The Light Switch: A Dim Spot on the Symbol of Innovation

The light bulb has long been a symbol for innovation. Think back to the roadrunner cartoons where Wile. E. Coyote would have his “Eureka!” moment as he realized he could paint a tunnel at the base of a cliff in hopes of fooling some full-tilt fowl – on goes the light above his head. This implicit tribute to Thomas Edison’s (arguably Sir Humphry Davy’s) famous invention is ingrained in our culture. It is easily one of the most important inventions of the 1800s, and while there has been a constant cycle of innovation to better the design of the bulb, little effort has gone into improving the interface. With the exception of the ill-fated ‘clapper’ of the 1980s we are still slaves to light-switches. This is hardly a sufficient tribute to such an iconic invention. In a world which has produced wireless remote controls for TV’s and stereos, automatic thermostats to control the temperature of our homes, and mobile phones with infrared ports and numerous available antennas, why on earth do we still lumber over to the wall to set the mood?

While I’m not rushing out to buy a clapper (I did own one in my last year of university and found it to be novel but ineffective) I am eagerly awaiting some smarter interfaces to control our light (one of the sources that tends to suck up a fair bit of our home energy consumption). DIY’ers unite – this is a great forum to throw some sensors around the house, hack your phones, remotes and media centres and come up with something great. When you’ve got the IP secured don’t forget to share the love.