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A Smarter Light Bulb That Mimics The Setting Sun

And all you need to operate it is a light switch.

In the age of smart appliances, we’re using everything from our iPhones to our gestures to control Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-connected thermostats and smoke detectors. But a new, smarter light bulb called the Drift by Saffron needs only the most domestic of tools to operate: your light switch.

Flick the switch on and the LED light bulb will glow like any bulb you know. Flip the switch on twice, and you enter Midnight Mode, which gradually dims the light over the course of 37 minutes to lull you to sleep like a setting sun. Flip the switch three times, and you enter Moonlight Mode, which slowly dims the bulb but stops at a faint glow to serve as a nightlight.

"When we decided to build a self-dimming light bulb, we didn't even consider using the light switch at first. We considered a custom light switch, wireless (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/ZigBee) and even a physical switch on the base of the bulb," Saffron CEO Preston Wily tells Co.Design. "[But] we wanted our solution to be easy to use, fit almost any standard light bulb fixture, and be simple to install. We went back to the drawing board and came up with the idea of using the way people normally interact with lights as our basis for setting the Drift Light."

That’s what makes the Drift’s approach so elegant. From installation to operation, the product piggybacks on the infrastructure we already have in our homes. You screw it into a socket like any other light bulb. An internal microprocessor—invisible to users—sits at the ready, waiting for commands. And the interface is a simple switch that is never too far from the bulb.

The only real complaint we have is a small one. If you pay attention to the circadian-rhythm light-hacking space—an extremely specific interest to be sure!—you’ll have heard of LED-based devices like the Aura alarm clock, which go so far as to shift the color spectrum from orange to blue to mimic sunrise and sunset. If it were a step more ambitious (and potentially, more expensive), the Drift could do this too. But I guess this leaves us reason to look forward to their 2.0 product.

The Drift can be preordered for $29.

Buy it here.

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  • I'd be interested to see how this could help people suffering from sleep disorders. Particularly something like phase delay syndrome which is caused by the biological clock being out of whack. The moonlight switch is also interesting as most people are told to sleep in the complete dark if they have trouble sleeping. Definitely interested in learning more about this! Could be a very interesting home healthcare innovation.

  • These aren't 1:1 products from an engineering standpoint, given the integrated microprocessing, but that's really the smaller point. If you don't understand the importance of UX in either design or the value of products, then the thesis of Co.Design has been completely lost on you. If UX didn't matter, companies like Nest wouldn't have been purchased by companies like Google. You're right, the raw materials at play here aren't that expensive. But has the company done something interesting, leveraging an ubiquitous, low-fi technology to control the brain of a smarter light bulb than most? Yes. And that's notable.

  • Doug Steel

    At the risk of sounding cynical, isn't "Mimics the Setting Sun" just another way of saying "Dims"? I don't get what's special about this light, and it sounds like invoking a romantic image is meant to substitute for any actual technical features.

  • Dims over the course of 37 minutes is a bit different than your standard dimmer, no? So in this case, I believe that romance is strongly tied to the function and intent of the design.