The smart home offers so much promise, but always seems just around the corner. Smart thermostats have gained some traction, but outside of that, some lighting and security, the wonders have been few and far between.
However one company, Sengled, has taken an unusual approach that's interesting and different. Most smart devices plug into the wall outlet for power, which puts them down pretty much at floor or counter level. However there's another power network in our homes — that hangover from 1909, the Edison screw #26 socket that holds a light bulb. I've been saying for years that it's obsolete and should be replaced with something more suitable for direct current LED lighting, but in the meantime, Sengled is putting it to good use, making it multi-task.
The company has developed a series of LED bulbs that do other things. For instance, the Pulse is also a Bluetooth-connected JBL speaker. Just screw it in and you have stereo sound coming out of your ceiling without speaker wires, power cords or batteries.
The Pulse Flex is WiFi-connected and will stream you Spotify or other music sources. You can put them around your home and each one can be a different zone getting a different stream (which on second thought could be annoying.)
The Pulse Boost is a bulb with a Wifi range extender built in; each bulb you add extends the range by about 100 feet (line of sight). In my own house, I bought a second Apple router to act as a repeater. It sits on a counter and takes up an outlet, but I could have just put one of these into a ceiling fixture.
The Pulse Snap gets really interesting. I wanted to stick a video camera on my front porch to catch a local vandal, but I would have had to remove a light fixture and do some significant wiring and setup. The Snap just screws into a socket and voila: a motion-detecting HD camera and floodlight complete with two-way intercom.
The Smartsense is a motion-detecting floodlight all in a single bulb. No more changing fixtures to get a motion detector; now you just change the bulb.
Finally, there's the very clever Everbright. It's not connected to a network but is simply an LED bulb with a built-in lithium-ion battery that turns on the light when the power goes out, giving you 3.5 hours of backup light at 60 percent normal brightness. It has a “smart diagnostics circuit,” which detects the difference between just turning on and off the light switch and a power outage.
All of these options are interesting because they're basically LED bulbs that do useful things on the side, sitting up there on the ceiling without wires and wall warts or taking up counter space. They basically use a dumb obsolete socket to provide power to do smart new things.
This is not the Smart House of our dreams, but simple and clever individual ideas that do smart things. “Sengled integrates consumer electronics with energy-saving LED lighting, creating products to that reduce clutter and expand smart home capabilities to every room.” They do it by building on top of existing lighting infrastructure, which is very smart indeed.