First Read

A first take on enterprise IT technology news and events.

Why an LED Light Bulb with a Built-In WiFi Repeater Makes Sense

Sometimes the craziest sounding ideas can actually end up being useful. That's what I learned after hearing about an LED light bulb with a built-in WiFi repeater, which I thought was silly.

Sengled USA, Apple iPhone, LED bulbs, WiFi

OK, I'll admit it—back in 1988 I actually asked my then-60-something-year-old father-in-law, "Pop, why in the world do you need a computer?"

My late father-in-law, Eugene Bloomfield, was truly way ahead of his time. A lifelong pharmacist and a World War II veteran, he was passionately active with social action and anti-war groups like Veterans for Peace. To stay in touch with like-minded people around the world, he used a then-cutting edge Apple Macintosh LC III computer to communicate using bulletin boards and early email.

It took me a few more years to see what he saw in a computer. Please forgive me.

I recalled this anecdote after receiving an email this week from Sengled USA, a light bulb maker that wanted to tell me all about its new $49.99 LED bulb, called Boost, which has a WiFi repeater built into it.

"What in the world do I need a light bulb with a built-in WiFi repeater for?" I asked incredulously as I spoke with Alex Ruan, the general manager of Sengled, during a phone conversation on March 23.

Actually, he said, decluttering is one reason. Instead of having to place a clunky WiFi repeater on a hallway floor or in some other inconvenient spot where it would then be in the way, and then try to find an electrical outlet where you could plug it in, consumers can easily screw in a light bulb that encapsulates the needed hardware and makes installation and use a breeze, he said.

"Eureka," I thought as I recalled the same scenario I had to undergo when trying to install a bulky repeater in an old three-story house for my daughter last year. I remembered what a hassle it was just finding an out-of-the-way location for the repeater box.

A bulb would definitely have made it simpler. See? I can be educated.

Ruan told me that his company has had such ideas before, such as adding wireless stereo JBL speakers into light bulbs so they can be easily installed anywhere. The Pulse Solo bulbs sell for $59.99 each. Later this spring the company will release its Snap bulbs, which include a built-in video camera in a floodlight bulb.

"We thought that since LED bulbs run so cool [in temperature], why not put other components on the board?" said Ruan. "Now you don't need a $1,000 security camera installation. You just to screw a bulb in."

Now it all started to make sense to me, and the possibilities became more clear.

Sengled's approach, said Ruan, is similar to the one taken by Apple back in 2007 or so, when it brought out the iPhone with a built-in music player, a great camera, Web capabilities and other integrated features. "Apple added games and music and more, and everything became more convenient" for consumers, he said. "That then grew mobile providers and broadband networks."

Wow, what an interesting product lesson I have learned. That WiFi-repeater-in-a-light-bulb idea isn't sounding so crazy to me now.