Imagine if your lighting were always perfect. Never too bright. Never too dark. And always smart enough to turn itself on or off.
That’s the promise of tech startup Stack Lighting’s newly announced Alba bulb ($150 for a pair). Billed as the world’s first responsive light bulb, it’s loaded with light and motion sensors that enable all sorts of neat tricks even when it’s hiding behind a lamp shade.
It will turn on when you enter a room, and turn off when you leave. It can automatically dim or brighten in response to its environment (saving your eyes as well as some money on your electricity bill). And its internal LED can even shift its color temperature—not just becoming brighter or softer, but actually change the color—to match ambient light that may be coming in through the windows, which tends to be more orange in the morning and evening, and more blue around noon.
The company is billing the Alba as an Internet of Things product, a smart appliance that connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi to dig deep into your life, using algorithms to learn things like when your bedside lamp should turn on to wake you up. The Alba can also talk directly to other Alba bulbs—as many as 50,000 can technically fit on the same Zigbee mesh network—meaning the 40 or more sockets you’ll find in the average U.S. home are well covered. Theoretically, they could send one another messages to turn on or off sequentially or in tandem.
The promise of greater connectivity isn’t what excites me about the Alba. I like that, at its core, it’s a light bulb that is intended to be more mindful of its environment through the merits of its own design, not through the necessity of some connected iPhone app or cloud portal.
It's not the first motion-sensing light bulb, but from what we can tell, it's the first that's resourceful enough to understand the context of both your presence and the ever-shifting brightness and color of light around it—accommodating for each of these ideas automatically. If the smart home of the future is really going to happen, and our houses are going to be infiltrated by, not just one or two, but tens to hundreds of smart products then these products will need to be self-reliant. They’ll need to make our lives easier, not crowded with even more notifications and firmware updates. That is, assuming the Alba really works.