13 Smart LED Bulbs: The Future of Lighting Control?
Are smart bulbs and sockets the best approach for lighting control? We have pros and cons plus 13 products implementing WiFi/Internet of Things, 6LoWPAN, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth.
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Philips Hue ZigBee Light Link-enabled LED bulbs, including the new tabletop RGB controller that debuted at CES 2013.
March 15, 2013 by Julie Jacobson

Furthermore, it’s never a bad idea to consider whether or not the wireless technology is standards-based and if it is open to third-party controls. Also, can the devices be mixed-and-matched with other smart bulbs as they become available?

All Z-Wave products should work together. As for ZigBee, look for the new Light Link profile (implemented by Philips and Osram Sylvania, with others to come) that should enable RGB lighting controls for devices from disparate manufacturers.

A word of caution: Many of the smart bulb makers advertise their products as WiFi-enabled, but they’re really not. They require a special hub that connects them to the Internet.

Central Controllers
Much has been made of Insteon’s “networked” smart bulbs (read a review of that networked LED light here) that can be controlled with your iOS device. What they don’t tell you is that you need an IP-enabled Insteon hub for this to work.

So unless you’re using WiFi- or Bluetooth-enabled smart bulbs, you’ll need some kind of hub to control the bulbs with your smart phone – because even the smartest of phones don’t (yet) have Z-Wave or ZigBee or other RF communications protocols built in. (You can’t count NFC because that requires close proximity.)

Remote Control via Internet
Now if you want to control the lights remotely via the Internet, you must have a WiFi bulb – the so-called Internet of Things – or else you will need a bridge to get the smart bulbs onto the home network.

RGB Lighting Effects
Some of the coolest new smart lights enable users to activate different color effects across the entire RGB spectrum.

Color Temperature
In the case of smart bulbs, are the whites white or are they yellow or bluish?

Control Application
How’s the app for that? Consider if it is user-friendly, if you can create scenes, if it is remotely controllable via the Internet …


 

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.


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