6 smart light platforms for transforming your home


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Along with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, a common first step into the smart home world is lighting. These LED bulbs connect to your Wi-Fi network (either directly or via a hub plugged into your router) and let you control their brightness, warmth and color with a smartphone app or even your voice.

Whether you are kitting out your new movie and gaming den or want to add some subtle new lighting to the living room, kitchen, bedroom or even the garden, smart lighting is here to help.

It is worth bearing in mind that smart light bulbs are far more expensive than the bulbs you are used to buying. They might look similar and have the same screw or bayonet fitting, but they can cost $25 per white bulb or around $50 for a bulb capable of shining any color. Being LED, though, they are designed to last for tens of thousands of hours before failing, so you still get your money’s worth.

In addition to bulbs that feature regular fittings (which make them easy replacements for your current bulbs), some manufacturers also sell LED light strips designed to create pools of light against a surface. These work best positioned behind televisions or under kitchen cupboards, where they emit a pleasing glow.


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There are also feature lights that can be attached to your wall like abstract pieces of art, as well as weather-resistant bulbs for outdoor use and a whole range of dimmer switches, remote controls, motion sensors and smartphone apps.

There are several manufacturers to pick from. Some allow their bulbs to work with other systems, but for the most part it is worth picking one brand and sticking with it.

When smart lights are installed, your old wall switches will still work, but it is generally recommended that you leave the switches in the ‘on’ position and instead control the lights via an app, wireless switch, or voice assistant.

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1. Philips Hue

Widely regarded as the market leader, Philips Hue offers a wide range of bulbs with different fittings to ensure that they will work with your current lighting setup. The company also sells LED light strips, ceiling fixtures and lamps, some of which are even portable and battery powered.

In addition to lights, the Hue range consists of dimmer switches and motion sensors that automatically trigger lights when you walk past – useful for a nighttime bathroom trip, for example – as well as a range of weatherproof outside lights that will be available this summer.

An important thing to remember about Hue lights is that they require a bridge to function. This device connects to your router and you only need one per household, but the lights will not work without it. As such, you are best buying one of Philips’ starter packs, which come with bulbs, the bridge and, in some cases, a wireless dimmer switch.

Hue bulbs come with a wide range of fittings, including A19, B22, BR30, E12, E14, E27 and GU10.

If you find that your current light fittings do not support any of the above options, then you can swap out the connections without too much effort or expense – although, naturally, this will depend on the size of your house.

As well as offering a wide range of bulbs, Philips took the unorthodox move of allowing third-party app developers to take control of its products. While the official Hue app will offer enough control for most users, other apps bring more features. There are apps that can make your lights simulate candle flicker and fireworks, for example, or the crackling of a log fire. Some users might find this system a bit gimmicky, but the degree to which it can be customized is extraordinary.

Other than the smartphone apps, Philips Hue lights can also be controlled by issuing voice commands to Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Extra controls can also be created by setting up your own IFTTT (If This, Then That) applets.

Read the GearBrain review here.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.


Although a relative newcomer to the smart light business, Lifx is seen as one of Philips’ biggest rivals. Lifx bulbs generally cost more than the equivalent Hue – up to $80 per bulb in some cases – but they are brighter and the Lifx+ range emits infrared light at night, helping to boost your security cameras’ night vision.

Another bonus for the Lifx system is that the bulbs do not use a hub. Instead, they connect directly to your router.

Like Philips, Lifx offers a wide range of fittings, including A19, BR30, E26, E27, B22 and GU10. Lifx also sells LED light strips for creating mood lighting as well as the Tile and Beam, two products designed to sit on your walls like illuminated artwork.

Lifx lights can be configured to respond to voice instructions issued to your Google Home, Amazon Echo smart speaker, or to Siri on your iPhone.

As with Hue, Lifx lights can be set to gradually brighten in the morning to simulate a sunrise and to dim at night when you go to bed. Like Hue bulbs, Lifx bulbs can be grouped together into rooms on the app, making it easy to switch entire rooms or even floors on and off at once.

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3. Wiz smart lights

Like Lifx, Wiz smart bulbs connect directly to your Wi-Fi and do not use a separate hub or bridge like the Hue system does. If you already have a smart hub installed, you can connect Wiz bulbs to it using IFTTT or Conrad Connect. This is also how you can hook up Wiz bulbs to devices like the Nest smart thermostat.

GearBrain recently reviewed the Wiz starter set and was impressed by how many IFTTT applets are available. Our favorites include one that turns all lights on when an intruder is detected at night, as well as one that turns your lights a certain color when your favorite TV show is about to start.

Another cool Wiz feature is vacation mode, which can be selected from the system’s smartphone app. This mode manipulates your house lights to make it look like someone is home, making it a useful burglar deterrent.

Wiz smart lights can be controlled with the companion smartphone app, virtual assistant voice commands, or with an infrared remote control. The latter might seem old fashioned but it features buttons for assigning favorite colors or setups to each room. For less tech-savvy members of the household, pressing a button will likely be easier than opening the Wiz phone app or speaking to Alexa.

Wiz’s final party trick is that it can let your old switches control two different lighting modes. Once set up, you can fire up the first lighting mode by flicking the switch on — but flick it off and on again with five seconds and the lights will change to mode two.

Wiz bulb connections include the E26 and BR30 standards. The company also sells a range of smart table lamps.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

4. Sylvania

Sylvania Smart+ lights are compatible with ZigBee, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Alexa and Google Assistant. These bulbs require a ZigBee-compatible hub to function, so you will need something like an Amazon Echo Plus or SmartThings Hub to get them working.

Soft white and dim-able smart lights by Sylvania start at just $15, while a two-pack of color bulbs costs around $50. Fittings include the A19, BR30 and PAR38 standards. The company also sells LED light strips and wireless dimmer switches for greater control.

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5. Tradfri

The Tradfri range of smart lights by IKEA starts at around $20 for a white bulb, while a starter kit with two bulbs, a wireless dimmer switch and the gateway needed to connect the bulbs to your router is under $100.

IKEA also sells color bulbs for this smart light platform. The bulbs can be added to an existing Philips Hue system if you already own one but are looking for cheaper bulbs. Tradfri bulbs can be controlled by the IKEA app for iPhone and Android, or via Alexa or Apple HomeKit. Google Assistant support is in the works but it has no release date as of writing.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

6. C by GE

Starting at just $20, some of the cheapest smart bulbs are from C by GE. However, that low price also means that they lack the features, colors and sophistication of their pricier alternatives. In their simplest form, these bulbs connect to your phone via Bluetooth instead of to your Wi-Fi network. They feature three temperatures that range from warm yellow to cool white. You can also set brightening and dimming routines for these bulbs.

With the addition of the C-Reach bridge, which plugs directly into a wall outlet and connects the bulbs to your Wi-Fi network, this lighting can be controlled by Alexa and Google Assistant. With the C-Reach, you can also control the lights remotely, which is useful if you want to make your house look occupied while you are on vacation.

Read the GearBrain review here.

C by GE also sells a smart lamp with integrated Alexa support called the Sol. This lamp connects to your Wi-Fi network and can perform many of the same tasks as an Echo smart speaker. Being a proper Alexa device, the lamp can control lights and other smart home devices via voice commands or play music through its integrated speaker.

Read the GearBrain review here.

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This article originally appeared on GearBrain and syndicated by Mediafeed.org.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.