Philips Hue was among the first Internet-connected, app-controlled lighting systems to enter the residential market.
Philips Philips Hue was among the first Internet-connected, app-controlled lighting systems to enter the residential market.

In the past few years, consumer-focused LED replacement lamps and their app-based controls have evolved from novelty gadgets to specifiable products. That shift was, arguably, led by the debut of the Philips Hue connected lighting system in October 2012 and followed by a stream of venture capital–backed tech startups putting out similar products. Now, most leading lighting manufacturers offer Internet-connected replacement lamps, and many hope that greater consumer familiarity with connected lighting will pay off with commercial adoption of large-scale systems.

“Part of our consumer strategy is getting consumers to adopt [connected lighting] so that they become drivers in the commercial marketplace,” says Mike Watson, vice president of product strategy at Cree.

Cree's Internet-connected LED 60W replacement lamp.
Cree Cree's Internet-connected LED 60W replacement lamp.

In January, Cree announced its dimmable Connected Cree LED 60W replacement lamp (left), which is compatible with Wink and ZigBee software platforms and can be controlled from a companion app. In April 2013, General Electric announced a partnership with Web-based product-development startup Quirky, whose Wink platform can connect a variety of smart-home products made by its own and third-party developers. Among them are GE Lighting North America’s recently introduced Link Connected LED A19, BR30, and PAR 38 replacement lamps. Osram Sylvania is also developing connected lighting. Last fall, the company teamed with Internet-connected devices developer Belkin for its Lightify Connected Lighting Portfolio, which debuted earlier this year at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas—a magnet for the burgeoning market for smart-home products and a platform that mixes legacy firms and startups on the same trade show floor.

“By taking a collaborative approach towards these partner companies, we ensure the best experience for our end customer without forcing them to invest in multiple platforms and download multiple apps,” says Aaron Ganick, head of Lightify North America for Osram Sylvania.

Given the variety of smart lamps on the market that are compatible with any number of platforms, some level of consolidation at each of the platform, application, and device levels will be essential to maintaining consumers’ attention. 

As those changes occur, “just like you have Android and iOS, you [will] have a vibrant application and service community that knows what they’re developing towards,” Cree’s Watson predicts. “When that happens, I think you’ll start seeing much more adoption of connected lighting and [the] connected home.”

For now, manufacturers are taking different approaches when talking to consumers and lighting designers about smart-home fixtures. “For consumers, because the smart home is a new concept for most, we’re focused on education,” says Tom Boyle, chief innovation manager for GE’s Consumer Lighting business. “Because this isn’t a new product for the trade, we’re able to focus on more advanced functionality, like the ability to use geo-fencing and robust settings to create a more customized experience.” 

As was evident at CES, lighting is just the beginning. “Within the next year, you’re going to be looking at many, many more [connected] devices than just lighting,” Watson says. “Lighting is a good driver of the connected home, but the real value is when multiple devices can connect to each other.”