LumiFi App Brings Curated Mood Lighting to the Connected Home Scene
In the mind of Beatrice Witzgall, fumbling through the dark to turn on the lights will someday be a memory—if people starting using smartphones to control illumination.
“I think the light switch is going to die out,” she says.
Her New York-based startup, LumiFi, has developed an app that lets users turn on and alter the tone of light in rooms equipped with Wi-Fi-enabled LED light bulbs. Her app offers preset lighting moods to choose from, as well as the option to personalize the settings. “It’s little like Songza for lighting,” she says.
This is part of the larger connected homes movement, she says, which aims to network appliances in residences with computers and other smart devices that can serve as controls.
LumiFi founder and CEO Witzgall believes that with an easy-to-use app, people will get into the habit of turning on lights as they approach their front doors and set the moods they want before setting foot inside. This type of feature has been around for a while in luxury homes, but she says current technology makes it possible for more people to have wireless control over their lighting.
There are other apps, such as Goldee, available for controlling light remotely. Witzgall says part of what makes LumiFi different is it allows users to set lighting scenes specific to each space. The app just needs to connect through the local Wi-Fi network.
LumiFi works with Philips brand Wi-Fi bulbs and Witzgall says her team is working on integrating its software with other manufacturers. However, she says while other light bulb makers are curious about wireless controls for lighting, they can be reticent about diving in. Putting chips in light bulbs to connect over Wi-Fi is only part of the solution sometimes; a hardware gateway device may be necessary for controlling light fixtures with some systems. “It’s still a difficult technology,” Witzgall says.
Though there has been media buzz about smart homes equipped with connected devices, she says there has been a problem with adoption by the public. “People get overwhelmed about how complex the technology is, how many different systems there are, and how to set it up,” she says.
The cost hurdle may also hold back some potential buyers. While LumiFi’s app is free, a Wi-Fi-enabled LED bulb from Philips can cost about $60 each. That is much more expensive than other types of bulbs such as compact flourescent.
Witzgall hopes the benefits of the wireless controls will win over the masses. Used in conjunction with Wi-Fi-enabled bulbs, LumiFi can dim and, in some cases, change the color of light in a room. That way a home office could be made brighter to get work done while the living room can have a more relaxed tone.
A trained architect, Witzzgall has created lighting scenes for hotels, super-yachts, and high-end residences. She says those projects tended to be expensive and used complex systems. “The interfaces were difficult to read,” she says. “I had billionaires coming to me saying they felt they needed an IT person to turn the lights off.”
During work on a super-yacht in 2009 in Germany, Witzgall met the folks who would one day make up technical team for LumiFi. “With the Internet of things coming to the mass market, we saw an opportunity to bring this to everyone,” she says. Witzgall started to form a plan in 2012 that would lead to the formation of LumiFi within her design company, I3D. She spun LumiFi out this year.
Hotels may offer LumiFi a chance to grow, Witzgall says, if they start switching to Wi-Fi-enabled bulbs. Rooms outfitted with such bulbs, she says, can be controlled with guests’ smartphones after they download the app. She hopes the exposure could pique their interest to bring the technology home. “We believe hotel rooms are strong drivers to educate people for the home market,” she says.
Witzgall, a native of Germany, came to the U.S. in 1999. She started her design consulting firm, I3D (previously known as In3Design), in 2007 in New York. Separate from her firm, Witzgall has lent her skills to lighting design projects at Lincoln Center. She says LumiFi has raised “several hundred thousand dollars” from individual investors.
More functionally is in the works for LumiFi, Witzgall says, which could include programming lights to recognize the users’ activities and adjust accordingly. “We are thinking about how to integrate music into the lighting experience,” she says. “It’s all going to be about contextually aware lighting.”
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