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GE plans to support Apple HomeKit with new smart bulbs

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GE is making smart light bulbs for Apple's HomeKit. Today, the company revealed its plans for color-changing LED bulbs that are compatible with the smart home system, which was announced last year as part of iOS 8. This means that people who buy the bulbs can command them via iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. (The Apple Watch, a prime remote control device, isn't specifically mentioned here.) Users can control bulbs either individually or in groups and pair them with other HomeKit-compatible smart devices — GE mentions sensors, thermostats, window shades, ceiling fans, garage doors, and locks.

GE started producing smart light bulbs last year, following the lead of products like the Philips Hue, and the HomeKit-compatible ones will use its existing Align technology. Align is one of several lighting systems that claim to undo the damage modern electronics have wrought on our sleep patterns. Announced in March, the Align bulbs currently come in morning and evening variants with, respectively, a blue and orange tinge. The new smart bulbs will presumably eliminate the need to buy both, and HomeKit will let users automate the change.

Several HomeKit-enabled products were announced at CES — including locks, power strips, and light bulbs — though the system still seemed a little rough at that point. As they roll out this spring, these devices should be able to accept direct commands over a local Wi-Fi network, follow an automated pattern, or let users control them via Siri from outside the home, using an Apple TV as a hub. While there are a number of smart devices on the market, it's proved difficult so far to link them together, no matter how many standards companies have tried to create. GE's smart bulbs, for their part, will be available "later this year."