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Sometimes a piece of technology appears that has the power to truly light up your life. it doesn’t have to be another iPhone kicking off a smartphone revolution, but it can be something that simply makes your life more comfortable.
the Philips Hue is a remote- controlled lighting system for the home, using standard screw-fit lightbulbs that can be adjusted from a smartphone app. that control extends to brightness, colour and timing – you can set your lights to come on at preset times, or when you approach or leave the home, and even entirely remotely over the internet when you’re miles away.
in the Philips Hue light kit are three LED bulbs, and a control hub that connects by ethernet cable to your home router. Each bulb is conventional looking, with an E27 screw-fit end; that’s the larger screw type of the two types in common household circulation.
the bulbs communicate with the bridge unit using a wireless protocol called Zigbee, using the same 2.4gHz radio band as Wi-Fi and bluetooth. Each bulb can talk to others without the hub; they can create a mesh network whereby distant bulbs communicate and relay with a closer one, rather than necessarily to a bridge unit which may be out of range.
With the system set up, you can have three bulbs in the same or different rooms, although many of the preset lighting schemes use complementary colours so work best with the three bulbs in view together.
From the Hue smartphone app for iOS or Android, you simply tap on one of the preconfigured light scenes. ‘Concentrate’, for example, gives a vivid pure white that we found close to natural daylight, and serves well to reinforce light levels in dim daytime rooms, while ‘Energize’ takes this even further with a colder blue-white that’s said to boost your energy levels.
Moving into the yellower end of the spectrum, there’s the Reading scene, which we found has a good blend for most evening’s neutral lighting. And further again in the warm direction is Relax, for even more of the old tungsten filament effect, although to our taste it was perhaps even too soporific.
You can also blend your own choice of white light from an onscreen palette that stretches from chilled blue-white to warm yellow- white. the attraction for many users will be the rainbow of colours with which you can paint your room. Each bulb comprises three coloured LEDs, roughly corresponding to red, blue and green, from which you can mix just about any colour the human eye can discern.
blue shades are perhaps the least impressive as light output seems to drop off with cobalt type shades.
but make no mistake, the gamut of coverage is still incredibly vibrant.
used thus, you can even match the lighting to colours already in use, thanks to a colour dropper on the iPhone app. use this to collect exact colours from photos of paintings, furnishing or decor in your room.
Perhaps the biggest drawback we found for effortless use at home was the inevitable reliance on your phone or iPad. Compared to the real hands-on experience of toggling a switch in a known location on the wall, you must now hunt around for your mobile device, unlock its screen, open the app, and find the required page for adjustment.
You can still just turn the bulb off by its normal switch in a table lamp, for example. but when you switch it back on, it will revert to a default brilliant white at full brightness.
the timer function lets you set the bulbs to light at preset times.
to make this more comfortable, the lights will gradually ramp up to the preset brightness rather than abruptly switch on. it’s a very neat and useful asset, although even the initial lowest start point (5 percent output) could be lower.
taking the customisation potential further, you can set up Hue so that certain events trigger your own presets, with the help of if this then that (ifttt.com). Examples we’ve heard about include flashing bulbs in the team colours when your football team scores a goal, linked by RSS or news feeds that log results.
to use the geofencing facilities, you’ll need to set up an account with Philips and remain logged in with your smartphone at all times. this shouldn’t run down your handset’s battery, though, as the Hue’s geofencing feature doesn’t rely on energy-hungry gPS technology.
three bulbs are included with the starter kit, and more bulbs can be added. The bridge unit is specified to control up to 50 bulbs, and beside the standard E27 type there are now E26, gu10 and bR30 formats also available.
Verdict the Philips Hue has been carefully developed to be a useful addition to the home. With a little exploration of its possibilities, and some of your own creativity to blend it with your home, it will literally light up your life.