Philips is expanding its Hue Wi-Fi and Zigbee controlled smart lights with several very practical additions, which include a new Hue bulb, zero-power switch and light panel.
The Philips Hue family became hits with DIY home automation enthusiasts pretty quickly due to the bulbs’ ability to change colors via a smartphone app and because they’re just fun to use. (Read a review of the Philips Hue starter kit here.)
Now Hue is expanding its offerings with products that make the system a little easier to use around the house.
The first is a new bulb that only emits white light. It’s called the Hue Lux, and it’s dimmable like the other Hue bulbs (and other smart bulbs) but doesn’t do the chameleon color changing of the original bulbs. This should make it less expensive than the color-changing bulbs and therefore easier to add to a home. Not every room needs to be cast in green or magenta, after all. Hue’s original color-controllable bulbs cost $60 individually.
The next addition is the OneSpace, a luminous ceiling panel that essentially takes up the entire ceiling and emits an adjustable even glow over the whole room. Philips notes that the inspiration for this product came from science fiction author Isaac Azimov who wrote in 1964, “By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use, and ceilings and walls will glow softly…’’ In fact a lot of his predictions have come about.
Philips says the OneSpace integrates an LED light mesh with textile in a sound-absorbing material. It can be dimmed to the desired lighting level, but apparently, at least at this point, it isn’t color adjustable. At the moment Philips appears to be targeting commercial applications, but a color-adjustable version would be dramatic in home theater rooms.
The final addition, and the one which I’m particularly excited about, is the Hue tap. The tap is a wall light switch which extends the functionality of your Hue system by making it controllable without your smartphone. Even more—it uses essentially zero energy. The tap is powered by the kinetic energy of your finger when you tap it, so it needs no wiring and no batteries. I’m pretty amazed by this.
Users can program the buttons on the tap to run the specific color light recipes of their choice or cycle through favorites. Having a wall switch in addition to the app control means it takes fewer steps to activate your lights and makes it more likely that you’ll use the system often. This solves the main drawback of many new smart home products that rely only on an app for control.
All the new Hue products will be on display at the Frankfurt Light+Building expo March 20 to April 4 2014. The products are scheduled to be available this summer. Both the Lux and the tap require a Hue bridge or starter kit. The only product with a price at the moment is the tap which will sell for $59 (UPDATE: The Lux sells for about $30). I’m ordering one as soon as I can.