The humble light bulb has seen little change since its appearance, and for modern society’s need of eco-friendly and efficient devices, that design had to be changed. Like many other household items, the light bulb had to be upgraded to fit in the 22nd century. The smart house needs to be efficient and to a degree, autonomous, and since light bulbs were the poster-boys of inefficiency, many companies have risen to the task of re-inventing them.
The concept of smart light bulbs has been around in the last years, with most manufacturers looking towards LED technology and wireless connectivity as the answer. Today we have quite a few examples of smart light bulbs and while their price isn’t as low as CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp), like with most consumer electronics, their price is expected to lower in the following years.
Let’s shed some light on smart light bulbs
Light bulbs aren’t the first think about when you hear “smart items”, but as it were, they’ve seen a great deal of improvement lately. Today’s top light bulb models use LEDs (light emitting diode) which are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs or CFLs. They also draw much less power while still having a great “luminous” output. The problems had by developers with LED lights were related to cooling and the overall cost of the electronics. These costs kept piling up, and when they added other features like voltage regulators, wireless connectivity and RGB colors, the price of these devices went even higher.
But with so much technical development in all devices, it’s hard to draw the line between “smart” and a “dumb” item. What makes light bulbs smart? To answer this question, we must think about what feature have manufacturers added to these everyday items. For one, modern smart light bulbs have the option to be dimmed by the user, and many models offer a range of light colours, so the owner can customize their home lighting to better suit their mood.
However, even with these added features, it wasn’t until wireless control and automation were added that light bulbs really became “smart light bulbs”. With this feature, users could control all the functionality of the bulb from one location, which is usually a smartphone or tablet via a dedicated app. Later development allowed manufacturers to implement other technologies like RF (radio frequency) which would allow bulbs to turn off and on when the user left or entered a room. This feature can also improve a home’s power usage and make it more efficient.
Smart Light Bulbs You Can Use
If you want to fancy up your home and at the same time, make it more energy efficient, then you should start to look at some smart light bulbs. Keep in mind that not all of them use the same technologies and have the same features, as there’s no default checklist of features that manufacturers follow. Not all smart light bulbs have RGB colour or RF sensors, so depending on your needs, you should choose the one that is right for you.
Even though smart LED light bulbs are pretty expensive when compared to traditional lighting solutions, there are those who stand out from the crowd. If you want to outfit your entire home or business with low-energy smart LED light bulbs, then the GreenWave Reality Connected Lighting system should be somewhere on the top of your list. While this system lacks the “wow-factor” of some other systems presented here, it more than makes up for this in its functionality and affordable price. Users who are interested in LED smart bulbs can purchase a starter set which includes four LED smart bulbs and the hub which connects up to…wait for it….250 (no, it’s not a typo) individual bulbs. Furthermore, these LED smart light bulbs can be automated and controlled via the dedicated smartphone app or from their own remote. The system was designed to suit both large-scale businesses and home users alike, and we can safely say that it succeeds.
Price: $200 for Starter Kit / $20 for Individual Bulb
Utilizing Bluetooth 4.0 technology, the Lumen Smart LED Bulb is an excellent choice when it comes to smart light bulbs, as it does not need a central hub for connecting with your mobile device. In terms of features and performance, the bulb itself has an output of 400 lumens (equivalent to a traditional 40W bulb), and is controlled by your smartphone using the dedicated app. The app allows the user to set the bulb to any colour, as well as use lighting presets and automation features such as turning itself on or off when the user goes out of reach of the Bluetooth connection.
If you’re not interested in colour-changing smart LED light bulbs, then Insteon’s product is a great choice for you. The company has developed an awesome product which is a bit more traditional, providing a warm 2700 Kelvin brightness. In terms of features, there is nothing traditional about this LED smart bulb, thanks to the possibility for individual LED bulbs to “talk” to each other via RF interface or over the power grid. This allows the user to control multiple bulbs from a remote location where he only has access to one. The Insteon smart LED bulb only draws around 8W of power and their bigger bulb, the LED Bulb for Recessed Lights taps at around 12W. Both LED smart bulbs are pretty bright, being the equivalent of a 60W conventional light or measured in Lumens, it’s 591 for the smaller LED bulb and 968 for the beefier LED bulb for recessed lights. As an added feature, users can choose how much time it takes the bulbs to turn on or off.
Price: $29.99 for regular LED smart bulb / $49.99 for LED bulb for recessed lights
LuMini is promising Kickstarter project created by the developers of the Lumen LED Smart Bulb. This smart bulb offers much of the same functionality of its older brother, but in a smaller form and at a lower price. This LED smart bulb is designed to fit in lamps and other small-factor fixtures. Like the Lumen smart light bulb, LuMini connects via Bluetooth to your mobile device and can output pretty much any colour you’d like. LuMini is designed so that it will fit most conventional sockets ( E12 and E26 or E14/E27 for Europe), and as lifespan goes, it will brighten your for 30000 hrs. If you’d like to support this product, you can check out their Kickstarter page to find out more about this product.
Price: $25 Pledge for E26 Base
Belkin’s WeMo series is well known by now and their pursuit to bring most of our household devices in the Internet of Things is applaudable. This year at CES the company announced that they will be expanding their WeMo series to light bulbs. The new arrivals to the WeMo line are WeMo Smart LED Bulbs which will give users the possibility to control their home’s lighting with their smartphones. Like Philips’ HUE, the Belkin WeMo smart LED light will connect to a central hub which can keep in line up to 50 bulbs. The bulb itself will be the equivalent of an 60W traditional bulb, with an output of 800 lumens and a 3000 Kelvin brightness. Other features include dimming, automatic on/off, dim to sleep and automated vacation mode. The Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Set will be available this spring and the starter kit will contain two LED bulbs and the central hub.
Price: £99.99/€99.99 WeMo Stater Kit / £29.99/€34.99 Individual Bulb
You’re probably familiar with Philips HUE by now, as it is one of the first designs we’ve seen for this type of device. Unlike other designs, where the user interacts directly with the smart bulb, Philips HUE users will connect to the LED bulb via the dedicated HUE Hub, which can control up to 50 light bulbs. Furthermore, the app which controls the smart bulbs is very sophisticated, allowing users to utilize colours from pictures or to set up schedules as they please. When you purchase Philips HUE, you will receive not one, but three bulbs along with the Hub, which they connect to using your home WiFi network, so you can set up the most important areas of your home. Later on, you can continue to add more of these LED smart bulbs as you see fit.
Price: $199 Starter Kit / $59 Individual Bulb
If simple design and user friendly customization is what you’re after, then LIFX is the best smart light bulb for you. This LED device can output a variety of colours and you only need your smartphone to interact with it over your home WiFi network. Changing colours, setting up lighting schedules, dimming and automating the LIFX smart lightbulb is very easy thanks to the simple UI of the app. It is rated to run for 40000 hours and as an added benefit, users can purchase this smart LED light bulb in three different sockets (Edison screw, bayonet and downlight). LIFX are offering 2 years of warranty for this product, and in terms of looks, you can choose between pearl white and gunmetal grey for the body.
Also, you can have a look at the recently announced LG Smart Lamp, which hasn’t yet become available for commercial purchases.