The MiLight (or EasyBulb) is a Wifi controlled lighting system, similar to the popular Philips Hue. The MiLight comes out of China and can be found on the popular Alibaba website. The only UK distributor right now is SureCart.com – selling the starter kit of 2 RGB bulbs and the wifi bridge for around 40 pounds ($65).
The official MiLight bulbs are LED and come in two flavours – white or RGB (color changing). The bulbs are actually radio controlled, with the wifi bridge acting as a middle man, converting UDP packets sent over WiFi to radio signals. This is essentially how the Philips Hue system works too. The system can control MiLight bulbs, generic 2.4ghz LED bulbs and 2.4ghz LED strip lighting.
Out of the box, the lights can be controlled from any iDevice – iphone, ipad, ipod. The Wifi Bridge can act as a hotspot that you connect to, or it can join an existing wifi point.
Syncing the Bulbs to the wifi bridge
The instructions on syncing the lights with the wifi bridge are quite confusing. For those who are still trying to work out what to do; you need to turn the bulbs off and then connect to the wifi bridge from your iDevice. Once connected to the wifi bridge, run the controller app and swipe 3 times to the right until you get the RGB controller on the screen. Now turn the bulb on and press the S + button within 3 seconds. You can do each bulb individually, so you don’t need to run around trying to turn them all on at the same time.
Connect the MiLight WiFi bridge to existing WiFi Network
The biggest question everyone has is whether the MiLight Bridge can be set to connect to your existing wifi network instead of acting as a hotspot. Surecart told me it could be done but couldn’t tell me how and the instruction booklet doesn’t mention it. After some playing, I worked out how it was done.
Connect to the MiLight bridge wifi and then open your browser and go to http://192.168.1.100 and enter the username admin and password 000000
Set work type to Sta
Change SSID to the name of your existing wireless network
Set encryption to whatever encryption your existing wireless network uses
Change key format to ASCII
Enter your wifi password in the Encryption Key box
Un-tick DHCP Enable and enter the following into the boxes below (or vary for your own router settings)
Fixed IP Address: 192.168.1.100
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0
Gateway Address: 192.168.1.254
DNS Address: 188.8.131.52
Click system in the left menu bar
Click Restart System
Wait a minute for the MiLight bridge to join your existing wifi network. You can confirm it worked by reloading http://192.168.1.100 . If the bridge is unable to join your network (for example if you enter the wrong encryption password) then it will become unavailable and you’ll need to reset it with a pin pushed into the reset hole on the side of the bridge.
Nearly all of the generic LED lights out there that use 2.4ghz can be operated from the same remote control. Thats why the MiLight system is able to control MiLight bulbs, generic LED bulbs and generic LED strips. This makes the system far more expandable and cost efficient than the Philips Hue.
The official Mi-Light RGB bulbs are 6W. There’s 15 surface mount LEDs within the bulb with a predicted lifetime of 50,000 hours. They can operate from 86V to 264V making them compatible with mains power in pretty much every country. The bulb case is made of aluminium (acting as a heat sink) and has a slightly frosted ABS cover.
Out of the box, the MiLight system is only controllable from an iDevice. I wanted to control the lights from all my devices, not just my iDevice.
I used WireShark to sniff the packets being sent between my iPad and the MiLight WiFi bridge. I determined that the iOS app sends UDP packets to the WiFI bridge and the WiFi bridge then sends radio signals to the bulbs. With a bit of effort, I was able to determine the hex commands to turn the bulbs on, off, brightness up, brightness down, control preset modes and the full range of 255 colors.
I made a simple web interface using a HTML/JS frontend and php backend. I’m now able to control the lights from my laptop, Android phone and even my raspberrypi. Aside from the standard controls, I’ve also set the lights up to act as a sunrise alarm, gradually brightening over the period of 30 minutes to wake me up more naturally each morning.
Making your own app or using generic home automation software/apps
If you’re looking to create your own app, here are the codes for the various functions. You need to send them as HEX UDP packets to 192.168.1.100 port 50000
Commands must be sent as hexadecimal data!
Commands for color changing bulbs
Turn bulb on: 220055
Turn bulb off: 210055
Turn brightness up: 230055
Turn brightness down: 240055
Mode up: 270055
Mode down: 280055
Speed up: 250055
Speed down: 260055
Color selection: 20[xx]55 (where [xx] is a value between 0 and 255, converted to hex)
Commands for white only bulbs
I don’t have any of the white bulbs but fortunately a couple of readers (Adam & Dave) sent the codes in to share with everyone.
Turn all bulbs on: 350055
Turn all bulbs off: 390055
Turn brightness up: 3c0055
Turn brightness down: 340055
Make light warmer: 3E0055
Make light whiter: 3F0055
Turn Zone 1 on: 380055
Turn Zone 1 off: 3B0055
Turn Zone 2 on: 3D0055
Turn Zone 2 off: 330055
Turn Zone 3 on: 370055
Turn Zone 3 off: 3A0055
Turn Zone 4 on: 320055
Turn Zone 4 off: 360055
Update: There’s now an official app available for Android users. The app is near enough identical to the one on iOS and works perfectly. Go grab the android wifi controller app.
Generic home automation apps on Android
I received an email from Dave asking if he could use his existing home automation software to control the bulbs. He also suggested some existing android apps that are used as generic remotes for home automation. Pretty much any app or software capable of sending hexadecimal data via UDP packets should be fine. As a demo, I’ve used s-remote on Android to control the bulb. (It’s easier if you sync your bulbs using the official app first.)
Windows Application (Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8)
I’ve made a simple Windows application (created in VB6) that allows basic control of the MiLight Wifi Bulbs. It should work on any version of Windows from XP up to the latest Windows 8. You need to be connected to the same wifi network as the controller box and set the IP address within the application. You can see a demo of the application below, you can download it here. (It’s easier if you sync your bulbs using the official app first.)
I measured the RGB bulb and wifi controller using a watt meter. This gives an accurate reading of how much power the equipment takes to run. Using these numbers, you could work out how much it costs to run these devices. They’re very low power.
The wifi controller uses 2.3 watts
The bulb set to white (be selecting mode 1) and set to full brightness, uses 7.7w
The bulb set to red and set to full brightness, uses 3.6w
The bulb set to purple and set to full brightness, uses 3.8w
The bulb set to blue and set to full brightness, uses 2.9w
Bricked wifi controller
I’ve encountered a couple of people who’ve managed to get their wifi controllers into a non-working state while trying to set them up to join an existing wifi network. They’ve reset them several time but the controller is still not outputting an SSID. If you’re one of these people, then I have a solution for you.
The wifi controller box uses the TLG10UA03 module from Huada Electronic Design Co., Ltd (HED) which is described as ‘802.11b/g wireless card with UART interface/TTL/external antanne/ AT+ compatible’.
The solution requires this piece of software (manual included) and a USB-TTL module (around $8 in most countries). After buying your USB-TTL module, install the supplied driver.
Next pop open the wifi controller box using a flat head screwdriver, there are no screws to undo. Inside the case you’ll find two boards, a large one with a smaller one plugged into it. The smaller one is the wifi module and should be unplugged from the larger one. Connect the USB-TTL cable to the wifi module and plug the USB-TTL into your computer. Run the UART-WIFI.exe application and follow the onscreen options to reset the module or to simply modify the existing wireless settings.
This is a bit hands on but it will allow you to get a non-broadcasting wifi controller back up and running.
The ‘wifi controller 2′ app is a great improvement over the original controller app. They’ve fixed some layout issues when using the app on an iPad and added support for multiple wifi controller boxes. The original app could only control one controller box and it had to be using the default IP address, this was a problem if you’d set the controller box to join your existing wifi network – thus changing the default IP address.
Unfortunately it’s still not possible to change RGB (color changing) bulbs independently using just one controller box.
Control RGB bulbs individually from one wifi controller box
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to control the RGB bulbs independently from one wifi controller box. This is an annoying failure and it seems that it should be technically possible. A bulb can be paired to a specific controller box. Meaning that if you had 2 bulbs and 2 controller boxes, you could control those bulbs independently. There should be a way to have the controller box ‘act’ like two boxes and pair to the bulbs independently. I hope the firmware of the controller box will someday be tweaked to support this feature.
Sample setup in house
David sent in this cool video showing the MiLight bulbs setup in his house. He’s controlling them from an Android tablet.
Alternative to Philips Hue
The first thing many people will ask is whether these are a true alternative to the Philips Hue system. The first big pro of the MiLight system is that it’s significantly cheaper. The Milight WiFi bridge and 3 bulbs will cost you around 53 pounds, while the Philips hue bridge and 3 bulbs will cost you 180 pounds.
The Philips Hue bulbs consume 9W but don’t specify how much is for the LED and how much is overhead. The MiLight bulbs consume 7.5W and specify 6W for the LED. So the Philips hue lights are likely to be ever so slightly brighter.
The Philips Hue iOS app is far better than the one supplied with the MiLight. Philips have also setup a resource center for developers to interact with the lamps. The MiLight has very little documentation and absolutely nothing for developers. However, I was successful in reverse engineering the app and bridge.
At the moment, I can’t work out how to control MiLight bulbs individually and am not sure whether it can even be done. The Philips Hue allows control of individual bulbs out of the box.
The MiLight system can be expanded with official bulbs or any generic 2.4ghz RGB bulb or 2.4ghz LED strip lighting. The Philips hue system can only be expanded with official Philips bulbs.
Review of SureCart.com (also trading as easybulb.com)
As mentioned above, the only UK distributor of the MiLight (as of Dec 2012) is SureCart.com. I paid 10 pounds delivery charge and the bulbs turned up a week later. That’s an extremely slow delivery time for such a high delivery charge. The images for the full MiLight starter kit show a handheld remote control, however that’s not actually included in the kit. I’ve been trying to call SureCart for over a week on a landline number but it gets redirected to a mobile phone answering service. So my first encounter with SureCart hasn’t been overly positive.
Update: Since this post, I’ve found that SureCart actually offer better deals on their eBay listings. Not only is it cheaper (inc. of postage) but they also include the remote control when ordering from their eBay ads.
The MiLightBulb or MiLight is also sold under the brand of EasyBulb, iBulb, LinkUP and Kepsun.