Apple’s take on home automation, HomeKit, understandably generated a lot of buzz when it was unveiled last year at last year’s WWDC. HomeKit promises to be an integrated, easy-to-manage solution for iOS users with networked devices — but the wait for approved products has been unexpectedly long. The delay was apparently thanks to a thorough certification process, but it seems the first wave of approved hardware is finally beginning to emerge. In early May, GE took the wraps off new color-changing LED smart bulbs compatible with HomeKit.
Like the other HomeKit-enabled devices that’ve been unveiled so far, GE’s LEDs support a few base features out of the box. If you have an Apple TV, you can control the bulbs over Wi-Fi or issue voice-based commands through Siri — but GE suggests a few more advanced uses in its press release.
You can set up notifications to avoid inadvertently leaving lightbulbs on, and enable geofencing for automatic adjustment when you arrive or leave home. The bulbs are also interoperable — Automation apps can control individual bulbs or groups of bulbs, or pair them with other devices to create scenes based on time of day, schedule, weather, or tasks. GE says the LEDs will play nicely with a wide range of intelligent devices, from ceiling fans to thermostats to garage door openers and more.
In addition to HomeKit support, the new bulbs ship with GE’s proprietary Align technology. It’s embedded software designed to “automate lighting according to the body’s natural sleep circadian rhythm,” and basically takes the form of a light-based alarm clock. As you wake up in the morning, bulbs with the feature enabled will produce blue tones that GE says “suppress the body’s production of melatonin.” Theoretically, that’s supposed to make waking up easier. The LEDs switch to an amber light “reminiscent of candlelight and campfires” during evening, a color spectrum that’s easier on the eyes.
Apple’s managed to rally an impressive number of companies behind HomeKit — ConnectSense and Schlage come to mind — but it remains to be seen whether the Cupertino-based company can manage to do any better than the home automation platforms that’ve come before it. Most other HomeKit devices are still “a few months out” from release, and the slow rollout has undoubtedly harmed the platform’s momentum.
However, with the unveiling of a revamped Apple TV expected in June, perhaps it isn’t too late for Apple to kickstart things in the smart home.
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