On our most recent IoT Podcast episode, Clarissa left us a voicemail asking for a smart home product that you’d think would be readily available. Unfortunately, programmable holiday LED strip lighting for the outdoors are relatively hard to come by.
After doing the research, here are the few options that Stacey and I found, with a heads up that most of them are quite expensive.
We remembered that illumi, which started as a Kickstarter project, offers programmable light strips that are outdoor rated. However, we’re concerned about recommending them because we haven’t heard much from or about the company for some time. The illumi website is still online and if you want to purchase the 2-meter starter kit that’s Bluetooth compatible, it will cost you $90. That’s a lot of money for not a lot of lights. We don’t see the 1-meter extension strips available from the company, either.
Philips Hue offers a similar light strip for the outdoors and the starter kit is the same $90. Since this is a brand we don’t expect to go away anytime soon, it might be the better option with one caveat: All of the lights on a single 2-meter strip have to be the same color, meaning each bulb is not individually accessible for customization. Additional strips can be connected and Philips Hue does sell a 5-meter strip for $160 if you need longer lengths. You’ll need a Philips Hue bridge for these, so add $60 if you don’t already have one.
LIFX is another brand we recommend, and for $90 — I’m sensing a theme here — it has the Z LED Strip Starter Kit with a 2-meter length that uses traditional Wi-Fi for connectivity. You can connect up to five strings and while these don’t have individually addressable bulbs, each strip does have eight “zones”; each one can be a different color. Note that as of the time of writing, these are sold out on the LIFX site. Additionally, there’s no mention of any outdoor ratings on the product page.
From a traditional LED bulb perspective, there are some other products that could work in this situation and they’re generally less expensive.
First up is the Lumenplay Light Kit, which provides 24 bulbs on a 4-foot string for around $25. Multiple strings can be connected to extend the lighting and each bulb is individually addressable for total customization control. The downside is that you use a companion app over Bluetooth to modify the lighting colors, so you need to be in close range of the bulbs when controlling them.
A second option impressed Stacey so much – on paper, at least! – that she ordered them right before our podcast. Twinkly makes a number of smart LED bulb strings that range in length and price. Stacey purchased the 225 bulb set for $168, but if you don’t need that many, you can get smaller strands of 175 lights for $129. If you need more, $290 gets you a 400-bulb strand.
The Twinkly products connect to your Wi-Fi network, so the range is likely less of an issue compared to the Lumenplay. There is a companion app as well, and it offers “spatial positioning” of lights through some smart camera tech. This allows the app to map out where each individual bulb is, making it helpful to get a 3-D like view for controlling colors. If you’re just stringing lights along a wall or fence, you probably won’t use this feature. But if you wrap the lights around an object, say a tree, it could be handy.
As an added bonus, you can control the Twinkly lights by voice with Google Assistant. And you can set an effect that makes your many colors roll through the strips in a wave-like pattern.
To hear Clarissa’s question in full, as well as our discussion, tune in to the IoT Podcast below.