Tech companies have been adding measures to limit exposure to blue light before bed — Apple’s iOS has Night Shift, Google’s Android 7.0 offers Night Light on select Android phones, and Amazon rolled out Blue Shade for its tablets. LED manufacturer Soraa doesn’t think it’s enough — it’s going a step further by trying to remove blue light completely with its new Helia bulbs.
The blue light that emits from smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices are messing with our circadian rhythm — the same wavelength from the sun tells us it isn’t time to sleep. Using these electronic devices before going to bed can affect sleep quality, which can then put you at risk for heart attacks, various cancers, and more.
The Helia bulb is Soraa’s first entry into the consumer market, and its “night mode” is drastically different to bulbs from competing smart light manufacturers. Rather than limiting blue light and giving off a yellow hue, the Helia bulb uses violet LEDs to replace the blue.
“When you remove too much blue, what you get is this super yellow-ish candlelight — which can be fine for once in awhile, but you don’t want to be spending your whole life in the evening with this very, very yellow light,” Aurelien David, senior principal scientist at Soraa, told Digital Trends. “If you’ve used Night Shift or whatever, you see the equivalent … the color of the screen becomes a lot yellower. … It does the job to some extent but it’s not ideal.”
Using Soraa’s BlueFree LEDs, David says the Helia emits almost zero blue light while still retaining a “soft white color.” The bulb adapts to your home’s sunrise and sunset times as well as your habits to trigger the night mode. Helia also provides “plenty of blue light” in the morning to wake you up.
The company is also shying away from labeling the bulb as “smart,” as it wants people to focus on the light more so than the bulb’s connectivity. But there’s plenty of smarts in the Helia — the bulbs connect to each other over existing power lines when you plug them in and turn them on — no Wi-Fi needed. But when you do launch the companion app and connect to the bulbs, you can set preferences such as when you usually wake up and go to sleep, and where your house is located.
The middle of the bulb is outfitted with a Smart Snap — the default Snap adds the ability to sense if a space is occupied or vacant, as well as ambient light sensors to adjust brightness as the day progresses. It’s powered by machine learning technology, so it will learn your patterns and also knows to offer soft night lights if you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, for example. Remembering your patterns also allows the bulbs to recreate your daily movements in your house, which can be helpful in keeping your home safe if you’re on vacation.
The Smart Snap modules are a platform Soraa is planning to expand with its partners — expect more variations such as security camera modules. Todd Antes, Soraa’s senior vice president of marketing, said this approach would allow the customer to protect its initial investment with the Helia bulbs — all you would need to do to upgrade your bulb is snap in a module and you’re good to go.
“If you have no Smart Snap system, they default to warm, blue-free light,” Phil Kearney, lead engineer at Soraa, said. “If you wanted to, you could have a house that had zero Smart Snaps in it and plug in the Cloud Connect and still get all your Alexa and IFTTT skills.”
For those of you that do want to connect the Helia bulbs with Internet of Things cloud services, like Amazon’s Echo, Soraa also has a Cloud Connect accessory that plugs into an outlet near your Wi-Fi router. This bridges devices like the Echo with Helia’s secure cloud, allowing you to control the bulbs with Alexa voice commands or make Applets with IFTTT. The company says Helia can connect “seamlessly” with other IoT ecosystems.
Soraa says Helia will be available in the spring of 2017 on its website, and will initially be sold as “Room Kits.” That means you’ll be able to order a specific number of bulbs by room. The regular Dynamic White Br30 Helia bulb will set you back $50, and a Smart Snap module will cost $30 — you’ll need to buy one per room. The Cloud Connect accessory is $50.