Bringing Light Home: The Philips Hue

It’s hard to believe that within the past century—which, all things considered, is a short timeframe—electric lighting has gone from being a luxury for the wealthy to a cornerstone of society. Today we take for granted the simple act of flipping a switch and illuminating a room, but soon the very act of flipping that switch will be a thing of the past. Since the advent of electricity, innovations have not stopped coming; now, in 2017, lighting has gotten smart. Very smart.

Philips totes its line of personal wireless lighting, Hue, as “the world’s most connected light.” Thanks to its advanced and intuitive technology, the company has created a line of energy-efficient LED bulbs that will work in just about any fixture without compromise.

When it comes to innovative tech devices, design is so often given a back seat. Philips, however, refuses to sacrifice in that area, and these bulbs are available in a variety of great styles, including strip lights that can be used as accent pieces. But while these may be handsome little creations, let’s move our focus away from aesthetics for the moment, because the true beauty of Hue is in its utility.

Like any smart device, connectivity is key, and these bulbs can be operated from either a mobile app or the Google Home. Much like the Amazon Alexa, Google Home is, in essence, a hub or portal to the Internet, through which you can aggregate and control all of the smart devices in your home — a smart attendant available 24/7 with the power of the World Wide Web behind it.  You can simply ask it things without having to find your phone to manually search Google; the Google Home will keep you informed of the weather, your calendar, email, and more, and it continues to improve with use.

The Philips Hue works with the Google Home under the umbrella of the Google Home app. This allows for the ability to achieve lighting that suits your home and your mood, all by providing simple vocal commands. For instance, in my own home, I’ve become accustomed in the evenings to asking Google Home to dim the lights by 90% when I’m watching television or relaxing. No need to worry about fumbling around in the dark or constantly adjusting a dimmer switch. Best of all, I can climb into bed and get settled comfortably, and then turn off the lights with a verbal command. I can turn all the lights off or be specific as to individual rooms.

The Hue also has the ability to change colour, and I love the ease with which I can alter the ambiance of a space. I love a deep blue light for watching television; warmer tones are good for keeping it cozy on a cool night.

I’m a big believer that home automation should not be a thing that requires effort. There are naysayers out there who feel that it’s cumbersome to have to give verbal instructions when, in some cases, you could carry out the task yourself in a fraction of the time. And that’s why I believe that the real beauty of home automation lies in a device’s ability to intuitively understand your behaviour. When a device has those kinds of capabilities and is properly programmed, it can be life changing for the homeowner. The Philips Hue offers just that, and the secret lies in its simple programming and accessories like motion sensors.

The sensors are, I would argue, the critical component of Hue. And while it might take some simple programming up front, there’s an undeniable convenience in having a lighting network that predicts your needs. There’s also a vital safety factor here. For instance, if a homeowner is away on vacation, the Hue can be set to turn on and off at pre-determined or random intervals to create the illusion that someone is at home. You can operate the lighting remotely via the app—a great energy-efficient feature—and you can set these lights to respond to your comings and goings. For instance, if you’re pulling into your garage after dark, the lighting can be programmed to come on when it senses movement. And while that may be the benefit of any motion detector lighting, the Hue can be programmed to initiate a series of events. Because each bulb is Wi-Fi enabled with its own IP address, it can respond to and operate in tandem with the others. In practical terms, that means that your arrival home on a dark night doesn’t just involve the garage lights turning on to greet you; that also means the hallway, kitchen, and bedroom lights can be programmed to turn on as well, either uniformly or at intervals, based on your preferred route through the house. A little more programming and you can have the music playing, the thermostat adjusted, and even some appliances turned on. The possibilities continue to grow with Google Home at your decree.

Essentially, these are DIY home automation products with professional applications. This level of simplicity in achieving complex automation is changing the game when it comes to interior design and, of course, home security. It is innovative products like these that work by degrees to help evolve daily life. Sure, you can turn the lights off and on manually, just as you’re perfectly capable of cooking food without a smart stove. But what possibilities exist with the time we’re saving? As technology gets smarter, we have more freedom to focus on the things that matter. And thanks to the Philips Hue, we can focus on those things while our rooms glow in the soothing colours that best spark our imaginations.