(Pocket-lint) - Having a smart home isn't just about clever appliances or smartphone-controlled heating, you can also get clever lights too. That doesn't just mean smartphone control, there are all kinds of other great features too.
You switch lights on or off everyday and they can play an essential part in creating an ambience in a room. Some smart lighting solutions enable you to recreate the colours within a particular image, while other solutions just mean you don't need to get up off the sofa to turn the lights off.
Best of all, these smart bulbs will almost always be a big upgrade on your old bulbs in terms of energy efficiency. They're generally LED, meaning they use less energy to run, but scheduling also makes sure that you can turn them off when you're not around, or geo-gate them to only be on if you're at home.
Here are some of the best smart lighting options to consider.
Our pick of the best smart lighting
Philips Hue is probably the most well-known when it comes to smart lighting and for good reason with numerous features and various bulbs, lamps and other lights, such as strips, available. The wireless system allows you to use your smartphone to not only switch the LED bulbs on and off, but pick the colour and brightness you want, as well as recreate shades within a specific image, like a sunset you uploaded to Instagram or a painting on your wall.
You can program specific times, for example waking everyone in the house up at 7AM every day with bright lights and the Hue system also has a party mode for flashing in time with your music. Philips Hue is compatible with the IFTTT service, as well as Apple's HomeKit, Google's Assistant and Amazon Alexa, meaning you can create recipes to take your smart lighting to a different level or control them with your voice
Osram's Lightify is one of the closest to Philips Hue in terms of bulb type availability. Its wireless system offers not only standard screw and bayonet bulbs, but GU10s, LED strips and garden spotlights too, all of which can be controlled through the Lightify smartphone app.
There aren't quite as many features as there are with Philips Hue, but you'll still get remote access to your lights, scheduling functionality, ambiance creation and scene creation. You won't be able to sync your lights to your music or a film as yet, but the Osram Lightify system is cheaper than Hue, there is a good range of bulbs and it is compatible with most smart home platforms.
Ikea Home Smart
Are there any pies Ikea doesn't have a finger in? The Swedish furniture giant offers numerous options when it comes to smart lighting, at Ikea prices, making smart lighting more accessible than it has been in the past and the system is excellent. There are numerous plug-and-play kits available, from standard white dimmable options, to colour adjustable options where users can switch between warm white and bright white.
Unlike Philips Hue and Osram Lightify, Ikea offers only one coloured bulb option at the moment, but there are several bulb fittings available if you're after a white colour spectrum, including GU10s, along with light panels with wireless control. Ikea's smart lights are said to last for 25,000 hours and along with smartphone control via the app, there is also a remote control and dimmer control. The Home Smart (previously called Trådfri) lights are also compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant, which you'll need to pair them up with if you want to control them away from home.
Originating on Kickstarter, LIFX is an LED light bulb that can be controlled using a smartphone app but like Sengled, it doesn't require an additional hub. From the LIFX app, you can turn your lights on or off, adjust brightness, change the colour, and even create a light show to go with your music.
Like many of the smart light solutions available, LIFX also offers a wake-up feature, allowing you to wake up naturally each morning with automatically increasing light, or drift off with slowly dimming lights. The company also offers LIFX PLUS bulbs which have the additional advantage of a night vision settings, and like Philips Hue and Osram Lightify, there are LED strips available too.
Hive Active Light
Hive, perhaps best known for its smart heating system, offers a few bulbs in its smart lighting range. The Hive range isn't as feature-rich as the likes of Philips Hue but you'll still be able to control your lights from your smartphone whether home or away, schedule them and change the colour to create your perfect ambience, assuming you buy the Colour Changing bulb.
There aren't any strips or lamps available with Hive, like there are with Philips Hue, but Hive does offer both a GU10 and E14 candle bulb, as well as B22 bayonet, on top of the standard E27 bulb. The GU10, E14 and B22 bulbs aren't currently available in a colour changing option but they do come in white dimmable and cool to warm white options. The Hive Active lights are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant so if you have an Amazon Echo device or Google Home device, you can control your lights with your voice too.
Nanoleaf is a fully customisable smart lighting system featuring wall-mounted triangular lighting panels that snap together with simple connectors to create whatever shape you can imagine. The starter pack is expandable with extra panels that can be bought and combined to create bigger and bolder designs in the future too.
As well as the older Nanoleaf Canvas and Light Panels there's a new brighter Shapes series consisting of Hexagons, Triangles and Mini Triangles. These shapes can all be combined but they aren't backward compatible with the older series. Nanoleaf light panels are app-controlled (iOS and Android) and the system is compatible with most smart home platforms, including Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit, enabling voice control. Like other smart lighting options, Nanoleaf can be programmed to turn on and off at specific hours and switch light scenes.
TP-Link Tapo Smart Bulb
For those who want simplicity over all else, Tapo offers a really nice solution in the form of its smart bulbs, which don't require a bridge or hub of any sort. They'll connect to your Wi-Fi and work nicely with Google Home and Amazon Alexa, and the most affordable version has dimming to let you set the mood.
It's not as sophisticated a system as the likes of Philips Hue, but it's a superb option if you want your first smart bulb. Our pick of the various products available is the L530E Multicolor Smart Wi-Fi Light Bulb.
Sengled Wi-Fi Classic is one of the only smart lighting options that doesn't require an additional hub in the UK - at least for many of its products anyway. Instead, the Wi-Fi Classic, Sengled Boost and Sengled Colour Plus bulbs can be taken straight out of their packaging, screwed in and connected directly to your router through the one of the dedicated Sengled apps.
The Wi-Fi Classic option is the cheapest, offering white dimmable light, while the Sengled Colour Plus is a coloured bulb with a built-in speaker and the Sengled Boost is a white dimmable light with WLAN boosting capabilities. There is also a Sengled Element range, though this requires a hub. Features including scheduling, dimming and smartphone control from anywhere are available across the Sengled range. The Sengled Wi-Fi Classic bulbs are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing for voice control with a compatible device.
Nanoleaf Essentials E19
After having success with its various light panels (above), Nanoleaf has launched its Essentials range consisting of this E19 bulb and an LED light strip. Both are compatible with the incoming Thread smart home standard and work with Apple HomeKit.
This flexible bulb can be used with the iOS Home app or Nanoleaf's own app as you wish. There's an adaptive lighting mode so the colour temperature changes throughout the day.
Lightwave is not just about lighting, it's about controlling your entire home whether that be heating, electricity or lighting. It's a clever system that requires you to swap your sockets and switches for Lightwave units that offer push-buttons and LED indicators, rather than changing out your bulbs like others on this list.
Once you have installed the system, you use the switches and plugs as normal but you get the additional functionality of being able to remotely control and monitor your lighting, power and energy usage from an internet-enabled device. The Lightwave app will let you to set routines based on your usual daily activities, as well as remotely control things.
Belkin WeMo Smart LED lighting
Belkin offers all sorts of WeMo connected devices and included within the range is the WeMo Smart LED bulb and the WeMo Light Switch, both of which allow lighting control from an iPhone or Android device. The WeMo Smart LED Bulb replaces your existing bulbs enabling you to control, schedule and fully dim them from anywhere using the WeMo Link, Wi-Fi and the WeMo app. It's worth mentioning that like most of Ikea smart lights, the WeMo bulbs only offer variants of white light rather than millions of colour options.
The WeMo bulbs can be controlled independently or in groups and the WeMo Link can handle up to 50 bulbs. The WeMo LED bulbs offer compatibility with IFTTT, meaning you can create various recipes like the Hue system and they are also compatible with Google Assistant for voice control. There is also a WeMo Light Switch that is designed to replace a standard light switch in your home and allow you to turn your normal lights on and off from anywhere using a smartphone.
Cololight Smart LED Panels
If you are interested in customisable smart lighting panels that allow you to create your own patterns and shapes but don't like the idea of mounting them on your walls, then these lights may be the answer. This kit contains six hexagonal light panels that can be connected together in various different shapes. They're then mounted on the hefty stone base that sits nicely on your desk, mantelpiece or windowsill. You can then choose from a variety of different shades, scenes and lighting options from within the app with ease.
The highlights to Cololight's smart LED panels is they're not only customisable in the way you connect them, they're also expandable. So you can purchase additional panels to create larger designs. You're not restricted to a single design either as you can easily remove the linking modules and create an entirely new look in a matter of seconds.