Reverse Engineering Ikea’s New Smart Bulbs

Over in Sweden, Czech, Italy, and Belgium, Ikea is launching a new line of ‘smart’ light bulbs. These countries are apparently the test market for these bulbs, and they’ll soon be landing on American shores. This means smart Ikea bulbs will be everywhere soon, and an Internet of Light Bulbs is a neat thing to explore. [Markus] got his hands on a few of these bulbs, and is now digging into their inner workings (German Make Magazine, with a Google Translate that includes the phrase, ‘capering the pear’).

There are currently four versions of these Ikea bulbs, ranging from a 400 lumen bulb designed for track lights to a 980 lumen bulb that will probably work in an American Edison lamp socket. These lights are controlled via a remote, with each individual bulb paired to the remote by turning the lamp on, holding the remote close to the bulb, and pressing a button.

Inside these bulbs is a Silicon Labs microcontroller with ZigBee support, twelve chip LEDs, and associated electronics that look like they might pass the bigclivedotcom smoke test. After tearing apart this bulb and planting the wireless module firmly in a breadboard, [Markus] found he could dim a pair of LEDs simply by clicking on the remote. Somewhere in these bulbs, there’s a possibility of doing something.

As with all Internet of Things, we must ask an important question: will it become part of Skynet and shut down the Internet, like webcams did last summer? These Ikea bulbs look pretty safe in that regard, as the bulb is inexorably tied to the remote and must be paired by holding it close to the bulb. We’re sure there are a few more interesting exploits for these bulbs, so once they’re released in the US we’ll take a look at them.

81 thoughts on “Reverse Engineering Ikea’s New Smart Bulbs

      1. At least an iOS, Hue stopped playing nice with ZigBee over a year ago. Which is sad…I really wanted to move to Hue and picked up the starter kit, but stopped expanding after all my old bulbs just magically stopped working after an update. Moved back to the old hub.

    1. Sounds cooler IMHO.

      we need that phrase in the english phrase books (or “politically corrected” to glow pears if need be).

      “They are notlight bulbs anymore!!!! They’re glow pears!!!!”

      Yay to language evolution…. also UPCYCLE….

      1. I’ve got a few other suggestions:
        hand shoe (glove)
        toilet glasses (toilet seat)
        yodel sack (bagpipes)
        lazy animal (sloth)
        shield toad (turtle)
        naked snail (slug)
        shine thrower (headlights/spotlight)
        fly thing (airplane)
        fire thing (lighter)
        drive thing (vehicle)
        hit thing (drum set)
        play thing (toy)
        work thing (tool)
        toot meat (gum)

        1. Tooth meat is a literal translation from Swedish where it is tandkött where tand=tooth and kött=meat

          Funny enough we also have pear-lamp or päronlampa, but it refers to smaller bulbs that isn´t pearshaped?

        2. I love posting this at every opportunity — like now. It’s been floating on the interwebs for over a decade, so it should’ve happened by now.

          The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

          As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

          In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

          In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

          By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

          During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

          Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

          1. @Miroslav

            That’s been done. Pick up something from the early 19th century and try to read it. It wasn’t very readable. The problem was that people in different places or even people in the same place from a different background don’t speak the same. Standardized spelling made communication easier.

  1. capering the pear -> capering = “Kapern” = means the capture of a ship
    pear = “Birne”, “Birne” means either the fruit or is the short form of “Glühbirne” which means Lightbulb.
    Translated correct “capering the pear” would mean something like ” capture of the lightbulb” or “taking over the control of the lightbulb” but the urban phrase “Kapern der Birne” is definitely a way too big of a challange for google translate ;-)

    Greets from Germany

    1. Well most languages have these strange evolved phrases. So surely Google translate should learn those and translate the group of words. Unless it’s a recent addition to German?

  2. “would probably work in an American edison screw socket” is a bit misleading.

    ES socket yes. These are used in Europe too (E27)
    American, no. That would be 110v and all the countries these are being trialed in are 230/240v

    1. Everything these days with a switch mode psu is designed to work equally well on 110 AC as 230 AC. I presume the bulbs sold in Europe would just work as iare in a US E27 socket.

      1. Depends on the PSU design. If you put a universal power supply in these bulbs, then indeed it’s no problem using them on 110v grids, but if the power supply is of a simpler design, chances are that your bulb will not work.

          1. Okay I accept I’m possible wrong here. What I’ve had success with is running multiple european 5V USB phone chargers on US nuclear power, likewise cheap Chinese US Dollar store 2.50$ chargers work happily here on 230V. What I haven’t tried is LED bulbs and you are all right about their simple series capacitor voltage dropping power supply. BUT! this bulb has a Bluetooth IC in there, so I presume they’ve built a proper power supply for it, both in terms of sleep mode and totally ripple free not to interfere with the transceiver of the bulb. So I presume, possibly wrongly, that they’ve taken extra care there and put in a well designed power circuit?

        1. Ok. But It sounded to me like Tore Lund was saying the same thing but asserting that these bulbs WILL be the universal design. I’m not saying he is or isn’t right, just that you aren’t really addressing what he actually wrote.

    2. I think Edison sockets are not quite right, I had to really grunt to get a US screw in socket&bulb adapter into a Euro light socket. Probably the SAE to mm conversion which crashes probes into Mars.

    1. Thats an incandescent lightbulb you’re thinking of (with an impressive 3-5% overall luminous efficiency). Since those didn’t burn your house down this one won’t either. Besides that the thermal image is relative, and according to the text the hotspot was 55 Degrees C after some time of operation. Should be fine, no?

      1. Yeah, it’s just the stupid PSU that every lightbulb needs because of AC house wiring that isn’t likely to get rewired soon.

        Once a final working agreed API has been designed and agreed on, I would hope that the electronics would migrate into the ceiling rose, a higher-quality AC/DC unit and Wireless IoT Bulb Controller, and then just signalling to the light bulb which is otherwise just a dumb device.

        IIRC it’s the PSUs that burn out faster than the LEDs (but it’s the high quality LEDs that cost the money), so a standard plug-and-go ceiling rose PSU interface might be nice to have too. Instead of buying replacement bulbs (glowpears :D) you’ll be buying replacement PSUs every five years. Although maybe modern bulbs have better PSUs.

        In the long run, hopefully we can get rid of the horrific 9-wire UK ceiling wiring standard and wired lightswitches…

        1. Any other house wiring, be it AC or DC, will also need a PSU in the lamp, as the LED wants a constant current supply. Of course with DC you would have the option of using lossy dropper resistors instead of SMPS. :-)
          If it is IoT then it must be local, not “cloud” or any other external server based.

        2. “IIRC it’s the PSUs that burn out faster than the LEDs (but it’s the high quality LEDs that cost the money)”


          For a HaD reader that sounds like opportunity to me. Ask all your friends and relatives to save their ‘dead’ bulbs for you!

      2. LEDs are 10X better, so are 30% luminous, 70% heat. The problem for LEDs is they can’t be allowed to reject the heat via radiation because the required temperature ruins either the LEDs or the power supplies.

  3. Hi Brian, I noticed a small, but very common typo in your post.

    The short form for the Czech Republic is not “Czech” but “Czechia”. Czech is an adjective, but it is often used incorrectly. It is like saying that IKEA started selling a new product in Swedish or Belgian.

    1. In English, the country is ‘Czech Republic’. Yes, I know it’s ‘Czechia’, but that’s what it is in Czech, not English.

      ‘Czech Republic’ is a terrible name for a country. It doesn’t roll off the tongue, It is equivalent of calling Mexico, ‘The United Mexican States’ or France the ‘French Republic’. They sound weird, even if that is the correct English transliteration of the proper name of the country.

      ‘Czech republic’ needs to be better (in English, at least) so I’m trying to make ‘Czech’ a thing. Just roll with it. I’m trying to change English, not Czech.

      1. Hi Brian,
        I absolutely agree that the long form “Czech Republic” is terrible for normal purposes, such as maps and travel guides and so on. Luckily there has been a renewed push within our (Czech) government to use the word Czechia instead.

        Check the link provided by Luke. Even google maps now correctly lists the name of my country as Czechia.

        I am glad that you are willing to help to promote a short form. It should, however, be the correct one.

        Have a nice day.

    2. That’s funny coming from a person that most likely comes from either a “country” named after 2 continents but actually only covers 1/3 (or so of the one continent ) and most inhabitants call it simply after the continents common name. (America). Hi from a person born in THE Netherlands living in THE Czech Republic :p note: although Czechia is correct it amazes me how it was pushed the past year… no one in CZ seemed to like it.

    1. I thought these IoT controllers had enough flash on-board to remember pairings, settings, etc?

      It’s not like we’re talking about GB or MB here, a couple of KB should suffice even to store many paired controllers…

  4. “Over in Sweden, Czech, Italy, and Belgium” :-
    I think in English ‘Czech’ should be ‘Czech Republic’ when speaking about the country.
    I guess google translate just copied over “in Schweden, Tschechien, Italien und Belgien” a bit literally.

        1. However there is a clear difference between pushing the limits of a technology such that it can do more than was initially intended and playing Boy With a Hammer. This is particularly true when cost is added without a comparative increase in value, or an increase in complexity creates a greater potential for failure without a comparative gain in performance.

    1. Problem – ZigBee is an expensive hobbyist toy
      Solution – new mass produced consumer targeted consumable device contains a ZigBee capable microcontroller.

      I like how this system is working!

  5. Putting my lighting on the Internet ranks up there in stupidity with “getting in a land war in Asia.” I spent two hours yesterday fixing a problem with my Internet of computers. I’d hate to be trying to fix similar problems with my lighting while working in the dark. When it comes to a necessity like lighting, simple is better.

    In addition, the much-hyped “Internet of Things” means hackers in Crazistan can not only do all sorts of mischief in our homes, they may be able to use those millions of little bots to wreak all sorts of havoc on the Internet as a whole.

    Just because something can be done, does not mean it should be done.

    1. “These lights are controlled via a remote, with each individual bulb paired to the remote by turning the lamp on, holding the remote close to the bulb, and pressing a button.”

      ” the bulb is inexorably tied to the remote and must be paired by holding it close to the bulb.”

      Ok. Where is the internet connectivity?!?

      “As with all Internet of Things, we must ask an important question: will it become part of Skynet and shut down the Internet, like webcams did last summer?”

      The author still hasn’t actually explained what this has to do with the internet. I think this sentence was just to hit some search engine keywords. I don’t see anything here about connecting your lights to the internet. Sorry.. it’s going to take better than that to drive me off of your lawn. :-)

  6. Until the efficiency gets to near 100 percent, there is a limit to how much light that can be crammed into what is essentially a point source. The piriform source of light has to go along with the fire-bottle, florescent lights did that many decades ago. Strips and panels are a much better for for tiny light emitting sources of heat that has to be gotten rid of. Currently I limit LED bulbs to 10 watt max (60watt), anything larger is a heavy expensive mass of aluminium and heat.
    Hot spots of light are bad. Spread about it is comfortable on the eyes, l
    ess shadows.
    Does anyone think of what happens to a cap dropper type of power supply when hit with an impulse or mess of higher frequency noise? Poof, magic smoke lamp!

  7. That’s a heck of a cutting job getting the globe free of the base… shouldn’t there be a setscrew somewhere that you can loosen with a hex key? Come on, IKEA, get it right…

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