CES is just a week away, and we’re sure to see plenty of new gadgets that work with Apple HomeKit, the set of smart home protocols built into the software that runs iPhones and iPads. North American lighting manufacturer Sylvania wanted to get out ahead of the sprawl, so we’re getting an early look at its own HomeKit-compatible offering: a new color-changing smart bulb that doesn’t need any extra hub hardware to connect with your home network.
That last bit will help set Sylvania apart from other HomeKit-compatible smart bulbs, including Philips Hue’s popular color-changing LEDs and the funky-looking LEDs in the Nanoleaf Smarter Kit. Both of those options transmit their signals using the Zigbee protocol, which means you need to plug a hub into your router to act as translator. Sylvania’s bulbs cut out the middle man by using Wi-Fi radios that your router can understand as soon as you screw them in. The company claims that the new bulbs are your very first hub-free option for use with HomeKit.
HomeKit compatibility comes with a couple of key advantages for iOS users. The most notable: Siri voice controls that allow you to tell Apple’s virtual assistant to turn your bulbs on and off, dim them up and down, or change their color.
You’ll also be able to control the Sylvania bulbs directly from Apple’s Home app alongside other HomeKit-compatible gadgets. With the Home app, you can group the bulbs with those other gadgets to create “scenes” that run automatically whenever you please. For instance you could set your lights to come on and your thermostat to crank up a few degrees whenever you return home from work at the end of the day. You can also pin individual bulbs or groups of bulbs to your iPhone’s Control Center — just swipe up and tap to turn things on and off, no app needed.
Pricing for the new bulb isn’t set yet, but if it follows suit with other color-changing smart bulbs in the Osram/Sylvania family of LEDs, it should likely cost somewhere around $40 a pop. Sylvania’s team tells me that the new bulbs will begin selling on Amazon in early 2017, and they’d be smart to hustle; Lifx, which also makes color-changing smart bulbs that communicate using Wi-Fi, recently announced plans to bring its latest generation of LEDs onto HomeKit’s platform by February.