The “smartness era” of light bulbs

Emitting light is a trivial capability of the modern-day bulb.

Thanks to new technologies and market changes, light bulbs are evolving to include new features, such the ability to act as musical speakers, smoke detectors and even indoor GPSs!

Initially forecasting that two million connected bulbs would be sold in 2015, IHS lighting industry analyst Will Rhodes says that number could grow as consumers are picking them up even faster than originally thought.

It’s evident that in combination with Internet of Things (IoT) architectures, LEDs are leading light bulbs into a “smartness era”.

Unlike compact fluorescent bulbs, LEDs are based on semiconductors and typically already have a collection of chips and other electronics inside of them. This makes it relatively easy to add in other chips and electronic modules like radios and speakers.

But what is it exactly that makes a bulb “smart”?

Gartner defines smart lighting as a lighting system that is connected to a network and can be both monitored and controlled from a centralized system or through the cloud.

French supermarket chain, Carrefour, for example, utilizes a smart LED lighting system capable of sending special offers and location data directly to shoppers’ smartphones. Codes are transmitted to phone cameras via visual light communications (VLC) that is undetectable to the human eye, enabling shoppers to quickly receive information on promotions going on around them.

VLC can be used as a standalone solution or supplementary to radio-frequency. However, it cannot penetrate obstructions such as walls.


The benefits of smart lighting expand far beyond high-tech convenience, however. According to Gartner, smart lighting installations in office buildings and industrial areas have the potential to reduce energy costs by 90 percent, while LED installations alone result in energy savings of approximately 50 percent.

At this point in time, the installation of true smart lighting systems is driven primarily by government regulations around energy savings and bulb recycling laws. However, the costs of smart bulbs are likely to come down in the near future and standardized ways of connecting them will likely be developed.

Although it’s likely the current light bulbs in your house cannot do much more than turn on and off, one day we may wonder how we ever got by without smart bulbs!

Opportunities for Sapphire – A New Look at Smartphones, Tablets and Even Smartwatches

This week, we’ll take a look at smartphones, tablets and smartwatches and the market opportunity that these consumer devices present for sapphire. Sapphire can be used in a number of ways in them ranging from LEDs for the backlighting display and LEDs for the camera flash to sapphire material for use camera lens covers and home button covers. There’s even speculation that they could be used for front cover plates in smartphones.

Recently, smartwatches and “wearables” have become “fashionable” so we’ll take a look at sapphire in smartwatches too. The infographic in this post points to the number of ways that sapphire could be used in smartphones and tablets.

Opportunities for Sapphire: Smartphones and Tablets

Opportunities for Sapphire: Smartphones and Tablets

Let’s take a closer look at the market for smartphones and tablets.  Backlighting has been a very fertile area for LEDs. The market penetration of LEDs in backlighting displays for mobile phones, tablets, LED camera flash and keyboards is nearly 100 percent. But, let’s look at the numbers.

First, 2013 was a groundbreaking year for smartphones. According to market research firm Gartner, smartphone sales surpassed feature phone sales for the first time with smartphones accounting for 53.6% of overall mobile phone sales for the year.  Overall, Gartner says that 968 million smartphone device units out of a total of 1.8 billion mobiles were sold in 2013. Given that there’s an opportunity to sell sapphire for multiple uses in each smart phone, that’s quite a bit of sapphire. And, even feature phones present an opportunity for sapphire in backlighting, camera flashes and camera lens covers.

In tablets, the opportunity for sapphire is in the same applications, but with a twist. Backlighting is a good opportunity with even more display real estate that larger tablet screens represent.  Many tablets also feature a front facing camera and a back facing camera, doubling the opportunity for camera flashes and protective camera lens covers. According to Gartner, worldwide sales of tablets to end users reached 195.4 million units in 2013. Again, that’s a good opportunity for sapphire.

Wearables like smartwatches are an emerging market and a new opportunity for sapphire. As a traditional cover for watches, sapphire is a natural cover for smartwatches as vendors like Samsung, Omate and the Wellograph Wellness Watch already use sapphire covers in their smart watches. JP Morgan estimates that the smartwatch market size could reach US$26 billion by 2018. This is up from less than US $1 billion in 2013. Once again, that’s a good opportunity for sapphire.

For Further Reading

Tech Crunch, Gartner: Smartphone Sales Finally Beat Out Dumb Phone Sales Globally In 2013, With 968M Units Sold,

Gartner, Gartner Says Worldwide Tablet Sales Grew 68 Percent in 2013, With Android Capturing 62 Percent of the Market,

CNet, Wellograph’s sleek new Sapphire Wellness Watch sparkles with style at CES 2014 (hands-on)

The Smart Watch Review, Apple Might Have Big Plans for Sapphire and its iWatch,

JP Morgan, Smartwatch Market,