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Lighting automation system syncs bulbs with music

Jun 18, 2014 — by Eric Brown 2,975 views

An MIT spinoff is Kickstarter-funding its AllJoyn and OpenWRT Linux based “Q” system, which syncs its smart bulbs to mobile music it streams to a stereo.

The Q name derives from the system’s Q Station router, “allowing you to both create a Q (queue) of music and send lighting Qs (cues) from the same smartphone app,” says MIT spinoff Belleds Technologies. (And if you also happen to envision hardware hacker hero Q from James Bond, so much the better.)

The project has 28 days left to raise about $70,000, with packages starting at $49 for a Q Station prototyping board and a single Smart Bulb or $89 for a finished Q Station and three bulbs. Shipments are expected in December.

Q System
(click image to enlarge)

The Q is not a music system itself, but its audio jack and built-in WiFi router connect to your existing music system to stream audio from Android or iOS smartphones and tablets to your stereo system in a manner similar to that of Sonos, say the developers. The difference is that it will also cue up an automatic or customized light show based on the music. In addition, you can use presets in your mobile app to personalize the show. You can also set up the bulbs to respond to mobile device events like alarms, or incoming emails and phone calls.

Two renderings of the Q Station router

The Q Station supports Airplay, Q-Play, DLNA, BubleUPNP audio streaming protocols. It also supports SoundCloud, and there plans to integrate Spotify, Songza, and other services.


While it communicates with your phone and music system using WiFi, the Q system implements a proprietary 2.4GHz RF wireless technology to talk to the bulbs. The patent pending scheme is claimed to be a quarter of the cost of WiFi, Bluetooth, or ZigBee, while also using less electricity.

Q Smart Bulbs

The Q Light Bulbs are not only cheaper than most competing solutions, they are also better, says Belleds. The LED bulbs offer RGB and white colors, and run on 7.5 Watts at 650 lumens. Rated for 30,000 hours, the bulbs screw into standard E27 sockets and use 100-240V AC power. Cloud-based analytics are said to report on power usage.

Like the recently announced Musaic wireless speakers, which also have some home automation capabilities, the Q Station runs OpenWRT Linux, as well as Qualcomm’s open source AllJoyn IoT stack. The Q runs on Qualcomm’s MIPS-based, WiFi-ready Atheros AR9331 system-on-chip clocked at 400MHz.

The Q is further equipped with an Ethernet interface, as well as a USB port for adding further audio sources or peripherals, including sensor devices and Arduino boards. An expansion bay is available for future development of custom modules.

Q smartphone app
(click image to enlarge)

The free mobile app lets you customize your own light shows, and then record and share them over the Internet. It also provides access to event-driven signaling through Zapier and IFTTT, two web-app automation services that let your Smart Bulbs respond to events “across any of 300+ different online services,” says Belleds.

The Q will ship with an OpenWRT SDK, and will run other OpenWRT applications. Belleds says it is “looking into building an IDE into the router configuration web page for educational programming and simple scripting.”

With the Q’s AllJoyn compliance, the company says it should be easy for other AllJoyn-based devices to add support for its lights. Although no promises were made for being able to control other Alljoyn-based lights or other devices, the system is designed to be hackable and to expand into other home automation applications.

Belleds Technologies is a spinoff from the MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship incubator. The company was a semi-finalist in the 2014 MIT Clean Energy Prize, and it won the audience choice award. The Q Kickstarter project also won certification from Dragon Innovation, which “means that we’ve had a third party check the feasibility of our timeline as well as the financial viability of the company,” says Belleds.

Further information

The Q is available for Kickstarter funding through July 16, with packages starting at $49 for a Q Station prototyping board and a single Smart Bulb, or $89 for a finished Q Station and three bulbs. Shipments are expected in December. More information may be found at the Q Kickstarter page and the Belleds Technologies website.

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