back to article Review: Philips Hue network enabled multicolour lightbulbs

The Philips Hue lightbulbs are the Internet of Things made real: multicoloured light bulbs with network connectivity and cloud control, with only the outrageous price preventing world domination. The bulbs come beautifully packaged in a three-light starter pack, along with a controlling hub. The bulbs fit into a standard screw …

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  1. Patrick 17

    Bit of a gimmick

    There's no need to change your light fittings - you can buy screw to bayonet adapters for about £2 on Amazon - they only add ~2mm to the bulb depth. I've had the Hue lights (I use with an iphone) since last year - they are a bit of a gimmick and I rarely use them these days other than as plain lights. I've got brick walls in my flat and the Hue router occasionally has trouble reaching the furtherest away bulb. The IFTTT.com site could make them a bit more fun though.

    1. Jedit
      Stop

      "There's no need to change your light fittings - you can buy screw to bayonet adapters"

      Most people I know who dislike screw bulbs do so because screw bulbs are much easier to break when being fitted or removed, and if this happens it's an absolute bastard to clear the socket for a fresh bulb. Bayonet adapters may make it slightly easier to remove the bulb, but they shift the problem to removing the adapter so you can reuse it. If you can't readily remove the adapter, having a screw socket adds £2 to the price of every lightbulb you buy.

      1. Annihilator
        Paris Hilton

        Re: "There's no need to change your light fittings - you can buy screw to bayonet adapters"

        "screw bulbs are much easier to break when being fitted or removed"

        Is that even close to being true? Having changed several of both types, and broken none in the process, I'd assume that the force you need against the spring to engage the bayonet far outweighs any on an Edison screw type?

        1. Jedit
          Headmaster

          Re: "There's no need to change your light fittings - you can buy screw to bayonet adapters"

          No. Glass can withstand a direct push against a light spring, and when you turn it to engage the bayonet it's a loose fit. Screw sockets grip the screw more tightly, and if anything causes the screw to stick you're suddenly twisting thin glass.

        2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

          Re: "There's no need to change your light fittings - you can buy screw to bayonet adapters"

          I've had both break, requiring pliers to remove the cap from the socket (yes, I remember to use the circuit breaker - I'm still here, right?).

          But I don't like screw bulbs because they tend to loosen themselves over time, until the light goes out when the bulb is still OK.

        3. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: "There's no need to change your light fittings - you can buy screw to bayonet adapters"

          @Annihilator

          Dunno who downvoted that, becuase you are absolutely correct. The really nasty bit is that when a BC bulb lets go when you're struggling to remove it, you are pressing on it at the time so you get the glass shards embedded in your hand.

          I've had several BC bulbs shatter while being removed/refitted and only one ES type (ES bulbs are far more likely to twist off their bases and come away in one piece well before the glass envelope is overstressed). The big problem with BC is that the sprung pins seize in place, as you would expect on anything sliding metal-on-metal and then left for years between uses while oxidation does its stuff on the surfaces. Having lived with each type for several years, I have come to the conclusion that BC is one of the worst pieces of fucking stupid design ever dreamed up by man.

          1. Nigel 11

            Re: "There's no need to change your light fittings - you can buy screw to bayonet adapters"

            For incandescent bulbs, I preferred screw. The problem is that the heat makes the plastic of the lampholder become brittle, and in my experience the bayonet holders are far more prone to breaking when you try to remove a blown bulb. Should be a thing of the past with flourescents and LEDs. Screw-fit bulbs working loose was probably caused by thermal cycling, so that is also probably a historical problem.

            I also wonder how long it will be before designers realize that if an LED bulb will last 25 years, why make it a replaceable unit? Isn't it better to integrate the low-voltage PSU and the LEDs permanently into a metal light fitting? The light fitting would also provide a better heatsink for the LEDs, extending their life and/or increasing their brightness.

  2. Shakes

    Android @ Home

    Anyone remember Android @ Home, which they showed at Google I/O 2011? They had smart lightbulbs there too. Guess it didn't take off.

  3. NightFox

    The Apple Store exclusivity of these recently came to an end - in the US Amazon are now selling them so I guess Amazon.co.uk (and maybe other retailers) will also start selling them too which will hopefully see prices take a bit of a fall - albeit the Amazon US price is currently about the same as the Apple one.

    Tempted, but I'll wait for that price drop thanks.

  4. nuked
    Thumb Up

    [...] presumably on the assumption that only iPhone fans are prepared to pay that kind of money for lighting.

  5. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Red Light Spells Danger

    you can have the lights turn a sexy red when the object of your affection arrives (assuming said object is carrying an iPhone, natch), but that's really only the very start of what's possible.

    Indeed, given what red light normally implies in such context it could be the start leading to a slap, getting dumped and depending on situation possibly divorce proceedings...

    And you'd of course be somewhat upset when the damn thing blew after two weeks...

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Stop

    Flick switch, light turns on

    Flick again, light turns off...

    FFS, lights are for *seeing* with. They're the single item of technology that removes us from the need to go to bed when it gets dark and get up when the bloody sparrows do. Anything that gets in the way of them making the place lighter is a *defect*, not an enhancement.

    I'm becoming really impressed with this 'internet of things' - so far I have not seen a single use that makes any sense at all.

    1. ukgnome Silver badge

      Re: Flick switch, light turns on

      £179.95 price tag or a light switch?

      Hmm I'm with you on this!

    2. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Re: Flick switch, light turns on

      I'm mostly with you, with one exception - there's a good body of research now that the brain responds to changing colour hues throughout the day, so that a decently programmed and very gradual phasing of colours can help you wake up, work, and wind down to sleep rather better than just a simple on/off of a harsh blue-white light.

      But is that worth £180 to me? Well, it might be if I had trouble sleeping generally, but as it happens that's the one thing I'm really good at.

      GJC

    3. Professor Clifton Shallot

      Re: Flick switch, light turns on

      "FFS, lights are for *seeing* with. ... Anything that gets in the way of them making the place lighter is a *defect*, not an enhancement."

      I can just imagine Mrs B. nodding in agreement as you share a romantic spotlit dinner.

      We see more expensive toys than this all the time on the Reg, expensive and frivolous it may be but it's got a geeky coolness too.

    4. Annihilator
      Pint

      Re: Flick switch, light turns on

      @Neil - may I throw in the dimmer switch to the mix please?

    5. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Flick switch, light turns on

      @Neil

      Mostly I agree with you, but there's a serious use for lights that are independently switchable or dimmable in order to light a room in an attractive or mood-enhancing way. Controllable colour though? No thanks.

      What would be useful (and may well already exist) is a way to control a collection of portable lights, that are powered from ordinary mains outlets, from a single location. It's useful to be able to switch all the table lamps in a room from the doorway, especially in an old house where the room height doesn't allow ceiling lights. But it's expensive and disruptive to wire up dedicated lighting outlets.

      1. JRS

        Re: Variation

        [What would be useful (and may well already exist) is a way to control a collection of portable lights, that are powered from ordinary mains outlets, from a single location. It's useful to be able to switch all the table lamps in a room from the doorway, especially in an old house where the room height doesn't allow ceiling lights. But it's expensive and disruptive to wire up dedicated lighting outlets.]

        http://www.homeeasy.eu/ or http://www.lightwaverf.com/ will do this for you with socket adaptors and stick on wall switches or remote controls. Much faster than X10 in switching, and can be disappointingly simple to set up. Possibly lacking in the ability to report a switch's state though (for more advanced automation).

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Variation

          All the remote control functions do is turn lights/appliances off/on (and dim). Only the Philips one has colour changing via network control (so far - I bet someone's already working on a version compatible with past controllers, and if you have the nifty IR-remote controlled ones a simple net-IR adaptor might do the trick)

          This is a good start, but if the THAT can take several minutes then it's TOO BLOODY SLOW.

          Oh and being Philips whizzy stuff, probably best avoided. They tend to make cool stuff that's annoyingly crippled in some area or another.

    6. Gene Cash Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Flick switch, light turns on

      Eh, my wireless thermostat has been very handy, but I had to write my own damn Android app for it because the manufacturer's one was total incompetent shit.

  7. Arachnoid

    blutooth

    Im surprised no one has come up with a bluetooth enable switch/light combination that does not require the usual mains cable setting in to the wall.That way you could mount switches wherever you wanted around the room and program them according to needs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: blutooth

      Umm... you'd still need power to them. Battery operated wall-mounted light switches just to avoid the inconvenience of wiring them in anyone?

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: blutooth

      There are X10 versions- they need X10 adapters for the power to the lamps though.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: blutooth

        It ought to be possible to produce a cheap version of powerline networking, with a bandwidth of a few kilobits per second, for the purpose of controlling domestic equipment. Get it ISO standardised, get the price down to a few pennies per chip, and build them into every appliance right down to the light bulb level. (Or into the ceiling roses or into bayonet to ES adapters! )

        Just give us a physical disable mechanism, so technophobes or safety-critical devices can't be hacked!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Odour sensor in the bathroom.

    When triggered it turns the light outside in the hallway brown?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So as a replacement for existing lights the Hue is a bit of a non-starter; at least, until our wall switches get connected to IFTTT (which itself needs to become a good deal more responsive), begging the question: what it is good for?

    Increasing your electricity bill?

    These always on devices, and standby modes systems must be a real plus if your in the business of replacing the revenue stream you're losing by businesses becoming more energy efficient.

    1. storner
      Facepalm

      No, they'll probably lower you electricity bill

      These LED lamps use next to no power - the Hue bulbs use max. 6 W when on at full strength. The stand-by power is less than 0.5 W per bulb.

      I replaced a bunch of ordinary 60 W lightbulbs with these, and the electricity bill has gone down enough to make the bulbs pay for themselves in 2-3 years (note that electricity here in Denmark is ridiculously expensive - about 25p per kWh, due to our politicians' fancy for "green" stuff). Sure, I could get some ordinary Philips LED bulbs at half the price of the Hue's, and still save a lot of money on the electricity bill. But being able to remote control them is nice - e.g. turning lights on and off to scare off the burglars no longer requires huge lumps of timers jammed into the sockets.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...am I missing something?

    Some people have waaaaaay too much spare time and money.

    I cannot fathom the point of this.

  11. Dieter Haussmann

    I think a more decor-useful range of colours using the latest fuller-spectrum SMDs would be better, as in pleasant shades of white.

  12. The Nameless Mist
    FAIL

    Risque

    So what you're saying is that when my mum turns up at my flat, if I'm not careful with the programming it will suddenly be lit up like a brothel?

  13. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Darn useful

    So once the missus - and her iPhone - is back home unexpectedly early the lightbulb can send a quiet email or FB message to the girlfriend warning her not to come tonight...

    O, and my best friend has an iPhone as well: better program the lightbulb to inform me if he and the missus are home and I ain't...

    The possibilities are endless... Off to write a business plan for my next startup then...

  14. JDX Gold badge

    I cannot decide...

    ... if this is totally pointless, or raises wonderful possibilities.

    I think quite possibly it is both.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    social network interconnection for a bulb

    What next? Give them a fag break, and promise not to make them slave away for more than 8 hours a night?

  16. wheelybird
    Meh

    Coloured lighting is great

    I have a couple of the Philips LivingColors lamps - they connect together so they have the same hue and they're designed to uplight - casting their light on walls. They're great; being able to control the lighting in your environment really is a great way of relaxing in the evening (or perking yourself up). It's highly effective psychologically.

    However I wouldn't buy these lightbulbs, certainly not to use in ceiling fittings because downlighting is too direct and not as relaxing. I know you could put them in lamps, but that's still not as effective as proper uplights.

    Add to that the inability to control them without a smartphone (or just switch them off and lose their only selling point) and these because expensive gimmicks with no real benefit.

    Philips should perhaps create a hub that controls the existing LivingColors range. That seems like a more practical solution to whatever problem this product is trying to solve.

    1. Annihilator
      Coat

      Re: Coloured lighting is great

      "downlighting is too direct and not as relaxing"

      Yes I've never relaxed in the midday sun... :-)

  17. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Meh

    Why not intelligent sockets?

    You could measure power consumption and lifespan of whatever bulb you choose to use. We could actually find out whether energy-efficient bulbs are saving us anything. With a temperature sensor and cloud-sourced data, we could get an answer on how badly overheating affects CFL and LED bulb lifespans.

    Depressingly, I think I know the answer: the manufacturers can make more profit if we replace the control module every time the glowing bit stops glowing.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Why not intelligent sockets?

      You don't need an intelligent socket to measure how wise an investment efficient bulbs are. You just keep a record how often you replace them and how much they cost compared to old-fashioned kind, and factor in the energy usage based on their Watt rating. A piece of paper and a pencil are quite adequate, or a simple spreadsheet if you want to be techy.

    2. John Gamble
      Boffin

      Re: Why not intelligent sockets?

      They're out there. Searching for Zigbee receptacles will get you a long list.

      There are also a few projects that have successfully gotten Kickstarter support that went with WIFI protocols instead. I've supported a few (and am currently using two of them, Twine and Pebble), and with luck the Ube outlets and switches will be part of my home set-up.

    3. Nigel 11
      Thumb Down

      Re: Why not intelligent sockets?

      The difference in wattage between CFL or LED and incandescent is so great that there's no way they aren't saving electricity. Less than is advertized, though, for two reasons, one of which you'd not spot with any measurement of electricity going into the bulb.

      1. CFL light spectrum is awful, and we compensate by upping the brightness. CFL warm-up time likewise. LED is far better and zero warm-up time.

      2. "Waste heat" isn't all wasted. In winter, part heats the room, and the rest the space above. If you eliminate this heat source, the central heating has to supply the noticeably missing part(s). And in UK homes, lights are turned on for a much greater time in winter than in summer (short vs. long daylight hours).

      Energy-saving bulbs make far more sense in the tropics, where they also save on airconditioning bills (i.e. extra electricity being used to pump the completely unwanted waste heat out of one's living quarters).

      Anyway, give LEDs a few more years' development, and they'll probably become at least as good as halogen incandescent lighting.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Controlling the lights from a smartphone also becomes an issue once the novelty wears off" Says it all!

  19. HairyCameraGuy
    Boffin

    Just read the article then remembered on Kickstarter are:

    Connected dimmers (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/702772580/ube-wifi-connected-smart-light-dimmer?ref=live)

    Hopefully cheaper version (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/limemouse/lifx-the-light-bulb-reinvented?ref=live) that address some of the points raised. But look quite good may 'wire' next next bedroom up like this.

  20. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Ceiling

    That's a quite magnificent piece of artexing there. Probably laden with asbestos, but a work of art in its own right.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can think of one possible use case

    When watching TV, it would be nice if you could set your mobile phone to watch the TV, determine the dominant on-screen colour, and set the lights accordingly. That might perhaps result in room lighting that enhances the current scene: green if in a jungle, yellow if in the desert, blue if flying a WWI biplane, etc. This could potentially work with both movies and games. However:

    At times a light can take 20-30 seconds to respond to a command, and the same command sent to all three lights can result in mismatched lighting while it propagates.

    It seems this technology is not the one I'm looking for.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Facepalm

      Re: I can think of one possible use case

      Or you could just buy a Philips "Ambilight" TV which does exactly that, only without the overly complicated poncing about with a mobile phone camera.

  22. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Network Connectivity

    I seem to recall some products from a company called Ambient (http://www.ambientdevices.com/) that varied color based upon some data received over a network. One of their first was a lamp that would change color in response to the stock market (DJIA). But this could be configured for individual devices through an on-line service.

    If I recall correctly, they had patents on this technology.

  23. Richard 12 Silver badge

    20-30 seconds!?

    So, rather useless and actually completely obsolete before even launched.

    We aim for 1/40th sec and usually get 1/30th. Have done for decades.

    We also have wireless and battery-less light switches for the last couple of years - fancy a sticky-back light switch?

  24. Arachnoid

    Umm... you'd still need power to them.

    Nope as all the Bluetooth switch would do is send a signal to the light/s to turn on or off,there is no need for a continually powered switch it would only consume battery power when pressed.Its the same with a standard wall switch it has a live and a switch wire,there is no actual need for it to be continually powered except the lighting works through its feed which is unnecessary.

  25. Squander Two

    Killer fact!

    Humans have spent the same proportion of GDP on lighting for the last three hundred years. As lighting gets cheaper, we just use more of it.

    This should mean that anyone who buys the Hue will stop using every other light in their house, and maybe disable the one in the fridge for good measure.

    1. John Gamble
      Boffin

      Re: Killer fact!

      I've seen this claim before. It never appears to be backed by actual facts (the last graph I saw "backing" this claim only went back five years). It's especially egregious since home use, street use, and commercial use are three separate animals whose needs have changed over the decades, yet we never see data distinguishing between the three.

  26. Infernoz Bronze badge
    Stop

    A rip-off + warm lights, are you for real!?

    I will not buy any Phillips lights now, because most of time they either disappoint, or like these are hideously bad value for money. No way do these need to be so very expensive, when embedded CPUs with multiple pulse modulated outputs, or DACs are dirt cheap, so they could even be dimable, and wireless is so very cheap too. The router should be no more expensive that a WiFi access point or repeater.

    There is no reason why any LED colour changing light can't change colour orders of magnitude faster than any filament disco lights; that is down to the Lamp CPU and the control channel speed.

    LED bulbs are so cheap now, and multi-LED bulbs are common, so this price stinks. At the very most this should be £20 per bulb (3 x 3W LEDs), and £20 for the router, DC bulbs could be even cheaper, so more like £80, not £180!

    As for uses, a light outside a toilet:; Green for free, Red for occupied, Yellow for free, but your really don't want to go in there! :)

    As for colour temperature: Orange lights are an affectation to stinky fire light, sooty candle lights, hazardous 19th century Gas lights, and horribly inefficient orange (poor colour quality) hot electric filament bulbs, still yellow tinged fluorescent bulbs, and halogen bulbs are not much better; so why still want inferior 'warm' yellow tainted light? You can get even hotter colour temperatures and even proper daylight colour temperature without Blue tinging; the later look a lot brighter and clearer, because I tried both, for a sensible price. For the most important areas I only use daylight colour temperature LED bulbs.

    1. Nigel 11
      Boffin

      Colour temperature

      Colour temperature is a stupid attempt to sum up a spectrum in one number. What you really need is a spectroscope. You'll then see that an incandescent bulb of any sort emits a nice smooth spectrum (which can indeed be derived from the filament's temperature). What comes out of a CFL is mostly green and all lumps and bumps, and what comes out of an LED is a rather smoother two-humped distribution with an unnaturally high amount of blue.

      Our eyes are evolved to work best with a single-hump spectrum a.k.a. sunlight. A halogen bulb comes closest, but is not as hot as the sun so it's a bit deficient in blue and violet. An old-fashioned "yellow" filament bulb generates less green and virtually no blue and violet, but the spectrum is still smooth.

      There's also mounting evidence that blue and violet light is involved in maintaining our bodies' circadian rhythms. Yellowish lighting for night-time use was probably a very sound non-choice, and the medical impact of switching to CFLs and LEDs may yet to be appreciated. If anyone is suffering from insomnia, I'd suggest it's worth a try to kick out all the CFL and LED bulbs from your house, and run halogen bulbs on a dimmer in the evening to suppress their blue output. Conversely on grey winter mornings, a full-on halogen bulb or even the bluer LED illumination may be a very good thing.

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