The Future of Smart Lighting Seems Bright, But Is That Really True?

By Special Guest
Ryan Jensen, Correspondent
April 25, 2018

Listen, smart bulbs are cool. I'm not going to try to deny it. I've spent literally hours checking out smart bulbs on Amazon, reading about them on CNET, and standing in front of them in the light bulb aisle at Home Depot. But, here's the thing, I still don't own one.

It doesn't seem like I'm alone. I'm a middle-income-bracket-millennial and none of my friends have smart bulbs installed in their homes. Not even my rich friends. Not even my dad.

The data backs this up. A 2015 survey by Osram Sylvania, a titan in the lighting industry, says 62% of Americans are aware smart bulbs exist, but only 10% have gone out and purchased any. That's a pretty sizeable gap.

So why, when there are so many reasons to buy a smart bulb, are only 10 percent of Americans spending their hard earned money on this premier technology of the future? Below are several hypotheses; GE, take note.

People are more concerned saving money.
It's 2018. There are enough things to spend our money on. Nintendo Switches. Grubhub. Movie Pass. And all these things are NEW. Why would someone go spend at least $15 on something they've been buying for a few bucks their entire lives. And I know what you're thinking, "But, think about all the amazing things they can do with these wifi-enabled devices!" That brings me to my next point.

Does the average American really want these experiences?
Think about it. Does anyone really want colorful lighting in their home? When I'm standing in front of a wall of lightbulbs at the grocery store, most of my mental energy is spent trying to decide which bulb is going to feel as natural as possible, not "as much like a nightclub in the 90s" as possible.

Do these experiences bring enough value for the effort they require?
Smart bulbs aren't just about "color", their about interactive experiences. You're watching "The Shape of Water" with your family and the monster is revealed. Then, like magic, your entire living room turns green! Does that really sound appealing? Maybe to some, it does. I, apparently, am not amongst them.

Smart Bulbs are too complicated.
I, like most of our readers, like to think of myself as a pretty tech-savvy guy. Yet, when I'm researching smart bulbs online I get a headache just thinking about which bulb is compatible with my smart speaker, or smart hub, or if I even need one at all BECAUSE APPARENTLY YOU DON'T. But, what they don't tell you, is that if you plan on buying one of these hub-less smart bulbs, you should be prepared for your router to go out because some routers can only connect to a finite number of devices before your entire network goes haywire.

It's all about energy.
And, not just the energy it takes to get these things going. But, as much as smart home brands like Hue and Link would like us to think, the current zeitgeist in the vast world of light bulb technology isn't smarts, but sustainability.  Last year, Bloomberg masterfully narrated the transition from incandescent to LED light bulbs, showing how Americans are converting to this new technology quickly and saving more and more money as they do it. This is the same technology used by the smart bulb you'd buy at Best Buy, but, you can also buy an LED bulb for three dollars from your local CVS. If saving money is as important as it seems to be in this conversation, I think you know which choice most Americans are going to make.

Maybe someday I'll buy a smart light bulb. I imagine that after I pay off my mortgage and have completely saved for me and my partner's retirement, my home will be filled with all sorts of smart bulbs and interconnected lighting. Until then, I'll probably make the same choice as the rest of America, which, in my opinion, seems to actually be the smarter one.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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