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Apart from the debut of a new music service and details of the next Android version, Google’s I/O conference today brought news of an initiative called Android@Home that aims to let the smartphone operating system double as a remote control for appliances and devices in the home.

An intelligent LED bulb at Google I/O today. (Credit: Lighting Science Group)

Exhibit A: An upcoming line of intelligent LED bulbs from Lighting Science Group.

So how do they work? Each bulb will contain a small, wireless chip allowing the bulbs to communicate with one another, establishing a wireless mesh network that communicates with a wireless router in the home, which in turn can communicate with the phone.

The Android@Home app will allow people to turn the lights on and off from the phone, adjust the brightness using a built-in dimmer control, and set up various automation scenarios — including the ability for the system to sense when a person comes and goes, based on the presence or absence of a phone, and adjust the lights accordingly.

Lighting Science expects to have the omnidirectional 60-watt equivalent bulbs on store shelves by Christmas, at prices comparable to existing light bulbs, said a representative of the Satellite Beach, Fla., company when we reached him via phone.

Google says that will be just the start, as it attempts to turn Android into a control system for a variety of home devices and a hub for automation. During a press briefing after the conference keynote, Google executives were asked how their push into the digital home would differ from Microsoft’s longstanding efforts in that area. This was the response, according to Boy Genius Report

We look at it a little differently. We’re not trying to invent the next killer application, we’re trying to turn everything in your home into an I/O device at an extremely low cost. We’re counting on the imagination of the developers to really develop this ecosystem.

Larry Dignan of ZDNet offers this reality check: “Everyone is gunning to be the living room OS. Google’s demonstrations were highly conceptual, but there’s a lot of promise. It’s important that Google is aiming to connect devices and appliances that are not Wi-Fi enabled. Android at Home will be overlooked today, but very important in a few years.”

In the meantime, that light bulb is sounding pretty cool.

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