LED lighting is so 2012: LG bets on an OLED lamp

LG is joining an industry effort to infuse the humdrum lighting market with the excitement -- and profits, and complexity -- of the computing and electronics business.

LG's OLED Table Lamp
LG's OLED Table Lamp LG Electronics
Several companies offer smartphone-controlled LED light bulbs these days, but LG Electronics is trying to advance the state of lighting with another approach, too: an OLED table lamp.

The Korean company, which already has a strong home-appliances business, unveiled its OLED Table Lamp on Monday at the Light+Building 2014 trade show in Frankfurt. Instead of using conventional light-emitting diodes (LEDs), its light source is the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology that can be formed into a sheet.

The table lamp, like the company's new LED bulb, the Smart Lamp, has an LG app for iOS and Android that lets you control the bulb over Bluetooth. The app can adjust the lights to set modes for movies or reading, or dim gradually at night and turn on with an alarm.

There's nothing that prevents companies from equipping old-style incandescent or fluorescent lights from wireless control systems, but people generally see those products as commodities to be purchased at the lowest cost available. As the electronics and computing industry tries to expand into the previously humdrum lighting market, though, remote-control apps offer a reason to charge significantly more.

LG Electronics' Smart Lamp
LG Electronics' Smart Lamp LG Electronics

Wirelessly linked lighting eventually could ease integration with home-control systems that can help people save power and money, communicate with home theater and security systems, and maybe even coordinate with power companies and other homes for smoother operation of the electricity grid.

Newer electronic lighting technologies also offer consumers some novelties such as variable-color lights that can be tuned for different moods. And some believe that with OLED lighting, homeowners eventually can move to sheets of illuminated wallpaper. That'll require a bigger shift in lighting habits away from traditional bulbs, though.

The $60 (£36) multicolor Philips Hue bulb, introduced in 2012 and updated this year with the $40 (£24) Lux white-only bulb and $60 Tap remote control system, has pioneered the market for these higher-end, connected bulbs. But others are also selling products, including involved in the market, including the $30 (£18) Insteon LED Bulb, the $70 (£42) Lumen LED Color Smart Bulb, and the $40 Belkin WeMo Smart LED Bulb.

Even consumers excited about the new lighting prospects will have to tread carefully, though. Some of these systems, such as Philips' and Belkin's, require a separate control hub that costs extra, often bundled in a starter kit.

That may sound like a pain, but don't be surprised if, in a few years, wiring new houses for light switches starts becoming a relic of the pre-wireless era.

 

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