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LED lights are amazing today, so what can the future possibly hold?

A room illuminated by Philips Hue LED bulbs
Philips Hue LED bulbs can be changed, remotely, to a wide spectrum of colours. They can also change colour and, if you like, pulse in time to the music in the room. And as LEDs, they're efficient and long-lasting.

One growing trend features personalized lighting "recipes"

Posted by Blaine Kyllo

I turned my living room into a full-on discotheque last weekend. A bit of spontaneous dancing spurred the transformation, and it wasn't the loud music that made my family feel like we were in a club; it was the lighting.

Earlier in the week I had received a Hue starter pack from Philips. It consists of three Philips Hue LED bulbs and a wireless bridge. The Hue bulbs are able to transform into any colour you can imagine. And up to 50 bulbs can be connected to a single bridge.

I replaced the bulbs in my living room fixtures — regular lamps — with the standard base Hue bulbs. And with the touch of a button on the bridge, I was able to get them all connected to my wireless network. After that was done I could control the bulbs, independently or together, with my smartphone.

Through various smartphone apps, many of which are free, I can change the colours of my Hue bulbs. And there are "recipes", too, so I can have my living room simulate the light at sunset, or at the beach or ski hill, or deep in the ocean. Some can even match your room lighting to lighting from a photo or landscape.

And if I let the smartphone microphone "listen" to the music playing in the room, an app changed the brightness and saturation of the three Hue bulbs in accordance with the music. It even pulsed the light in time with the rhythms.

We've never had so much fun dancing around the living room.

LEDs are the light of the future

Cristian Suvagau is an engineer with Power Smart. He says that light-emitting diode (LED) technology is becoming cheaper and easier to use, and he expects LEDs to soon replace all other types of lighting. The Hue lights and some other cutting-edge LEDs are not yet ENERGY STAR®-rated, but there are already dozens of bulbs that meet the strict ENERGY STAR criteria for efficiency and quality.

LEDs are known for being extremely efficient (they use 75 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs), and for being long-lasting (up to 25 years). But another advantage of LEDs is flexibility.

Permanent light fixtures installed in your walls and ceilings are no longer needed to light entire rooms. Instead, says Suvagau, you can create a general, energy efficient "glow" and then use task-specific lights when you need them.

LEDs can even be liberated from hard-wired electric power supplies. They're efficient enough to run on battery power. And the efficiency of the technology continues to increase to the point that in 20 years, says Suvagau, a standard-sized bulb will be powerful enough to produce a blinding light.

Wireless controls can be like the smartphone app that I use with my Hue bulbs, or like more traditional wall switches, which can be placed wherever you want.

Wireless controls and advanced LED bulbs offer more than just simulating a dance floor. If you want the optimal light for reading a book, you can get that with the touch of a button. Or get a combination of colour and brightness that's ideal for relaxing.

They can be programmed to change at a particular time of day, too. You can use them in a bedroom to gradually increase the intensity of light for a gradual wake-up, for example. Or use them as occupancy lights when you're away on vacation.

You can even have them turn on automatically when you enter a room.

Image of Dew Drops LED lamps
The Dew Drops LED lamp is a flexible sheet of tiny LED lights controlled by a touch sensor on the sheet.

Other advanced LED lighting solutions available now

Hue bulbs are available in standard bulbs used in lamps and sconces, while other advanced LEDs are available for recessed lighting (or pot lights) and track lighting. You can also buy light strips, which can be used almost anywhere, including under shelves or behind picture frames, and stand-alone LED fixtures, called Bloom.

They can all be manipulated independently.

And the Dew Drops LED lamp, created by a German lighting designer, is a flexible sheet of plastic containing a web of tiny LED lights. You control the dimming of the light using a touch sensor on the sheet itself.

It gives you an idea of the kinds of things Suvagau finds so great about LED lighting: it glows, as opposed to shines, and it's thin, flat, and flexible enough to be used almost anywhere.

Blaine Kyllo is a North Vancouver-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to bchydro.com.