[13/12/2017: Updated to show the supported ZigBee Link Light standard.]
Smart lighting in homes have been around for a while now. Philips Hue has already gone through a couple of versions in its lighting system, and while it tends to be on the expensive side of smart lighting, it does a bright job! The Philips Hue lighting system is all connected through a hub, which connects to the cloud. It then lets you customise each light (or a group of lights) to a colour of your choice (or a range of colours) to suit the environment and mood. Plus this can be done all from your smartphone!
The Philips Hue system come in a starter kit (which contains 2 or 3 bulbs and a Hue Bridge) and then you can buy individual bulbs to add on to your collection later on if you wish. There are options to have the non-colour version of the bulbs too if you don’t mind having no colour in your rooms. You can add up to 50 Hue lights to one Hue bridge if you need. All the light bulbs are LEDs so you save power too compared to older incandescent bulbs.
Setup was pretty straight forward. Simply connect up the Hue Bridge to your router via an ethernet cable, power it up then download the Hue app on your Android or iOS device and follow instructions. I did have trouble trying to log in to the Hue app with my Google account so I ditched it and made a new Hue account with an email address.
In the Hue app, you can create groups and assign lights to each group. A group can be renamed to say “Bedroom”, or “Kitchen”, or “Hallway”, etc. You can control all the lights in a group at once, or control each light in a group separately too. There are built-in scenes that the Hue has already configured which you can choose to suit each mood and time of day. For example there is a “Relax” scene which dims the light a bit and changes it to a slightly warmer yellow colour to mimic the relaxation environment. Within the app is also the ability to customise set schedules for when to turn on and off the lights. You can set a group of Hue lights to turn on automatically when the sun is setting, and you can set a group of Hue lights to start dimming a few minutes before your set bed time to prepare you for your sleeping routine. I did have trouble activating the ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Leaving Home’ feature which can supposedly turn off all or a group of lights when you leave your home and automatically turn all or a group of lights on when you return home. It does this via location-based tracking, but every time I turn it on, go out of the app then come back in to the feature, it has automatically turned itself off. Not sure what’s happening there at the moment…
For my typical daily use case, they really only start getting its use when the sun sets, when the Hue bulbs turn on automatically when it gets dark at night. From there on, it gradually increases the brightness to its maximum for around 5 minutes as it warms up the room with light. Further on in the night they will do the opposite and will gradually fade out until it turns off, preparing me for my sleep routine, which usually just means going on the phone in bed.
Hue lights are also able to be remotely controlled (when you’ve signed in to your Hue account) wherever you are. This means whether you are 10km away from home, or even 7800km away from home! As long as you have internet connection from your remote location, and your home hasn’t lost power or internet connectivity to your Hue bridge, you can make it seem like you’re home even when you’re not.
There are also many apps you can get for your Hue lights, free and paid apps. IFTTT also has a few recipes created by individuals that make good use of your Hue lights. Some apps include making your Hue lights dance with you, dance with the music, change with the movie scenes, change to a certain colour when it rains etc. etc. I had to get an additional app to make the lights turn into disco lights, and I wish it came built-in to the Hue app.
For enthusiasts who care about the specs of the Philips Hue starter pack with colour bulbs, each bulb produces 800 lumens of light at 10 watts each. They are equivalent to normal 60-watt bulbs in terms of brightness. The Hue bridge uses just 3 watts of power and the blue lights do light up pretty bright at night, so I would recommend keeping it in a separate room to where you would sleep or where you want minimal lighting at night. In total, the Philips Hue starter pack would use 33 watts of power and the three bulbs would use 30 kWh/1000h. There is also the option to choose either the screw fitting or the bayonet fitting.
Philips Hue have also made their API free of charge and available to any creative individual who wants to make third-party apps for the Hue either commercially or for fun. It also works with Apple HomeKit and supports the lighting control standard: ZigBee Light Link.
The Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting is available from major NZ retailers including Mitre 10, Bunnings Warehouse, Noel Leeming, Home Concepts, and the Apple Store online.
The starter pack with 3 colour light bulbs cost RRP of $320.
For more information please visit: http://www2.meethue.com/en-nz