I love LIFX. When I first purchased from them, they were renown for selling the brightest smart bulb on the market. Philips Hue have now taken that crown from them, but LIFX still sell a range of high quality smart bulbs with great color quality and accuracy.
So it has been disappointing to see various rumors about the financial health of LIFX (or their parent company) over the past few years. A bunch of their owner’s directors left in 2021, and in 2022 their parent company – Buddy Technologies – went into receivership in Australia (a bankruptcy process). This begs the question: are LIFX still in business? The short answer is…
As of mid-April 2022, LIFX are still in business; the corporate bankruptcy process is currently only affecting LIFX’s parent company, Buddy Technologies. But with a range of recent financial issues, it is worth keeping an eye on whether LIFX do become embroiled in these issues too.
I also discuss this topic briefly in a 1-minute “catch-up” video on YouTube:
But for the full story, please read on! I’ll start by recapping on who LIFX are.
Who Are LIFX?
LIFX are an Australian smart light manufacturer, launched in 2012 by LiFi Labs. They were a crowd-funded project initially, and for many years they held the mantle of the brightest smart light, at 1,100 lumens – although in recent years, other smart companies have recently launched brighter bulbs.
LIFX sell smart light bulbs, LED lightstrips, anti-bacterial bulbs and more. They are a fairly premium light provider, with their color bulbs often costing $35-40 – much more than budget brands whose color bulbs can cost as low as $10 each.
LIFX were then sold to Buddy Platform/Technologies in 2019, for a little over $50 million. Buddy Technologies were (notice the past tense there?) listed on the Australian ASX stock market, so initially people had high hopes that this purchase would benefit LIFX.
Rumors Of Financial Issues
Not too long after the 2019 sale, Reddit and other sources started seeing more and more people ask whether LIFX were having issues:
It seemed like people had three main concerns:
- Certain products had very low stock.
- The support team’s replies were taking longer and longer, with some people waiting over a year for warranty claims to be approved.
- Concerns about the financial news of Buddy Technologies, the new owners of LIFX.
Some of these issues were related to the pandemic of course (supply chain issues definitely impacted stock levels, and staffing levels were reduced too). But there seemed to be a concerning trend with LIFX nonetheless.
In April 2021, the ASX stock market temporarily stopped trading Buddy’s shares due to concerns about “inflated” revenues being reported by Buddy. This led to ASX launching a probe into Buddy.
Then in mid 2021, there was a concerning announcement about LIFX’s parent company (Buddy). The stock market’s investigation of Buddy (for alleged “inflated revenues”) led to three of Buddy’s directors leaving:
The $130 million industrial analytics and smart lighting company Buddy Technologies has lost all three of its non-executive board directors in a walkout amid a probe into “inflated” revenues by the sharemarket operator.
The three resignations are the latest challenge for the fledgling technology company, which was recently stung by a Chinese semiconductor supplier abruptly selling a big order to a different customer, leaving the ASX-listed company high and dry.Michael Roddan, AFR, June 7th 2021
This naturally isn’t ideal, especially when there’s talk of LIFX losing out on necessary supplies (semiconductors), which could potentially make their stock shortage issues even worse.
April 13th 2022: Parent Company ‘Bankrupt’
ASX continued to be wary of Buddy, and they wrote to the company earlier in 2022 asking on what basis they were a “going concern” – which is a fancy financial way of saying:
“Are you SERIOUSLY still able to be in business?!”
And then on 13th April 2022, various reports emerged that Buddy Technologies are in receivership:
- Receivers take control of Buddy Technologies (ASX:BUD) – The Market Herald
- Buddy Technologies shares unfriended from ASX as receivers move in – The Motley Fool
Whilst this is naturally a big concern for LIFX fans, there was ONE glimmer of hope.
How This Affects LIFX
The receivership statement said that this process applies to Buddy, but not any of the “subsidiaries”. In other words, LIFX can continue as normal.
This is great, because LIFX are fairly cloud based – you have to use the LIFX app to control your LIFX lights and bulbs. So if LIFX were shut down, you wouldn’t be able to control your expensive LIFX products (without exploring HomeAssistant or Hubitat, which I will discuss later on).
And a statement posted by a LIFX representative on Reddit also confirmed this:
We are happy to clarify that LIFX is not in receivership and ‘the lights are not turned off’ as sensationally and incorrectly reported!LIFX rep, Reddit, 15th April 2022
… The Receivers (FTI Consulting) are planning to seek offers for a sale or recapitalisation of the business, in the coming weeks.
That’s pretty good news, of course, but there are still some concerns. What happens if other buyers aren’t found?
LIFX can’t run indefinitely when their parent company has ‘gone bankrupt’. In the worst case, LIFX’s servers could be turned off – meaning that you wouldn’t be able to use the LIFX app or control your smart lights.
This would be pretty frustrating, of course, but right now (in mid-April 2022) this doesn’t seem likely. I will update this article in due course though, once we know more.
How to Control LIFX Lights Locally (If Their Servers Are Switched Off)
The big downside of Wi-Fi based smart lights are that they are usually cloud-based, meaning that when you want to control them, you need to use a smartphone app. When you click a button (to change the color or brightness), this request will head through that company’s cloud servers – before finally going to your smart bulb.
Naturally if the cloud servers are turned off, this process can’t occur – and you then are left with ‘smart bulbs’ that are less use than paperweights!
But thankfully some smart home hubs exist that allow for local control of your LIFX bulbs. This basically means that you have a device (or a bit of software) inside your house that can speak directly to your LIFX bulbs.
- HomeAssistant’s LIFX add-on supports all the usual smart bulb features (such as color changing and dimming), along with effects control.
- Hubitat’s LIFX support is a bit more technical, but all the expected features appear to be supported too.
These both support LIFX local control, which is great because if LIFX did turn off their cloud servers, third party integrations like voice control from an Amazon Echo will stop working. So knowing that HomeAssistant and Hubitat will still work is reassuring.
Alternatively, you could go out and purchase brand new smart bulbs. This might be expensive, but it could be more seamless than switching to a local smart home hub.
Alternative Products to LIFX
I personally love Philips Hue, and I tend to recommend them – especially because the Hue Bridge allows you to manage your smart bulbs even if the company ‘Philips Hue’ were to close down. This is because Hue uses ZigBee, not Wi-Fi, to control their bulbs – meaning that you’re not 100% dependent on a third party cloud server.
Whilst there are cheaper smart bulbs out there, Hue’s products offer pretty good color quality. You won’t feel like you’re massively downgrading by moving from LIFX to Philips Hue.
But of course, after paying $40 per LIFX bulb, it’ll probably be annoying to then have to pay extra $45 per Philips Hue bulb. There are various ‘budget’ smart bulbs available for $10-15 per bulb (such as Gosund and TP-Link Kasa), which will offer decent enough color ranges for a much cheaper price.
So if you’re planning to leave LIFX behind, there are many alternatives – from $10 to $50 per bulb.