In response to user demand, Philips has added a slew of features to its Hue home lighting automation system.
We've written about Hue a few times already. The control system for home LED lighting is a product of Philips, sponsor of this site, and the company just announced a 1.1 release that fills in some of the holes in the 1.0 product and answers a few of the most common requests from its community of enthusiasts.
However, the largest complaint of all, often unspoken, got no relief. Hue still costs $200 for a starter set and $60 per bulb. That's way too much for any but an audience of well-heeled gadget fans.
The announcement did mention that new Hue bulbs will be available by the end of the year. Perhaps a price drop will be in the offing at that point.
Philips broadened the distribution channels. Hue is now available at Amazon.com in the US and in Apple stores in more countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, and some of Eastern Europe.
Early reviews of the Hue app were filled with comments that setting an alarm to control lights was not persistent; the timing information was not stored anywhere and any such alarms had to be re-issued the next day. Oh, and this feature didn't exist at all in the Android app, only on iOS. These shortcomings have been remedied in 1.1.
Switching between scenes (Philips's term for the settings for a group of bulbs) used to take a while in the 1.0 version -- commands would hopscotch from bulb to bulb across the ZigBee network. In 1.1 Hue apparently stores the scene information in each bulb, so scene changes happen in a synchronous fashion.
The Hue app on a smartphone now employs "geofencing," so that the system as a whole knows where a phone is and can turn on or off lights when the owner's phone approaches or departs from the house -- "all without having to even take your phone out of your pocket," Philips adds. Presumably the Hue app needs to be running for this function to work.
The most significant addition to Hue is integration with the IFTTT (If This Then That) web service. This makes it possible to control Hue lights based on almost any event that is known about on the web. IFTTT broadens the use of Hue's API from a small pool of technically savvy developers to just about everyone, and lets Hue play with all the other web APIs.
The examples given on the Philips site and elsewhere in news coverage seem to me like they could be a recipe for confusion. Let's say I program Hue to flash two bulbs red when the Broncos score a touchdown. My wife sets a timer to dim the lights when the kids' bedtime is nigh. Someone sets a timer to change the Hue scene in the kitchen when the cupcakes are done. Who was that who went on IFTTT and hooked up the lights to the weather forecast? Weeks go by. Who remembers what all those signals signify?
To reduce the uncertainty level, maybe Hue needs voice response like Siri: "Hue, what does it mean when the hallway lights go dim and turn amber?"
The Hue 1.1 update is available now for iOS and is promised by the end of the month for Android. You can find out more about the new features on the Meet Hue site and in the video below.
— Keith Dawson , Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting