16 May 2011

NXP technology enables light bulbs to be turned on via web

In the latest incarnation of the 'internet enabled fridge', NXP has announced technology that can be integrated into the base of an energy efficient light bulb. Not only does this technology offer dimming abilities, it will also allow light bulbs to be turned on and off over the web.

According to Jon Croteau, general manager of NXP's power lighting solutions business: "The only time I've seen something like this was when I first saw the iPhone."

Leaving aside the small issue of why anyone might want to turn light bulbs on and off using the web and bigging your product up by comparing it to the iPhone, there is one interesting issue in the announcement; the fact that NXP is taking on ZigBee. Fuelling this potential showdown with ZigBee is NXP's recent acquisition of Jennic. "It was acquired because of its software competence, including the 6LOWPAN stack, and its power efficient hardware," Croteau admitted.

Rightly, Croteau says there will not be an 'internet of things' if the 'things' use proprietary interfaces or carry royalty penalties. "If you want an IP based network," Croteau asserted, "you can't have one that is ZigBee based. But it's not about competing with ZigBee," he continued, "it's about delivering something people want to buy."

The technology must have something going for it, because NXP has signed up TCP, which manufactures more than 1million energy efficient every day. But its adoption requires the creation of a developer's community. Croteau recognises this and said an open source consortium is in the process of being established. Without other developers, the technology will go nowhere.

NXP, of course, is the privatised version of Philips Semiconductors and Croteau's admission that NXP is 'setting up an alternative to Zigbee' does, however, bring to mind earlier attempts by Philips to 'set up alternatives'. Who remembers V2000; the ill fated video format that got steamrollered by VHS and Betamax? Who remembers DAT, the tape based data storage approach obsoleted by the cdrom?

These two examples show the pitfalls of trying to go it alone. At least by opening up the technology, NXP should avoid repeating history.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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