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Smart lighting key terms explained: What to look for when buying bulbs, strips, and more

Direct lighting. You can turn it on or leave it off. And that’s it. But with smart lighting, your home lights offer a whole new degree of control and a broader range of capabilities. And to go along with that, there is a bit of a complication involved. Below is an explanation of the most common terms for smart lighting.

color temperature

In addition to a wide range of colors, most smart bulbs offer variations in white light, from a nice warm yellow glow that’s soothing for evenings, to a cool bluish hue that’s easy on the eyes if you’re working. or reading or doing something that requires intense concentration. If you’re not interested in completely changing colors, some bulbs only offer white light variations.


In addition to being able to glow in different colors and different types of white, most (but not all) smart bulbs are remotely dimmable. In addition to being able to turn them on and off, you can use connected technology to reduce the intensity of the light.


This is an app (If This Then That – that enables automation to work between devices. While many smart home systems and apps can use your location to provide automation (example: lighting up your Apple Home when you arrive), IFTTT can take this a step further: you can change your lighting if rain is expected; You can blink your Hue lights when your Alexa timer is up; Or you can set up a brightly flashing party mode.

equivalent watts

The energy rating of LED lights cannot be compared to the older incandescent types. A 5-10W LED bulb will be about the same brightness as an old school 60W bulb.

Wi-Fi smart lights

Smart lights that use Wi-Fi are the simplest to set up and use. This is because they don’t need a hub like Zigbee systems (see below), and they’re better than Bluetooth because they don’t need to be within that short range.


This incoming smart home standard will make it easier to use different devices together, and many brands are participating, including — somewhat crucially — Apple, Google, and Amazon. You will need a Matter hub; The latest Apple TV 4K and HomePod are Matter hubs, and many Amazon Echo devices have been upgraded with support. For Philips Hue to work with Matter, you’ll need a Hue Bridge.


It is possible to create custom scenarios where you turn on a group of lights at the same time, or some but not others. You can also set the lighting levels – and all this can be programmed to be automated at a certain time, or when a voice command is issued.

smart key

This is a physical switch that allows you to adjust the brightness of a lamp or group of lights, or turn them on and off. There are several options available, and which one you need to get depends on which one you’re on.


Thread is a fast wireless protocol that works in conjunction with Wi-Fi. It’s part of what Matter supports and is supported by many devices such as Amazon’s Eero routers and Google’s Nest range. Some devices like Nanoleaf smart bulbs are Thread compatible, but that’s less of a concern in 2023 with Matter in charge.


Some lighting systems use this open standard for wireless communication between devices, including Philips Hue.

Spiral light bulb, Credit: Giorgio Manenti on Unsplash
Photo credit: Giorgio Manenti on Unsplash

Main types of lamp fixtures


Before buying a smart bulb, check what type of connection the light socket takes. The “push and roll” bayonet mount comes in two sizes: standard (BC, B22) and compact (SBC, B15).

screw in

Threaded bulbs, sometimes called Edison fixtures, are fairly self-explanatory. Just twist them until they are securely secured. They come in two sizes: large (ES, E27) and small (ES, E14).


The GU10 fitting is primarily for halogen bulbs, but you can purchase LCD-based smart light bulbs that fit a GU10 socket. A miniature version, the G9, is also available in smart bulbs.