Smart Home Automation: Avea Bulb & Avea Flare Review

HomeKit is the predominant home automation technology for all iOS users. However, what if your home is occupied by family members who prefer Android phones over iPhones? Cross-platform smart lighting solutions exist, but they typically require their own base station and additional configuration to get working. Elgato has created the Avea lighting products to provide Android and iPhone users access to technology that pairs and operates as easily as the Apple HomeKit does.  Read on to find out if Elgato has succeeded with this intent.

Related: Introducing Eve's Smarthome Ecosystem

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Unlike Elgato's Eve line of Homekit products that rely on a WiFi connection, Elagto's Avea line is based on the company's own proprietary protocol over Bluetooth. The advantage is that this automation does not rely on a local WiFi connection to pair and operate the lighting. The disadvantage is that the products only work with Elgato's Avea app and cannot be automated via Apple Home scenes. The app does offer a wake-up feature to turn on Avea lights at a specified time, but the app needs to be running in order to trigger this lighting instruction. This limitation may be a deal breaker for anyone seeking a more hands-off solution.

The Avea Bulb ($49.95) is a 7 watt, 430 lumen bright LED designed predominantly for indoor use, and its color can be changed to more than a dozen color presets using the Avea app. After connecting the bulb to a light socket and powering it on, you can pair it using the Avea app. Note that because Avea uses the Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy protocol, the iPhone 4 and older models will not work. The same Bluetooth version requirement holds true for Android devices as well. Once connected and in range, the light can be toggled on and off, brightened or dimmed via the Avea app on-screen controls. Using the app is intuitive with the exception of choosing a custom color, which does not appear to be supported in the version of the app I used at the time of this review.

As for the Avea Flare ($99.95), this self-contained lamp is a far more interesting, albeit more expensive, product. Because it can be charged via its removable charging base and operate wirelessly for up to eight hours, the Flare can be used anywhere your phone can control it. Whether you are using it in the backyard, on the beach, in a dorm room, or a garage, the plastic semi-flexible, semi-translucent cover helps to protect the internal LED bulb while evenly diffusing the light emanating from the Flare, giving the illuminated area a warm glow. However, since the sealed internal bulb within the covered base cannot be removed, the entire Flare unit would need to be replaced should the bulb break or fail. Like the Avea Bulb, the Flare operates via the Avea app using the same pairing and operating procedure. Unfortunately, that means the Flare has the same connection, control, and lighting limitations as well. Still, I preferred using the Avea Flare over the Bulb due to its wireless, weatherized operation and its softer glow. This made it especially nice for outdoor deck table lighting.

However, because Avea offers no bridge to HomeKit or any other home automation system, it quickly became a technology unto itself and I found myself using it much less as a result. While it did work with my family's Android and iOS devices, the lack of connected time events, chaining lighting preferences and schedules really kept the product isolated. As such, I rarely used the Avea Bulb and the Flare was employed for a couple outdoor late-night discussions and sat idle most of the time.  It might be easier and less expensive to obtain a dumb wireless lamp. While this cheaper alternative may not feature the ability to remotely control and select the lighting preferences, it ultimately delivers the same purpose.

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.