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Smart light bulbs were one of the first smart products on the market, and as such, the first foray most of us had into the smart home. The number of brands that now offer bulbs is extensive, and your option for size and style of those bulbs has also expanded from the simple A19 or can light to grow bulbs, stylish retro options, and holiday lights. But the biggest leap over the past year is how many brands are now diving into smart fixtures, and beyond. Two new releases this month—the Nanoleaf Skylight and the Aqara Ceiling Light T1M—really nail the message home: smart fixtures are here, and they’re not going away. If anything, they signal a shift toward more essential home features.

Smart devices are beginning to focus on end points

Both Nanoleaf and Aqara have LED light strips you can use as architectural lighting detail around the home, and they can expand on your smart lighting scheme. But the move to essential lighting, away from decorative lighting, indicates where the industry is going.

This also follows a trend in the last year to focus less on start points, like smart plugs and bulbs, and more on end points. Why bother with the bulb when you can make the entire fixture smart and skip the need for disposable bulbs altogether.  There are now smart ceiling fans, smart windows—and, as we recently covered, smart doors. 

Smart technology baked into the home’s utilities

Although we still think of the “smart home” as a series of neat but inessential features—smart blinds that raise and lower, or a washer and dryer that are connected—the latest wave of smart tech speaks more to the essentials of a home. A scroll through the award winners at the International Builders Show, held in late February, shows a focus on how smart tech can integrate and benefit you and your home. For instance, the overall winner was a smart solar shingle that integrates with your “dumb” shingles, and Watercube, a smart water system for homes. The Masonite M-PWR smart door was also a winner; IBS’s interior awards almost all went to smart switches.

The “plug and play” smart home

The International Builders Show also shined a spotlight on the growing “plug and play” smart home: the home you move into will already be fully loaded with smart tech, and the power to control it is transferred to you. It’s not just for home owners, either: Developers are taking the smart tech that has controlled how tenants access buildings, parking, and various amenities to their single-family offerings.  Of course, the process of transferring administration of the smart home from one person to the next has been productized. Cox Communications made some news at the show talking about Cox Communities, an offering that will marry Cox Communications high speed network with plug-and-play smart home systems. 

A few months ago at CES 2023, Home Depot unveiled their own smart-home platform, specifically designed for all the home appliance brands under the Home Depot umbrella. I noted then that their platform, too, like a “middle man” to deliver the smart home services you could easily leverage on your own.

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