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Digital light: The remote-controlled Sharp LED bulb

One day lights will be as digital as our cell phones. I was reminded of this coming trend after using Sharp’s remote-controlled LED lightbulb that fits in a standard light socket.

Sharp was kind enough to send it to me this week, and the surprisingly heavy bulb comes with a slim remote control (see photo) with seven different light-dimming and light-color functions that make the light dimmer and brighter and warmer and cooler. Unlike many LEDs, the bulb screws right into a standard light socket, and it remains cool even after being used for a while.

The remote control feature is a rather novel function if you’ve never played with home automation systems and dimmers before. You don’t have to install anything in the light switch or panel, but you have to hold the remote within three meters of the light and in a 120-degree range in front of it to be able to switch the light color and brightness. If you use it correctly, the light responds swiftly to the chosen mode.

The bulb has a warranty of three years and can last 40,000 hours. Each bulb consumes 7.8 W of power, which is an energy savings of up to 80 percent compared to a standard 40 W incandescent bulb.

All of this is well and good, so how about the price? I couldn’t find much information on how much Sharp is selling the bulb for (product info here), but Sharp is classifying the bulb as a commercial product (and selling it through commercial retailers), likely because of a potentially higher price than a standard customer is willing to pay. You can buy similar LED bulbs from Sharp without the remote control function for $25 each online. But expect the remote-controlled bulb to be more than that.

The big barrier for LEDs right now is cost. When a consumer can buy an incandescent for a couple of bucks, it’s a hard sell at $30 or so. Even if it does last three years and has cool digital functions. The future of lighting is digital — just not yet.

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