Updated March 23, 2017
Trends in lighting technology keep getting smarter. In fact, if the LED Light Bulb were a soccer mom, she’d have a bumper sticker that read “My Light Bulb is Smarter than Your Light Bulb.” Smart lighting systems are hot at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, an annual event that showcases the most innovative gizmos of the year. But for all the hype, what exactly do they do? Without a smart bulb, am I less intelligent?
What Makes a Light Bulb Smart?
Like every good parent, smart light bulb manufacturers have different ideas about what makes their product smart. As the trend starts to explode, new variations of the smart bulb are cropping up everywhere in an attempt to out-perform their predecessors. Though each smart bulb has its own set of features, I’ve put together a list of some popular characteristics that seem to make a smart bulb so much “brighter” than its peers (sorry, couldn’t resist):
- You can control it with your smart phone or tablet. Bluetooth technology or a wireless network enable you to turn the light on & off with an app from the manufacturer.
- LED technology is well-known for its energy savings vs. incandescent bulbs. Not surprisingly, energy efficiency shows up across the board in smart lighting technology.
- Some smart bulbs have a special feature that lets you adjust the color of the light. – The Misfit Bolt, a smart bulb just unveiled this week at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, is one of several smart bulbs that can produce millions of colors with the swipe of a finger.
- Talk about tripping the light fantastic…Get into party mode with color and brightness effects that interact with the music coming from your smart phone. Other smart bulbs can interact with your phone by blinking when you get a phone call.
- Built in motion & occupancy sensors react to their surroundings, powering the bulb on and off without a touch.
- Programmable settings let you program the light to come on at 6am and off at 10pm if you want. We talk a lot about keeping your home safe during the holidays, so I am especially fond of the Holiday Mode setting: When traveling, program the lights to go on and off at various times to deter robbers by making it look you’re home.
- A dimming feature allows you to create ambiance at your next dinner party. Some bulbs even have settings that gradually increase your lights in the morning to simulate a sunrise, and slowly dim as you drift off to sleep at night.
Not enough? How about bulbs with built-in speakers, security cameras with facial recognition and wi-fi extenders? The technology moves so fast that it’s hard to keep up.
What you Need to Consider:
My Dad had a t-shirt that read “The man who dies with the most toys wins.” He loved new-fangled gadgets and this product certainly fits the bill. But before you jump in line for the latest smart lighting trend, there are a few things to think about…
- It may be over-kill for someone looking for a single feature. Motion-sensors have been powering lights for many years (see What’s the Commotion About Motion Sensors?) and photocell technology already delivers auto-on/off capability to solar lighting. If you’re just looking for these features you have many less expensive options to choose from.
- Without your smart phone or tablet, you’re in the dark. Literally. Since most of these bulbs work off of bluetooth technology, you can’t just stumble into the kitchen and flip the light switch anymore. You have to find your phone (assuming your battery isn’t dead), navigate to the app and turn it on. One solution is to buy a universal home automation remote like this one by Logitech that will work with many smart lighting systems. Or, invest in a bluetooth-enabled light switch like this one that actually works with any bulb, not just smart ones.
- It ain’t cheap. Though the price has fallen from its initial price point, you’re still going to spend on average $50-$100 for a smart bulb. (Update March 2017: Good news! Smart light bulb prices have dropped significantly since 2015. See current smart bulb prices at PegasusLighting.com.)
The home automation market is soaring and LED smart light bulbs are riding at the top of the wave. Today, smart bulbs with slick interactive features appeal to a niche group of energy conscious, tech-savvy buyers, but that may change. In recent years we’ve seen a shift in lighting efficiency standards that led to the phase out of many incandescent lamps. As demand for smart technology grows, will there be a day when smart bulbs are the new standard?
What do you think? Where do you see the future of smart lighting and smart technology trends?