When the app revolution began, the smartphone suddenly started to assume the functions of what used to be separate gadgets - cameras, GPS devices, MP3 players, eBooks, handheld games, remote controls and much more.
In the same way, the smart LED lightbulb is beginning to do things other than just light up. Plenty examples of smart LED lightbulbs illuminated the show floor at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week.
Talk to Your Lamp
Perhaps the most aggressive smart LED bulb integrator continues to be Sengled. This company is already selling Sengled Pulse Solo, an LED bulb-plus-Bluetooth speaker, Boost, the LED bulb-plus-Wi-Fi-repeater, and most recently, the Sengled Snap, an indoor-outdoor light with an integrated 1080p Wi-Fi camera.
At CES, Sengled presented two new LED bulb-plus products: the Voice and Flex.
The Flex is a Wi-Fi speaker bulb. Like the previous Pulse Solo speaker bulb, the Flex includes dual JBL speakers and, thanks to its Wi-Fi connections, will let you tap into Internet radio stations as well as your own music collections and playlists.
Aptly named, the Voice is actually the first truly "smart" bulb, because it can obey voice commands to turn on or off, and, like Apple's Siri or Amazon's Echo, it can answer questions. Inside the Voice are twin microphones and JBL speakers that allow it to control not only itself, but other smart home products as well. It can also play streaming music.
Voice's microphones can also hear potentially hazardous sounds such as barking dogs, breaking glass or crying babies. Depending on how you program Voice through its app, the bulb can transmit appropriate text alerts to your smartphone, plus signal other Voice bulbs you may have throughout your home to collectively flash or sound a siren.
Unfortunately, Sengled couldn't say when this potentially revolutionary bulb will go on sale other than sometime this year.
Look Ma, No Wires
Other companies also presented innovations that take LED bulbs to a whole new level.
Instead of reacting to commands, Stack Lighting's bulbs react to someone just walking into a room. Sensors built into the Stack Classic, available later this year, detect motion and occupancy and turn on or off appropriately. All of these features are customizable in its corresponding app.
Because using Bluetooth for music streaming has limited range and can degrade the sound, MIPOW introduced its two newest Wi-Fi-powered PLAYBULB bulbs at CES, and one is so smart it doesn't even need to be screwed into a socket. The Sphere is a 6-inch-wide frosted globe that can be lit up in one of 16.7 million colors - just tap it to change colors or choose a hue from its PLAYBULB X app for either iOS or Android. Inside Sphere's water-resistant exterior is an eight-hour rechargeable battery, which means you can place it almost anywhere. That also makes it really handy if your traditionally powered lights go out.
One thing LED lights do really well is change colors, from basic incandescent warm to fluorescent cold color temperatures. Taking advantage of this capability, a Russian outfit called SVET has developed a smart LED bulb that knows what time of day it is, and reacts accordingly to mimic the sunlight. For instance, SVET's illumination will automatically soften as dusk draws near, emulating the sunset and promoting relaxation. In the morning, it gently becomes brighter and colder to emulate dawn and the morning light.
About the Author
Stewart Wolpin is a freelance journalist and longtime CES veteran. Stewart writes about consumer technology foreBay, where you can find all the latest electronic gadgets for your home.