NOTE: THIS IS ONLY A CONCEPT, AN IDEA WHICH I ENTERED IN THE GENERAL ELECTRICS "LIGHTS FOR LIFE" CHALLENGE BUT DID NOT WIN!
Lighting is a very important, but often overlooked factor in our daily lives.
Students for example, spend most of their time studying. Bad lighting will eventually cause eye strain and act as a hindrance in the student's studies and life.
This is why, a good lighting fixture is necessary, not only for students but for office workers and other such similar jobs.I hope to create a table lamp, which is simple, yet beautiful and practical.
In my opinion, a smart table lamp is not one which switches on or off its light at a scheduled time, rather it automates the lighting; switching it on or off, or adjusting the light, when required by the user, but without any input from the user at all.
Below is an introductory video of my idea:
Let's move on to the design itself.
Step 1: Detecting User Presence
For the table lamp to know when the user requires a light, a sensor needs to be used. I had decided upon two different sensors and am describing each one below:
- Ultrasonic sensors: These sensors work using the Doppler shift principle; emitting a high frequency signal and evaluating the change in the frequency of the signal to detect motion. These are non-directive sensors.
- Passive Infrared Sensors or PIR motion sensors: These measure the infrared rays radiated from objects, and so can be used to detect human presence. These are directive sensors.
It should be able to somehow have an idea of when the user requires the light, and just at the right time carry out the command, so that no time is wasted, and the automation is more practical than the user himself going and switching on or off the light, as necessary.
I concluded that from the above, ultrasonic sensors would be the best. This is because they are capable of detecting even a minor change in the environment. But I do not want the sensor to be sensitive enough to trigger a false detection. Because of that, a PIR motion sensor will also be used along with that. When both the sensors approve, then only it will detect the person and act accordingly.
After deciding on the sensors, it occurred to me that GE must have their own range of sensors for detecting human presence. That is when I came upon GE Aware™ Occupancy Sensors. The Dual Tech sensors are perfect for my use and I was happy that my design is using an existing GE technology.
Here I will describe another idea worth mentioning; using a speaker and a microphone. Emitting a high frequency sound, via the speaker and detecting the sound via the mic. In a still environment, the frequency of the sound will be constant, but when there is motion in the environment, it changes the frequency, and this change in frequency is used to detect motion, or human presence in the environment. Because of that, the use of the sensor described above can be omitted, reducing the overall cost of sale and manufacturing of the lamp, as only a speaker and mic needs to be used (Voice controls are an important part of the lamp which I'll describe later). The reason I did not include this idea above is that I think that there will be health consequences; the high frequency sound will be emitted all the time from the lamp and eventually, will be 'heard' all the time by the user. This may result in headaches or other such health problems, which is why I am excluding this, but if I'm wrong about this then it certainly is a good idea.
So, when the sensor detects a person, the lights will automatically be switched on. When the user leaves the table, the lights will be kept on for a reasonable amount of time and then automatically be switched off.
Step 2: Voice Controls
Nowadays, many smart devices are emerging in the market, but nearly all of them communicate using smartphones. This may seem a very smart idea to some, but in my opinion it is not.
It makes you dependent upon the smartphone for controlling the application. If you do not have your smartphone, you simply won't be able to control the application. How smart is that?
This is why, in my opinion, voice controls are necessary to build smart devices. The voice controls for the lamp must not be limited to turning on the bulb and turning it off. Rather, the user should be able to carry out all of the functions present in the lamp via voice controls.
Also, by voice controls I surely do not mean using them via a voice assistant on your phone, such as Siri or Google Now. Using it via a voice assistant may look advanced, but it isn't practical at all. A person does not have his phone present all the time, or simply, there are situations when reaching over and pressing a button on a lamp (if present), is more efficient than to reach your pocket for your phone, launch the voice assistant and then say the command for switching off the light.
There should be a direct voice conversation between the user and the lamp, without the smartphone in between. So because of this, a speaker and a microphone need to be present in the lamp.
How will the voice user interface work?
The lamp can 'listen' and carry out commands even when the user is not working on the study table; the Dual Tech sensors aren't activated. When it is plugged into an electricity socket, the lamp will 'listen' for an attention phrase. After the attention phrase is 'heard' by the lamp, it will again start 'listening', but this time for the command. If the command is received from the user, it will carry it out, otherwise, after a reasonable amount of time, go back to its previous state; 'listening' for the attention phrase. The command can be "Dim the light" ,and after that, a confirmation will be given by the lamp, "Dimming the light" , and the lights will then be dimmed. Some example commands are:
- "Brighten the light" : This is possible because the light will be set at a default value via the C by GE app.
- "Is my phone charged yet?" : Qi standard wireless charging will be present in the lamp, which is described later.
- "What's the time?" : Using the MCU, present on the lamp, time will be synced when the user connects his phone to the lamp via Bluetooth. Then the time will be told by the lamp to the user. Also, there will be an option in the C by GE app to set the time (But it will by default sync the time from the connected device via Bluetooth)
- "Make a cup of coffee" : Does what it says on the tin! Just kidding!
The attention phrase will, by default, be set to "C Study", but it can be modified by the user to his own liking via the C by GE app.
After every recognized command, a voice confirmation or response is given by the lamp, for example "Dimming the light".
Other than that, there will be an option in the C by GE app by which the user can set light to be dimmed or increased just by tapping his hands on the table. The microphone present on the lamp will detect the tapping and act accordingly if any option is set in the C by GE app. Sensitivity for the tapping option can also be set and changed, again via the C by GE app.
Step 3: The Rest of the Electronics and Software
Though I have described voice controls and use of the app to control the lamp, there is still something lacking; the traditional way of getting anything electrical to work; via buttons. When the user does not want to, or is not able to get the other methods of control working, the user can simply use the buttons to control the light. Also, I do not want to use the traditional old button switches, but capacitance touch switches, not to switch the light on or off, but to adjust the light (dim or increase it).
Other than that, a Qi standard wireless charger should also be present in the table lamp. This will allow ease for the user and also be practical, as you can charge your phone just by putting it on your table lamp. Quite a few smartphones have Qi receivers present, which means that we can charge them just by placing them on the charging dock on the lamp. For the one's which don't; especially the iPhone and some Samsung models, cases are present in the market which add Qi standard charging to your devices. Also, indirect LED lighting will be present at the base of the lamp, to indicate if the phone is correctly placed on the charge station. A red glow will indicate that the phone is charging while a blue one will indicate that its full. I also want the lights color to be customizable by the user through the C by GE app, by the use of RGB LEDs, but by default, the color should be red and blue. Two standard USB ports will also be present, so that the user can use the lamp instead of a charger, which will add functionality.
There should also be an option using speech, by which the lamp reminds the user to take a break after using it for two hours in one go. This is because taking a short break while working has many benefits; boosts productivity and helps you stay focused on your work too.
The bulb is the most important part of the lamp, it its the source of the light itself. An LED bulb, with a color temperature of 6500K (Or daylight) is required for the lamp. How do we get that?
Using the C by GE LED bulb, which is an interesting piece of hardware. This is because it can emit light ranging from 2200K to 7000K, meaning can change light to be warm or cool, depending upon the requirement. So, as stated above, the lamp needs to have a "color temperature of 6500K (Or daylight)", so its perfect for the lamp.
Changes to the C by GE app:
The C by GE app will need to be modified, to work with the lamp.
C Study should appear as a separate product in the app, not simply as a bulb. There, you should be able to do the following:
- Setting the light to a default level.
- Set the time if the user wishes to do so (Otherwise time will be automatically synced from the users phone) and an option to turn of auto sync time too.
- Change the attention phrase if the user wishes to do so.
- Adjust the option for dimming and brightening the light by tapping on the table, and also adjusting the tapping sensitivity.
- Set the light for the wireless charger to any color of your own choice.
- Turn on and off, dim or brighten the lamp through the app only.
- Set the time after which the lamp will remind the user (by voice) to take a break.
- Check if someone is presently using the lamp. For example, this can tell parents if their child is studying.
Connecting the lamp to the phone:
In the current setup, the user connects each C by GE bulb directly to his phone, without a hub, via Bluetooth 4.0, not WiFi at all. Though GE has said that the range for controlling each bulb is 50 feet, practical results will vary, and I can guarantee you that they will be less, not more than that.
This is why, I am strongly recommending the use of WiFi in the lamps.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of why I oppose the use of Bluetooth as a method of communication:
- Bluetooth uses quite a lot of battery on smartphones.
- It is a feature which I dare say, is not very useful all the time. On the other hand, WiFi is switched on nearly all the time in smartphones and even takes less battery than Bluetooth.
- Connectivity range is a very limiting factor when using Bluetooth.
- Bluetooth cannot be used for communicating remotely with the lamp.
Using WiFi as a method of communication will take the possibilities to a whole new level. For example:
- Connecting all of the bulbs in a house or office to a router, which will allow controlling the lamps remotely.
- Using the bulbs as part of other light platforms.
- Increase the connectivity range noticeably, and also extend WiFi signals from the router to increase internet coverage in the room, that is by the addition of a powerline adapter in each the lamp.
- Parents can remotely monitor if their children are working at their study table via the Internet
Step 4: The Design
Until now, I've talked in detail about the features and the functions present in the lamp, but very little about the design of the lamp.
As Napoleon Bonaparte said:
"A good sketch is better than a long speech"
I'm including some renders of the final product, which will give you an idea of how the final product looks.
Side view of the lamp:
Possible models of the lamp:
The lamp can be available in three different designs, one as described above, complete with the wireless charger, another including everything but the wireless charger. The last one is without the base only a clamp to tighten the lamp to a table. Below are renderings of the three models:
Note: I have not included the speaker, microphone and the sensor for detecting user presence in the renders. This is because they can be added later according to their design and dimensions.
Step 5: Other Stuff
There are other sensors which 'can' be implemented in the lamp itself, for example:
- Smoke detectors
- Fire sensors
- Temperature sensors
- Gas sensors
These sensors can be implemented in the lamp but is not necessary, they can add safety and a few options in the lamp.
Below, I'll describe other features which I had thought of to put in the design, but they did not get into the final design and why.
- Using a camera for detecting human presence. This would be, by far, the best way to detect the presence of humans, but there are a few problems. Adding a camera can increase the possibilities to a whole new level, using face recognition to detect the user, and saving each user as a profile to load the settings of each user separately. The disadvantages of using a camera for detection is that the lamp wont be "simple". In the start, I had said that simplicity was my main aim for the lamp and after adding a camera, many complications will arise. The camera should detect the person's face or the person, so the camera needs to be facing the right direction too. And also, using a good camera would increase the cost of the lamp too. Therefore, I did not use a camera for detecting human presence in my design.
- Using gesture controls. Gesture controls require a camera too, but they are different from using a camera. Imagine, a person is present in a room and wants to dim the light. He waves his hand from where he is sitting, and the light dims automatically using by his gesture. If the person wants to brighten the lights, he waves his hand in the other direction and the lights brighten. This is an example of using gesture controls. Gesture controls are an awesome idea, with a lot of uses, and are simple and practical too, but my design is of a table lamp, where an ultrasonic or PIR sensor is perfect. Gesture controls are perfect for controlling the light of a room, kitchen or even pool table lights.
- Building a table lamp using motion detection and a camera. The camera tracks the movements while stepper motors will move the bulb according to the users movement, focusing on the object the user is looking at, something similar to Pixar's "Luxo Jr". This can also be a very good idea, but only for large workbenches, and also will complicate building and using the lamp. This is why I had to abandon this idea too.