A big year for smart lighting?
Your smart lighting options have never been more numerous or more affordable -- and with an increasing number of Americans using smart speakers and AI assistants to control things in their home, they've never been more relevant, either.
That's why basically every major manufacturer in the smart lighting category is stepping on the gas with new smart lights, smart bulbs, smart switches or smart fixtures planned for release this year. That includes color-changing lighting, security-minded outdoor lighting, and lots and lots of new options that you can control via voice with Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit's Siri commands.
All of that has me bullish on smart lights for 2019 -- and it also means that it'll be a busy year at the CNET Smart Home, where we'll be testing all of the new stuff out. For now, scroll on through to see everything I'll be keeping an eye out for.
Originally published Jan. 22.
Update, Jan. 29: Latest update added two Casper lights.
Lifx Candelabra Bulbs
Let's start with Lifx. The 7-year-old smart lighting startup has come a long way since its initial launch on Kickstarter, and now boasts a fairly wide catalog of color-changing Wi-Fi smart lights that need no hub to connect with your phone, or with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.
Later this year, the company will add color-changing candelabra bulbs to that lineup. No word yet on what they'll cost, but we're guessing these won't come cheap -- comparable bulbs from Philips Hue currently sell for $45 each.
Multiple colors per bulb
Unlike those Hue candelabra bulbs, the Lifx versions will put out multiple colors from each bulb. That lets you create things like animated flame or tie dye effects, and it also lets you "paint" multicolor patterns onto the bulbs using the Lifx app.
Pricing and availability isn't locked in just yet, but Lifx says that these bulbs are likely to hit retail sometime this upcoming fall.
New Lifx Z Light Strips in the works?
Those are the same fingerpaint-style controls you get over the Lifx Z Light Strips. The company tells me that it's looking into creating new versions of those strips, including ones designed to run around the entire back perimeter of different-sized TV sets.
A Lifx spokesperson also told me that the company is exploring the idea of partnering up with a service like DreamScreen that can pair color-changing lights with the content on your TV for real-time lighting effects as you watch, similar to Signify's Hue Entertainment feature for Philips Hue smart lights.
Not sure if we'll hear more on either front this year, or if these are updates to keep an eye out for in 2020, but we'll keep you posted.
Lifx Tiles get touch controls
Something else to watch for from Lifx this year: New touch controls for your multi-color Lifx Tiles that'll let you switch between preset lighting scenes with just a tap. The company says the feature was built-in all along, but the software wasn't ready in time for last year's launch. Look for that to change via free firmware update in the coming weeks.
The Toronto-based smart lighting startup's touch-sensitive, square-shaped color-changing LED light panels are only a little over a month old -- but that didn't stop Nanoleaf from announcing new hexagon-shaped panels at CES 2019. Expect to see them in stores by the end of the year.
No word on what they'll actually be called yet, by the way. The triangular panels were originally called Nanoleaf Aurora, while the square-shaped follow-ups are called Nanoleaf Canvas. Next up, Nanoleaf Hex? Nanoleaf Honeycomb?
Something else we still don't know -- the final form factor. Nanoleaf is currently testing a couple of different designs, including flat panels and more three-dimensional versions like the one seen here. The company will pick one after polling the user base for feedback this year.
Also coming for your walls this in 2019: New triangular, pixelated LED panels called LaMetric Sky. They'll give Nanoleaf some new competition when they arrive at the end of the year.
Notifications and alerts
The pixelated design lets the panels display some pretty striking animated effects, and it also lets you arrange them into a rectangle to make a king-size, wall-mounted notification center. You can program the panels to display social media follower counts, email, Twitter and Slack notifications, weather updates and much more.
Another neat trick -- those pixels will display a unique code after you first mount the panels to your wall. Scan that code with your phone's camera, and the LaMetric app will automatically import your exact configuration into the app. Clever!
New from Philips Hue: Voice Fades
We're expecting another busy year from Philips Hue, the largest name in smart lighting. The brand kicked things off by announcing new Google Assistant voice fades at CES 2019. Just say, "OK, Google, sleep the lights," for a slow, 30-minute fade-out. Saying "OK, Google, wake the lights" will give you the opposite -- a gradual, 30-minute fade-up. You can also set those sunrise fades to trigger automatically 30 minutes before your Google Assistant voice alarm goes off each morning.
And an outdoor motion sensor
You'll also soon be able to purchase an outdoor motion sensor to trigger your Philips Hue lights as soon as anyone approaches your home. Like the new lights, it's expected to arrive this February. The cost: $50.
New Hue fixtures on the way
We're expecting to see some new Philips Hue fixtures in 2019, too. For instance, this Philips Hue Flourish ceiling light is currently only available in Europe, but by the end of year, you'll be able to buy it in the US, too.
Keep the 'Friends of Hue' switches coming
The team at Philips Hue also tells us to watch out for new third-party smart switches designed to better control Hue lights at the wall. We've already tested out one of these "Friends of Hue" switches, the self-powering Illumra Click dual-rocker switch, currently sold by RunLessWire.
That switch was one of our favorite smart home upgrades of 2018, and we've confirmed with other major manufacturers that more switches just like it are coming very soon. Stay tuned!
New WeMo Light Switch 2.0
Speaking of smart switches, WeMo will soon release a newly updated version of its original, on/off smart switch. It'll bring the design more in line with the WeMo Dimmer while also adding in support for 3-way switch setups where more than one switch is connected to the same light, plus Apple HomeKit support. And, like the original switch, it'll support Alexa, IFTTT, and the Google Assistant, too.
Leviton puts Alexa in a light switch
A smart switch for your fans, too
Okay, so it's not technically a smart lighting product, but fans of Lutron's well-reviewed Caseta smart switches were happy to see the debut of a new Caseta switch that can control their ceiling fans. Coming this March for $80 a piece, it isn't as cheap as I'd like, but it's still an attractive alternative to spending hundreds more on an entire smart ceiling fan.
Enter GE Lighting
More big smart lighting news from CES 2019: Five new smart switches will join the C by GE smart lighting lineup this year. All of them are competitively priced, and designed to work with Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant.
It's just one part of a significant C by GE expansion planned for 2019.
C by GE C Start Smart Switch
At the top end of the lineup is the new C by GE C Start smart switch with built-in sensors for motion and ambient light. That's a mouthful of a name, but at $75, it'll be more affordable than dimmable competitors from names like WeMo and iDevices, and those don't include any built-in sensor tech at all.
If you don't need those sensors, you can also buy a C Start switch that doesn't include them for $50. Don't need the switch to dim, either? A non-dimmable version with no sensors will cost even less at $40 each.
Toggle and paddle switches, too
That's not all -- GE Lighting is also about to start selling generic-looking toggle and paddle versions of the C Start switch They don't include sensors and they won't dim the lights, but they should blend in nicely with your existing decor. Plus, at $35 each, they'll be the most affordable C by GE smart switches in the lineup, and cheaper than almost every competitor, too.
Color-changing bulbs, too (finally!)
GE will also start selling color-changing versions of the C by BE Bluetooth LED -- the first color-changing smart bulbs the venerable lighting mainstay has ever made, if you can believe it.
Look for a classic A-shaped color-changing bulb, a BR30 floodlight version, and color-changing light strips by this summer. New C by GE accessories, including a standalone motion detector and bargain-priced smart plug will follow after that.
Works with everything, but made for Google
Like the existing C by GE bulbs, the new bulbs and switches are all "Made for Google," which means that they can pair directly with your Google Home, Home Mini, Home Hub or Home Max smart speaker directly via the Google Home app as soon as you power them on.
That means you don't need GE's C-Reach plug-in hub like you do in order to connect with Alexa. Heck, you don't even need the C by GE app.
New Eufy Lumos bulbs
In March, Anker will debut second-gen Eufy smart bulbs that sync with Alexa and the Google Assistant for voice controls. They use built-in Wi-Fi radios, which let them connect directly to your router without need for any extra hub hardware. Best of all, they're cheap -- $15 each for a fixed, white light bulb, or $18 each for a tunable white light bulb with multiple color temperature settings.
Ring Smart Lighting coming soon
Keep an eye on the Amazon-owned video doorbell startup Ring this year. At CES, the brand announced a big, new lineup of motion-activated outdoor lights that's set to launch this April. When they get here, they'll be Ring's most affordable smart home devices to date,
Lots of options
Along with wired and battery-powered floodlights and spotlights that you can mount on the side of your house, the new Ring Smart Lighting lineup features thoughtful inclusions that you won't find from other brands, like these motion-activated step lights. They'll cost $18 each.
Another option: These battery-powered, motion-activated pathlights that'll cost $30 a piece. Ring says that solar-powered versions are in the works, too.
You can also purchase standalone, weatherproofed Ring motion sensors, too. They'll be available in black and white for just $25, which is half the cost of Philips Hue's new outdoor motion sensor.
Eve Energy Strip
Eve Systems is Elgato's smart home brand, and its main focus is selling devices that sync up with Apple HomeKit, and with Siri. This year, it'll release two new smart lighting products. The first: This new Eve Energy Strip, a slick-looking surge protector with three outlets that you can automate or turn on and off remotely or via Siri voice commands.
Got a desk lamp, a space heater and a coffee maker in your home office that you'd like to smarten up in one fell swoop? This device will get the job done. Look for it in the US this March for $119.
Eve Light Strip
Eve's other new offering for 2019 is a the Eve Light Strip. Like the name suggests, it's a strip of color-changing LEDs that you can stick up behind your furniture or TV, under your cabinets and countertops, or anywhere else in your home that could benefit from a smart splash of color.
Like the Energy Strip, the Eve Light Strip is expected to arrive in the US this March, when it'll go on sale for $79. Another point of note: Both products will be the first Eve gadgets that use Wi-Fi to send their signals -- other Eve gadgets typically rely on a Bluetooth connection.
TP Link, too
Expect to see new smart lighting products for TP Link's Kasa line of smart home devices, too. These color-changing light strips come out in the first half of the year, for instance.
There's also a Kasa smart outlet in the works that'll let you automate any lamp or appliance you plug into it. The cost: $40 -- significantly less than similar outlets from names like iDevices.
Voice-activated smart switch?
The Kasa team tells us that the brand also has a voice-activated light switch in the works, though it isn't saying which assistant will live inside. My money's on Alexa, but there isn't a Google Assistant switch yet, so maybe that's the smarter play here. We'll keep an ear out and let you know when we hear more.
A bedside smart light from Casper
Even the online mattress-maker Casper is getting into the smart lighting mix this year. Its product: the battery-powered Casper Glow bedside smart light, which goes on sale later this year for $89 each.
Along with a built-in gyroscope that lets you turn the thing on by flipping it over or dim it by twisting it, the Glow can connect with your phone via Bluetooth, which lets you schedule and trigger automatic slow fades to lull you to sleep or help ease you awake in the morning.
The Glow is wireless and battery-powered, letting you pick it up and take it with you on those late-night bathroom and kitchen runs. When you're ready to climb back into bed, just return it to its charging pad.