Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Fact Electric has bought troubled smart lighting brand LIFX

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A few years ago, there were two big names in the high-end smart bulb game – Philips Hue, which worked with a proprietary Zigbee bridge, and LIFX, which worked via wifi, no extra white plastic box needed. (We all know how much people hate hubs and bridges polluting their smart homes.) Still, the Zigbee-based Hue became the Kleenex of smart lighting, while LIFX went into receivership earlier this year.

However, there is good news for LIFX customers and for the smart home in general. California based Fact Electric intervened and picked up LIFX from the bankrupt Australian owner Buddy Technologies and says it will keep LIFX alive.

“Fact Electric will offer its current line of LIFX products and plans to expand the line of innovations,” Feit’s senior director of global marketing, Dana Knight, said. The edge in an email. She also confirmed that the full line of LIFX products would be produced and that Feit will maintain and build on the LIFX app and cloud platform. In addition, the LIFX Downlight is due out this year and new products are planned for 2023.

Initially a promising Smart Home Kickstarter success story, LIFX made a name for itself selling high-quality, super-bright, color-changing light bulbs that connect directly to Wi-Fi and are compatible with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. Founded in 2012, the same year that Philips Hue was launched, the company was full of ideas and quickly expanded into different types of light bulbs and light strips, even developing a competitor for Nanoleaf light panels.

But by 2020, LIFX was very much lacking in execution. Hardly any of the products LIFX announced at CES that year entered the market, the light panels disappeared, and we haven’t seen anything from them since. But with this purchase, we now know that new LIFX bulbs are on the way.

LIFX’s color-changing light bulbs offer brightness of up to 1,100 lumens.
Image: LIFX

Fact Electric is a global lighting brand that you may not have heard of, but whose products you probably own. It is a major supplier of virtually every type of light bulb and lighting fixture (including smart bulbs that work over Wi-Fi). The products are ubiquitous in stores such as The Home Depot, Costco, and Lowe’s. “Our strength at Feit Electric lies in the robustness of our supply chain, our understanding of manufacturing and our relationships with a long list of US retail pillars,” Knight said — something that should help with LIFX’s ongoing distribution problems.

Feit’s own smart home products will remain separate from LIFX, and Knight said the company will continue to develop both platforms (LIFX and Feit). “LIFX remains its own line that stands out for the superior user experience that the custom platform enables,” she said.

A LIFX Representative confirmed the acquisition on an active LIFX Reddit forumwhere many users had complained about cloud connectivity issues in recent months and expressed concerns that their lights were on the way to obsolescence.

The post assured existing customers that Feit Electric would continue to support LIFX product owners worldwide. “We hope this move will reassure the brand of users and customers who have been nervous in recent months about the continuity and continuation of the LIFX experience and ecosystem,” wrote the anonymous contributor. Fact’s Knight attached to The edge that most of the Australia-based LIFX team would continue to work with LIFX.

While LIFX has built a reputation for quality products and tried a number of innovations (there is this infrared night vision light, and who can forget the germicidal light bulb?), the smart lighting market is much more thoroughly saturated than when the company started 10 years ago. There are hundreds of Wi-Fi powered, color-changing smart bulbs available on Amazon for far less than LIFX cost; to be A19 color bulb is $35. Meross sells you a four-pack for $50 (and yes, they work with HomeKit too).

There’s also the upcoming smart home standard Matter to contend with, which promises to make any device work with any platform. That negates one of LIFX’s main selling points: HomeKit compatibility. Knight confirmed that the plan is to support Matter in both LIFX and Feit Electric products. “Like everyone else, we’re looking at which products need hardware changes to support etc. Not all will be backwards compatible,” she said. “But we are aligned with the goal and mission of the project.”

But Fact will have to lean hard on that promised innovation front if it’s going to revive LIFX’s fortunes. While the demand for Philips Hue’s expensive products shows the need for advanced smart lighting, it needs to be backed up with both a reliable and innovative platform.

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