smart home devices, such as Philips Hue or Amazon Echo, though Ikea has not yet announced whether this functionality will be possible.

On the Swedish version of Ikea’s YouTube channel, a video gives some insight into the features and functionality built into the Trådfri light system and the accompanying app. In the video, a person uses their iPhone to control various aspects of their lighting system; she dims and brightens the lights in her kitchen, controls the brightness levels of individual bulbs, selects from a collection of “moods” which configure the hue and brightness of the lights, creates a custom “mood,” and uses the application to set an alarm for the lights to turn on automatically. Such features parallel the functionality offered by the Hue system, as well as other lighting systems, with the exception of having the ability to change the colors of the lights arbitrarily.

One of the advantages of the Trådfri lighting system, however, is its price. A gateway kit, which includes two light bulbs of variable color temperature, a gateway device, and a remote control, costs eighty dollars. For comparison, a similar product offered by Philips costs ten fewer dollars, but includes dimmer bulbs and lacks a remote control. However, the price of individual bulbs is similar between Ikea and Philips.

One of the more unique elements of Ikea’s lighting system is the dimming switch, which looks like a small, yellow cylinder, with which a user can wirelessly dim and brighten lights by holding the device upright and rotating it, as demonstrated by this somewhat strange promotional video. Although the concept of controlling lights in this way is certainly attention-grabbing, the practical applications of doing so are as of yet unclear, as it seems that it would be easy to lose the dimmer switch, and using it doesn’t seem to provide many advantages over using a wall-mounted switch.

According to CNET, Ikea plans to roll out the smart lighting system worldwide starting on March 31st.

Featured image via Wikimedia

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Hey there! I'm Tyler. I'm interested in understanding how changes in our technological landscape influence our culture and way of life and communicating that understanding with others. I think that one of the most effective ways to comprehend the rapid developments in our chaotic and hectic world is to look at it from the perspective of technology, as technology is in a constant state of flux and has such a strong impact on our daily lives. Sometimes, we fail to realize just how severe this impact is; through my writing, I hope to correct this blind spot in myself and in others.