Qualcomm, Lifx Partner on Smart-Lighting Platform

The companies' offering includes a module to make existing lighting solutions connected and an LED bulb design for customers just entering the space.

Internet of things

Qualcomm is partnering with smart-lighting technology vendor Lifx to create a smart-lighting platform and an LED bulb design based on the AllJoyn code being developed by the AllSeen Alliance.

Officials with Qualcomm's Atheros subsidiary announced the WiFi-based smart lighting platform Jan. 5 at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, an event that will be inundated with technology around the Internet of things (IoT).

The platform announced also was one of several that Qualcomm announced at show.

The IoT is expected to grow rapidly as more devices are infused with intelligence and connected to the Internet and each other. Cisco Systems officials have said that there are more than 25 billion connected devices—from smartphones and tablets to home appliances, cars, industrial systems and surveillance cameras—worldwide now, and that the numbers will grow to 50 billion by 2020.

A key part of the IoT will be the ability for such devices to communicate with each other, and the lighting industry has been getting particular attention in recent months. The AllSeen Alliance—a year-old industry consortium that is developing a framework to enable devices to easily connect with one another—in October announced it was creating the Connected Lighting Working Group to develop a platform to enable smart light bulbs to communicate with people and other connected devices.

AllSeen is developing its larger IoT framework around the AllJoyn code, which was originally developed by Qualcomm engineers and then given to the alliance, which is a project of the Linux Foundation. Both Qualcomm and Lifx are AllSeen members. Now Qualcomm, which was a founding member, is looking to leverage AllSeen's Lighting Service Framework (LSF) for its turnkey platform.

The goal is to give a broad range of developers the tools they need to create smart lighting solutions based on AllJoyn. Those companies that already manufacture lighting solutions can leverage the Lighting Connectivity Module (LCM) from Qualcomm to quickly turn their products into smart lights, according to Dragan Petrovic, staff manager for product management at Qualcomm Atheros. Vendors new to the lighting business can use the LED bulb design from Qualcomm and Lifx, Petrovic told eWEEK.

"We view this as an opportunity for these [lighting] devices to work together," he said. "If you look at the lighting industry, it's been pretty stable for about a century."

It started changing in the 1990s with the introduction of the LED light bulb, bringing a digital element in to the industry. Light bulbs are primed to be connected, which is why attention is being paid to the lighting industry by those in the nascent IoT market. They not only can become more efficient, but also can be controlled via a mobile device.

In addition, they can linked to other smart devices in the house, such as security systems, doorknobs and gaming consoles, Petrovic said.

Qualcomm's LCM and the complete LED bulb design both use Qualcomm Atheros' QCA4002 low-power WiFi solution to connect the lighting systems directly to a home's WiFi network, without having to use a hub or translator. They're also compatible with AllSeen's LSF, so they can operate with any AllJoyn-enabled smart devices.

Qualcomm and Lifx also are working with other companies, including those in the lighting industry like Havells Sylvania and tech vendors like networking company D-Link. In addition, the vendors are working with Arrow Electronics for distribution worldwide.

"Interoperability between our lighting and many other products provides consumers with rich user experiences and helps grow the overall ecosystem," Lifx CTO Marc Alexander said in a statement.

The LCM and LED bulb design are available now, and Petrovic said he expects lighting solutions leveraging the technology to begin appearing in the first half of the year.

The lighting technology is just part of a larger effort by Qualcomm to increase its presence in the IoT. Also at CES, Qualcomm officials announced collaborations with Walgreens and Novartis in the health care field. In addition, they announced gains Qualcomm Atheros has made in getting its Vive multi-user multi-input/multi-output (MU-MIMO) WiFi technology—which helps speed up 802.11ac connections by up to three times—adopted by device makers and momentum that has built behind Qualcomm's AllPlay smart media platform.