App-controlled LED lighting is quickly becoming a rage, and the Philips hue system going on sale Oct. 30 in Apple stores could be the coolest system yet, enabling you to change the colors of your lights and set scenes from a smartphone.
Starter Kit hue packages contain three 8.5-watt Philips LED lamps and a bridge that connects to your wireless router, enabling the LED lamps to be controlled by your smartphone. The LED lamps communicate via the wireless ZigBee LightLink standard, and iOS apps for control from an iPhone or iPad is available from iTunes.
Other systems that allow you to control LEDs via a smartphone include Insteon’s LED light, which enables control through Insteon’s SmartLinc hub, and recently GreenWave Reality and NXP introduced a networked LED that is compatible with IPv6 (new breed of Internet).
Philips’ hue may have the cool factor down, though, with an app that allows you to pick a color from a smartphone photo and easily program a room’s LED lamps to produce it. By controlling an LED’s white light scale, users can adjust the color of the LED light, either by photo selection or via the white light scale on the app. A web interface for programming lights is also available.
The app and hue system comes with four preset “Light Recipes” titled Relax, Concentrate, Energize and Reading. Users can save their settings and other scenes they set as well, and turn on and off lights while not in the house. Up to 50 hue lamps can be controlled by one bridge.
Is Smartphone Control Worth It?
I have been skeptical about controlling lights via a smartphone, especially single or individual LEDs. It’s certainly cool, but a simple wall switch is often more convenient. By offering a kit of three bulbs to get started and then more as you go along, a system like Philips’ hue could allow you to build your own LED lighting control system—and have some fun with creating colorful light palettes for your home.
Philips says hue is based on open standards and can be easily integrated with other ZigBee-based systems, such as motion sensors and home thermostats, for additional home automation. Software updates for the bulbs are done automatically via the bridge and the bulbs themselves.
Building on the company’s AmbiLight experience, Philips is developing future product features, such as allowing hue to integrate with other media including audio and video. The company is also working on features such as geo-location services, allowing hue to sense when a user is close to home and automatically turn on the lights, or turn them off when the user has left. Philips is also researching the application of reverse indicators, enabling hue to alert that the lighting has not been turned on during a specific time period, offering numerous possibilities around senior care.
hue starter kits will retail for $199 and are available at Apple stores nationwide on October 30. Additional bulbs will be available at $59. Philips says new bulbs can be added to the network simply by screwing them in. Though the cost of additional bulbs seems a bit steep, especially since a new Philips 100-watt equivalent LED will probably go for around $55.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates