First Look

Premises Automation: Lighting with the Philips Hue system

The Philips Hue system is, by far, the best premises automation system for lighting I've tested so far

hue starter pack threebytwo

Philips Hue Starter Kit

Credit: Philips Hue

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to check out a number of premises automation systems and the latest is the Philips Hue lighting system.

hue bulbs Philips Hue

Philips Hue system components

Hue LED lights are remarkable. The standard screw base A19 bulbs consume a maximum of 9W and have a lifetime of 15,000 hours. They communicate via the Zigbee networking system and are software upgradable. Light output is 600 lumens at a color temperature of 4,000K (that’s 60 lumens per Watt) dropping to 550 lumens at 6,500K. Best of all, they can produce all shades of white or any of 16 million colors and can be commanded to dim to anywhere from 100% to 5% or switched off (whether they work with traditional dimmers is a rather hit or miss issue). Philips also offers BR30, GU10, and PAR16 style bulbs as well as LED light strips.

hue table lightstrips Philips Hue

Philips Hue Lightstrip

The Hue Starter Kit consists of three A19 Hue lightbulbs, a Hue bridge which connects the lightbulbs to your network and can handle 50 bulbs, a power adapter for the bridge, and an Ethernet network cable. 

Set up is ridiculously easy: You connect the bridge to your Ethernet network, plug the power adapter in, put the  bulbs in whichever fixtures you please, install and run the free iOS or Android app, then configure your lights.

hue app Philips Hue

Philips Hue app

Lights can be named, scenes saved, and schedules to execute scenes defined. Better still, the Philips Hue system is open (a big plus because it allows for integration with other control systems) and you can control it through a local REST-based Web interface provided by the bridge (another big plus because it allows easy application integration and works when your Internet connection is not available). You can also remotely control the Hue system via the free Myhue portal.

Because the Hue system is open and Philips has actively encouraged developers to build compatible apps some interesting tools are available to manage Hue-based lighting systems. The bridge actually provides an interactive form to test and execute any of the commands it supports. 

hue clip api debugger 0 Philips Hue

Hue ineractive debugger on the Hue bridge

I mentioned how the Hue system can be controlled even in the absence of an Internet connection but this control goes further than just manipulating the lights on demand as the bridge stores scheduled scenes and can executed them without referring to any online service or local app.

Philips Hue is, by far, the best lighting system I’ve tested so far; it’s flexible, open, and simple. At around $180 for the Hue Starter Kit and  $60 for a single A19 Hue bulb it’s also great value considering that you’ll use less electricity than conventional bulbs and Hue bulbs have a much longer lifespan. The Philips Hue lighting system gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

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