LiFX

LAB-TESTED BY The Rural Design Collective
CERTIFIED BY The Thing System


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The LiFX API

The LiFX is a solid piece of hardware and its phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign means that expectations are high. With its recent release of an API for developers it will no doubt close the gap when it comes to expected features in a software app controlling LED bulbs. Media reports revealed a "potential security issue regarding the distribution of network configuration details on the mesh radio." LiFX released a firmware update on June 29 2014.

UPDATE: LiFX recently released an API.

Applications

The absence of an API for an extended period resulted in a lack of features more commonly available in other manufacturers' apps or third-party efforts.

The new API offers the ability to integrate your LIFX with online services, automation systems or third-party protocols and includes some real-world examples such as:

  1. Turn off all lights
  2. Turn on the light named “Hallway”
  3. Turn on all lights that are tagged “Kitchen”
  4. Set every light to a random colour
  5. Turns a light off after X seconds of it being detected turned on
  6. Use divide-and-conquer search algorithm to identify a light visually

Pairing

LiFX bulbs connect to your home router via 802.11n and then onto all other LIFX smartbulbs via 802.15.4 mesh network, and therefore do not require the presence of a Zigbee bridge like the Philips Hue. The lack of a standardized controller can limit third-party development, however the recently released API (March 24 2014) should provide support to rectify this.

Remote Access

As of this writing, remote access is not supported. LIFX bulbs can only be controlled from in range of your local wifi network. Remote access support will soon be available with the "LIFX Cloud."

The Protocol

Discovery and Authorization

The apps start by sending UDP "discovery" packets to the network broadcast address, port 56700. They do this repeatedly until a bulb responds by sending a UDP packet back to you on port 56700. Packets are identified via its type (of 0x03).

Configuration of a bulb involves connecting to the bulb's hosted network and sending a "set access point" message to the bulb. This message contains the information it needs to join your existing wireless network infrastructure (such as SSID and password). Networks using WEP security are not supported.

After receipt of the message, the bulb will shut down the hosted network and attempt connection to the existing wireless network infrastructure.

The "get access point" message can be used to enumerate wireless access points visible by the bulb.

link

Implementations

The current API is available on github for Ruby, Objective C, and Android. The kit enables a developer to get started with source code examples to quickly get working on a LiFX-compatible app.

In more detail

The LiFX team maintains a hub of development efforts at http://apps.lifx.co

Security

Authorization and Spoofing

Each LiFX is ultimately as secure as the security of your network - meaning anyone with WiFi access will have the capacity to control your lights.

Color

One significant improvement that the LiFX has over the Philips Hue is brightness and richness of color. The LiFX boasts 1000 lumens (measure with Chroma) and this can no doubt be attributed to the simple fact that it has three times the diodes as the Philips Hue. The LiFX is also capable of achieving deep, rich hues due to its adherence to the RGB-W color model. With RGB-W, the working RGB color space with color/white tone separation, color and lightness information are largely decoupled. RGB LEDs produce light in the three specific frequencies of the LEDs, which does not equate to a pure white light. Manufacturers can add a 4th "white" LED, as with the LiFX, to improve overall brightness. This adds the capability of adding white light over the RGB mixture to achieve a color intensity as bright as pure white.

Color richness is another area where the LiFX surpasses the Philips Hue, and this can be evidenced most notably in the cool palette of aqua and green. The Philips Hue has compromised their green LED opting for one that is closer to lime-green in color in order to compensate for the absence of the fourth white LED and achieve an overall higher lumens rating.

The ability of RGB lights to consistently over time produce a particular set of colors or color temperature is an unknown variable; the individual LEDs (R + G + B + W) age at different rates and color mix will shift.

Notes

The LiFX team is currently developing a line of products - The Edison Screw and the Bayonet are currently to market with a GU10 Downlight in production scheduled to ship in Q2 2014.

Photographs (courtesy of thefirstack)
00The LiFX box
01The LiFX bulb
01aThe bulb in a lamp fixture after 30min (in C)
01bThe bulb in a lamp fixture after 30min (in F)
02The bulb with diffuser removed
03Close up of the LED PCB in place
04LED removed from bulb
04aLED removed from bulb (being held)
05Macro of the LED PCB
06LED PCB next to bulb
07Hatch opened on the bulb
08Hatch (and associated controller/networking card) removed
09Hatch (and associated controller/networking card) before disassembly
10Back removed from hatch
11Hatch disassembled
12Controller/networking card
13Controller/networking card with silicone cover removed (reset switch on right)
14Close up of controller/networking card
14aClose up of controller/networking card (alternative view)
15Macro of LIFX LWM-01-A chip
16Macro of TI CC2538 chip
17Stem and Head of bulb detached
18Stem of bulb
19Stem of bulb end on (being held)
20Power board incased inside silicone and inside stem
21Power board incased inside silicone and inside stem (being held)
22Power board incased inside silicone (plastic removed)
23Power board
24Power board (capacitor side, some silicone still evident)
25Controller/networking board (left) and LED board (right)