When people decide to get into home automation, they usually start simple with just an iOS app-controlled switch or a controllable LED bulb. But the problem with the LED bulbs is that they can tie a homeowner into a specific home automation ecosystem or require multiple apps to control different devices. Cree is a manufacturer of LED bulbs and has just released the Cree Connected LED Bulb (US$14.97 each) that provides compatibility with numerous existing lighting hubs.
The bulbs are desgined to replace standard 60W incandescent bulbs, using just 11W of power to provide 815 lumens of brightness. They also have an incredible lifetime: 25,000 hours. But the compatibility factor is what makes this low-cost connected bulb so compelling. At the present time, the Cree Connected Bulb is compatible with Zigbee Light Link certified hubs such as the one for Philips Hue, the WeMo Link Hub, and GE Link. It's also compatible with the $50 Wink Hub and Wink Relay Touchscreen Controller. All of those hubs have their own iOS apps.
What does this all mean? You have a plethora of existing iOS apps that can be used to control these bulbs. For example, I have a WeMo Link Hub already, so I can use the WeMo app to control the Cree Connected bulbs. If you're a fan of the Wink-controlled home automation products (Aros Air Conditioner, Egg Minder, Spotter, and more), you can use your existing app to turn lights - singly or in groups - on and off.
I tried the Cree Connected Bulbs out with my WeMo Link Hub just to test the compatibility, and unfortunately things were a bit on the shaky side. The WeMo Link Hub connected immediately to one of the bulbs, and I was able to add it to my list of WeMo devices to control. However, two other bulbs - one that was about 10 feet away from the working one and one located in an outside fixture - would not show up when I searched for them and I wasn't able to control them until they were moved much closer to the hub.
That's more of an indictment of the range of the WeMo Link Hub than it is of the Cree Connected Bulbs; you may wish to try the Wink Hub, but if you're already using The WeMo app, that means you'll have to add yet another hub and app... which makes me yearn for an overriding standard to rule all home automation devices. Could it be HomeKit? Maybe we'll find out this year.
If you're considering getting into iOS-powered home automation or just planning on replacing your power-hungry incandescant bulbs or environmentally-disastrous CFLs with energy efficient LEDs, the $15 Cree Connected Bulbs and a Wink hub (available for $39.25 on Amazon) are probably your least expensive option.