We had the opportunity to attend Lightfair this year. Lightfair is an industry conference and expo for the lighting industry, focusing on commercial and architectural lighting. These days, there’s a good amount of news out of Lightfair that’s of particular interest to home automation enthusiasts. “Smart” lighting, of course, is all the rage, even if it’s only part of the smarthome solution. The question, of course, is how smart is this lighting?
Let’s run through some of our highlights from this year’s Lightfair. Then check out episode 26 of our home automation show, Home: On for interviews with these and other vendors from the show floor.
Lutron debuted the Smart Bridge, a direct-to-consumer version of the previously announced Smart Bridge Pro home control hub. The Smart Bridge integrates lighting, shade, and a curated selection of third-party home control products, including Lutron’s Caseta dimmers, Serena shades, GE bulbs, and Honeywell thermostats. Devices can be configured and controlled through apps on iOS and Android. The Smart Bridge hub will be available this Fall with a retail price of $149. Lutron will also sell Caseta dimmer and remote kits at retail.
Lutron also debuted new Pico remotes with integrated night lighting and battery-operated roller shades, now available as part of its affordable Serena Shades line. The new roller shades start at $399.
Another product that will work with Lutron’s Smart Bridge is GE‘s telligent™ LED bulb. The telligent bulb is a connected bulb that features a built-in dimmer. As a stand-alone product, GE’s bulb doesn’t need (and quite intentionally doesn’t have) an app—it can be paired with multiple Pico remotes without requiring any other hardware or software. GE is currently retail testing this product in a number of Sam’s Club stores.
Philips announced a number of new products a few months ago, including the Hue lux—a line of dimmable white bulbs compatible with the Hue ecosystem—and the Hue tap switch. Both were on display at Lightfair. The Hue lux is purportedly fully compatible with the hue ecosystem, though we’re curious how it will work with third-party apps and integration. It’s notable that you cannot adjust the white color temperature of Hue lux bulbs—they will be available in 2700K Warm White only.
The Hue tap swtich is a curiosity. Large, round, and somewhat clunky, it may perhaps be better named the “push” since it does require a relatively significant amount of pressure to trigger the switch and generate the energy that’s required to self-power the thing.
Philips also showed off some of the harder-to-find Hue variants also available today, such as the GU10 bulb. Of course, that scarcity may all change shortly, as hue starts to expand more into more popular retailers like Best Buy and Staples.
Connect by TCP recently received some accolades from Consumer Reports, which puzzled us slightly since their connected lightbulb seemed to be little more than the quintessential stovepipe system. Why would anyone want lightbulbs with their own app that don’t communicate with anything else? That all changes now.
TCP announced at Lightfair the expansion of the Connected by TCP line with new kits, additional bulb form factors, motion sensors, plug modules, and a new hub that’s impressively small. The system is IP-based (6LoWPAN), and TCP is working on an API to allow the integration of TCP’s components with larger home systems.
Many other vendors were showing new lighting solutions that weren’t necessarily “smart” lighting, but were definitely smarter in that they addressed some of the challenges is today’s residential lighting market.
CREE introduced a 3-way LED bulb at the conference. The bulb is designed to replace traditional 3-way bulbs in lamp fixtures, providing three distinct light output levels (equivalents of 30, 60, and 100 watts) through pre-set dim levels. We’d like to see a bulb like this employ selective diode use or sunsetting (the practice of using red LEDs to make the color warmer when dimmed), but a 3-way bulb is still a nice addition to the CREE lineup. CREE’s 3-way bulb is available for under $25 at Home Depot.
Another area that hasn’t yet been addressed well yet by LED lighting manufacturers is candelabra (CA) bulbs for chandeliers. Most LED candelabra bulbs have a large base that makes them less than ideal for most decorative chandelier or candlestick applications. And in most cases, the color temperature of these bulbs is still way too cool for dining and other decorative applications.
American Lighting, however, is showing a series of bulbs that have compressed the electronics to fit almost entirely in the screw base, leaving a bulb that looks great in decorative fixtures. The bulbs are available in three different (truly) warm white options. For now, these CA10 bulbs are only available for commercial applications, but we’re hoping to see these available to consumers at retail soon.
Did you know Verbatim makes lighting? That’s right, the Verbatim you may think of for digital storage has a whole line of industrial lighting. The most interesting to us was a candelabra bulb designed to mimic the flickering of an actual flame. The bulb iself is still a bit clunky, but in the right application, this bulb could be incredibly convincing as a candle flam. For some reason, these bulbs bring back memories of walking through the tunnels in Pirates of the Caribbean. The following video shows Verbatim’s True Candle with Flicker Effect bulb in action.
Notably missing from this year’s events was Switch Lighting. Switch was the Belle of the ball last year with the introduction of its economical Switch Inifinia bulb—one of our favorite A-bulb replacements. Rumors of closure, relocation, and restructuring are circulating, but we haven’t yet learned the fate of Switch.