Is it a luminaire? Is it a speaker? Is it a Wi-Fi hub? It’s all of the above, and more.
Sony has upped the ante in the smart home market with the launch in Japan of a new multifunctional light called – wait for it – the Multifunctional Light.
Created in partnership with Toshiba Lighting, this new smart light is aimed at housing companies and wholesalers. It builds on the launch last year of a light bulb with a built-in Bluetooth speaker, but this time there’s a whole lot more going on than just light and sound.
The device, set to be released in Japan later this year, has two elements: a large donut-shaped LED ceiling light; and a Wi-Fi enabled communication unit that plugs into the middle and can be controlled using a dedicated smartphone app. The unit includes sensors for motion, light, temperature and humidity, plus a speaker, a microphone and infrared capability for remote control of TVs and air conditioning units.
The light can be set to turn on and off automatically in response to presence, or to dim gently up and down at the start and end of the day. You can set it to turn the TV one when you enter the room. You can use it as an intercom, stream music on it from a phone (or from the built-in memory card slot) or even record messages to be played back when it next detects someone enter the house – “Don’t forget to put the bins out,” for instance. The presence sensor can also be used for security – automatically sending you a message if it spots movement while you’re out.
In fact, the Multifunctional Light does so many different things that you might expect the light itself to be an afterthought – but close attention seems to have been paid here too. The LED light, developed for Sony by Toshiba, is dimmable and tuneable in colour from a cosy 2700K to a cool 6500K, with a respectable average colour rendering index of 85.
Rather than resembling a lamp, like many smart light products, the Multifunctional Light has the appearance of a luminaire. The lighting unit is 660mm in diameter, giving it roughly the same surface area as a standard 600x600mm ceiling panel. It uses 42W or 53W of power (depending on whether you choose the version with the clear or frosted diffuser), which is a little more than a typical 4,000lm LED panel, and is designed to light an area of about 13m2. The “multifunction unit” that sits in the middle uses a further 3W of power.
Sony chose to launch the product not at a consumer tech show, but at a commercial lighting exhibition in Tokyo – which reveals something about its intended route to market. Instead of targeting consumers, like so many other smart home products, Sony aims to sell to wholesalers and housing companies. Clearly, the company sees the Multifunctional Light being built into homes by owners or developers, perhaps as part of an integrated smart home offer.
Sony’s Multifunctional Light joins Philips’ Hue range of internet-connected lamps and a host of competitors as the latest example of a lighting product designed for the internet of things (IoT). But arguably it’s not so much a light with internet functions, as it is a home hub with a light attached. A ceiling-mounted fitting is, after all, the perfect place to put sensors, speakers and, of course, light.
With the light due to go on sale in Japan by September, a number of questions still remain unanswered. Will it be compatible with smart home systems like Google’s Nest, Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon’s Alexa, or does Sony want to lure users to a system of its own? How is it powered? (The communication unit needs a 12V DC power supply, but it’s not clear whether the light itself can be connected to a standard bulb socket or if it needs its own wiring.) How much light does it give off? When will it be available outside Japan? And how much will it cost?
We’ll keep you posted.