Market research: Light bulbs with wireless connectivity to shine bright in 2013

October 11, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
IMS Research projects that 2013 will be a big year for the emergence of Radio Frequency (RF)-embedded light bulbs, with several large manufacturers planning to release new products using a range of wireless technologies. According to IMS Research’s recently published Connectivity Opportunities in Lighting Controls – 2012 Edition report, shipments of RF-embedded light bulbs and their associated remote controllers will be more than 600,000 in 2013, rising to 11.7 million in 2017.

There are several drivers to push the market for these devices forward. One of the most important is the ability to control the lights using a smart phone, which can provide both in-home control, and for some systems, remote-access control from outside. It is expected that over the forecast period, most of these systems will offer remote access via an app, or cloud-based service. While this feature is available on current residential lighting control systems, the cost of these systems can be too high for most consumers. The RF-embedded light bulbs will be sold at a more consumer-friendly price level, leading to higher residential adoption.

According to IMS Research Analyst Phillip Maddocks, “We have already seen excitement about these types of systems with the recent successful launch of the Insteon RF and Powerline LED bulb as well as Li-Fx system that managed to generate very significant investment in a few weeks; this shows the potential of this market. In addition to this, several tier-one lighting suppliers are planning to launch similar systems towards the end of 2012 and throughout 2013, which will bring such systems to the consumer market.”

From a technology perspective, currently most RF-embedded light bulb systems, such as that of Insteon, use a proprietary technology or use a proprietary 802.15.4 software stack. Greenwave Reality is currently showcasing NXP's JenNet-IP protocol which, according to NXP, is being made an open platform for other semiconductors to support. In addition to this, the ZigBee Alliance recently launched a lighting-specific profile “ZigBee Light Link” which is designed specifically for the control of both color and light level of LED light bulbs. Currently several tier-1 lighting manufacturers, such as Osram and Philips, have already had devices certified using this protocol.

“Over the next few years, there will be the development of several ecosystems of devices using different technologies before a dominant standard emerges,” added Maddocks. “With the support and the interoperability available