Lifx Cover
Wed, 03/02/2016 - 18:50

Project The Light Bulb Reinvented has collected in november 2012 more than $1.3 million (goal set to 100 thousand). It's goal was to manufacture RGB-W LED bulbs LIFX, which you can control via WiFi. Author promised, they'll be ready in march 2013, but path to the final product was more difficult than expected. My 4 bulbs arrived in February 2014, so I've had to wait 15 months, but it was worth it.

Promo video:

Delivery and packing

From the moment I received tracking number, it took only 3 days till DHL delivered package from Hong-Kong to me. There has been small problems with import tax and duties, which I've had to pay (thanks EU). In summary, one bulb cost me about $87. Now you can buy one improved LIFX bulb for $60 (+ delivery and duties).

Packaging is appropriate, every bulb in one small box, and 2 and 2 were in bubble wrap.

Lifx Packing

First contact

After opening the package, I've got 4 nice bulb in my hands, all in color named Gun Metal Gray. I could choose also white version, but black/gray suites me more.

Bulbs case/body is made of metal and works as heatsink. Only plastic parts are shade ad reset switch.

4 lifx gun metal grey

There was nothing more to think about, just plug it in (screw into socket) and flip the switch. There is of course manual, but there is no need to use it. Everything is pretty straightforward: plug in, turn on, download app.

Installation

This process could change since I've gone through it last time. It has been over a year ago and there have been some app and firmware updates.

Installation was no problem without guide. After launching the app (I tried only Android) you get launch screen, where you can log in or create new Lifx cloud account, which is required for integration with different services. Phone than scans WiFi networks until it connects to one of your bulbs.

After connecting you set SSID and password of network your bulbs should connects to. Then you'll just wait until app goes through 5 magic steps, there really were only messages with text "Step 1" to "Step 5", I at least knew it was doing something. Here I stumbled a bit, whem my phone screen went off/locked, process has been terminated, and I've had to start over. Maybe this is fixed now.

And now the fun

Application has gone through many changes since launch. It changed both design and functions.

Every bulb can be named, so you know better, which is which. Them you can add bulbs to groups, and controll whole group at once, not just single bulb. Every bulb or group can be turned on/off, change brighness, intensity, hue, saturation, tone of white (warmth).

If you want to have more fun, you can choose color by theme (relaxing, dream, energetic,...), choose different effects like random colors, spooky (for Halloween), music visualization (colors change based on microphone input), flicker (candle effect), or strobe.

Another function are scenes. Light levels, colors, any current state can be saved as scene, and then be recalled just by tapping scene name. Scenes can consist of all lights, separate lights or groups, any combination works. Scene can be set manually - tapping scene name/icon, can be scheduled to activate at specific time and day of the week or based on (gps) position of your phone (e.g. turn lights off when you leave).

One interesting feature is vacation mode, which should simulate human activity at home, when you are on a vacation. I must say, I haven't seen it at work, I've always been away, when this mode has been activated.

And for demanding users are different integations: Nest, IFTTT, Ok Google, Smart Things, Amazon Echo, Logitech Harmony, Flic... and it's likely there will be more.

Security

Lifx bulbs are as secure as your WiFi network. After first setup, they communicate through AP and everyone on same network can control them. This could be probably restricted by blocking port for different IP ranges. It is nice, that when you open app on network with Lifx, it just sends broadcast and finds bulbs, no special configuration needed. Bulb names and groups are stored in bulbs.

It would be nice to have option, to restrict bulb control just to some devices, or have guest mode, when everyone on network can control bulbs, or just some bulbs. But I can imagine there could be problem with lag, if with every request, bulb had to check security token or something else. This could be better solved by firewall, maybe.

Practical examples

I can write as much as I can, but best way to show you what these bulbs can do, are pictures and videos. Everything has been shot by smartphone. I also tried to make comparison between 75W classic bulb and LIFX, they should have similar output - testet bulb should have 915 lumen and LIFX 1000 lumen.

Comparison 915 lm Osram and LIFX at full brightness

App test with 3 bulbs

A bit of colormixing

(I didn't use "Photoshop", just GiMP for resizing):

comparison Lifx and 75W bulb RGB Colorwheel CMY Green on max power

Tech specs

Router requirements Wi-Fi router must be standard 802.11 b, g or n 2.4Ghz compliant.
Fitting Type Edison E26 and E27, Bayonet B22
Lumens 1017 lumens (75W equivalent)
Wattage 17W at full brightness
Volage range Universal power supply AC 100-240V • 50/60Hz
Dimensions 65 mm x 135 mm; weight - 294 g
Energetická class A+

Future

For developers is available SDK, so you can create your own LIFX app. E.g. bulbs could change color based on tv screen, to create better ambient light while watching movies.

And there are some libraries on github, which can make creating apps or scripts even easier than official SDK.

Problems and bugs

Everything I've had problems 2 years ago is fixed, at least most of it.

Comparison to Phillips Hue

It's been some time since first Phillips Hue are available. Hue bulb has lower output (600 lumen v. Lifx 1000). Communication is a bit different, you need to buy special bridge, which you need to connect with router. And maximum Hues per bridge is 50, LIFX has been tested on over 60, but honestly, who would need so many RGB bulbs?

From my subjective view, LIFX look better and I can choose from 2 color variants, and Hue is just meh.

I can't compare apps, I haven't tried Phillips Hue app. As I can't compare which one is "faster" with smaller lag.

Whan I can compare is price. When LIFX started to sell, it cost $89, now you can buy one for $60 (3x LIFX = $180), and Hue starter pack (3x bulbs + 1x bridge) costs $199, so LIFX is now cheaper (depends on duties and VAT). If you want to buy Phillips Hue, you can just go to some local store and buy one, LIFX can be bought online or in special stores.

Final result

LIFX is great toy, but also useful piece of technology for everyone, who can afford it.

Original article was publist on SpaceUnicorn.sk.