Disclaimer: I work for Philips, albeit, not for the Lighting sector.

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a consumer electronics product. After reading a colleague’s positive feedback of the new Philips Hue LED light bulbs, I felt like I just had go and get one for myself.

And so, after a short detour to the Apple Store (no iPad-mini for me), I had me a sleek starter pack, which includes a wireless controller and three LED bulbs.

The box is Apple-esque in design, with a color wheel that you can (physically) spin to change the colors on the front of the box.

Open the cover and the same wheel tells you that you need to do only three things:

  • Screw in the bulb and turn the light switch on
  • Plug in the wi-fi bridge to your home wifi router
  • Download the app and follow instructions

I would have expected the QR code to take me straight to the iTunes store where I could download the app, but it didn’t. It took me to the Philips Hue website http://www.meethue.com, which would have been fine, except that it didn’t seem to be particularly well formatted for the small sized iPhone screen.

For completeness, here’s the QR that takes you directly to download the app:
Installing the LEDs was as simple as replacing incandescent bulbs, which apparently I will forget how to do since these LEDs are supposed to last some 15 years. Before all was said and done, I moved the LEDs around different fixtures in the house, all the while fascinated that they were lukewarm to the touch despite having been on for quite a while. I guess that’s what 8.5 Watts feels like.

Plugging in the wireless bridge to the wifi router was simple enough, and connecting the iPhone app to my Hue was straightforward:

  • make sure the iPhone was connected to the home wifi network,
  • launch the app, and
  • then press the big button in the middle of the Hue’s wireless controller (Bridge).

Configuring the colors was easy enough for my 3-year old daughter to do. She was so excited to see Hue respond to her actions on a 1st Gen iPod Touch. Eventually we connected two iPhones and the iPod Touch to Hue, so that any of us could control the bulbs. Let the light wars begin!

You can get fancy and schedule the lights to turn on or off within the next 24 hours using the App. However, I tried using the fade-in/fade-out option (3-min or 9 min), which didn’t work. The lights just turned on/off instantly. I believe I saw someone else report that bug online, so I hope it’s addressed in a software release soon.

Update: In the App, you can group bulbs together if you want them to have the same  color and intensity.

There’s also an online portal, but when I created an account and tried to look around, the server was slow as molasses. Not cool. And then sometimes I even got a server error:

I was eventually able to set up remote access to control the lights while I was not on the home wifi. The app asked me for permission to authenticate/connect to Hue through Hue’s web portal every time I open the app. Even then, I found the the response to remote commands to be hit or miss, meaning sometimes the commands were received by the lights and sometimes not. I’m not sure I am ready yet to trust the system to turn my lights on and off when I go away for vacation.

Overall Hue is an exciting platform and brings personal light customization to the common (wo)man in a DIY kit. There are still a few kinks (faulty fading alarms and web portal) to work out, but, hey, I’m an early adopter on this one. At 600 lumens these bulbs are a bit weaker than your old 60 watt incandescents, so Hue won’t be a one-for-one replacement for rooms where you have one powerful incandescent or CFL.

Personally, I can’t wait for the SDK to be released and to see the innovative apps that the community creates! What will you do with your Hue?

$199.95 from the Apple Store (link).

Disclaimer: I work for Philips, albeit, not for the Lighting sector.