Smart homes are starting to become a reality - but not necessarily a cheap one.
Philips has today unveiled "hue", an LED lighting system that can be controlled using a smartphone over your home Wi-Fi
The system isn't only designed for security and turning off lights to save power. Instead, the light colour can be changed to create "light scenes" to improve the ambience - or, in the future
, to react to a game you're playing on your device.
As many as 50 bulbs can be used on one system - but that would be an expensive way to light your home. The starter kit with three bulbs and a router "bridge" to connect them is £179, while individual bulbs cost £49. On the upside, they work with existing lamps and fittings.
We spoke to Philip's spokesman Ronald Teerlings to find out more about the smart lighting system.
Q. How does the system work?
A. It’s an LED light bulb, and within the light bulb there’s a wireless system built in. It is an open, standardised system - ZigBee Light Link - and has a whole alliance with third parties and competitors, so everybody can get in. In order to transform the communication into something the app can understand, there’s a bridge in between, between one communication protocol and another.
Q. You’ve tested this with users already. What did they do with the system?
A. People have very different uses. Some people want to create a nice ambience, to have warm white light, and others want to boost their energy level, by using cold or blue light, and others would like to create a romantic theme. Others want to use it to wake up, so there’s an alarm [feature]... or you can fall asleep with a certain theme.
Q. How does it interact with the actual electrical system – can you still control your light from the lamp?
A. If someone doesn't have a smartphone, they can still turn off the light. It’s still a physical bulb, so it can always be turned off at the regular light switch. There is one disadvantage of course - whenever it’s physically off, we’re unable to turn it on using an app.
Q. It works with iPhones, but will there be an Android edition?
A. We’ll be launching through the Apple Store - they're our retailers - and it’s compatible with iOS, but we’re also launching an Android version tomorrow. It’s somewhat limited functionality compared to iOS, but we made sure that it is available to Android users.
Q. Developers can make apps for it – what will that be like?
A. The sky’s the limit. If you have an app, there’s so many things you can take into account – temperature or shaking [such as in a game].
That’s why we let the third party developers create their own, maybe even funny, apps, and control the light anyway they like. Currently there’s only one app available, and that’s the one from Philips, but we know there are third parties - which are aligned with Philips because the SDK isn't available yet - who are looking at advanced features.
Q. How long will the bulbs last?
A. It’s 50,000 hours, compared to a regular bulb, with 1,000 hours. These will last up to five years.
Q. That’s good, as they’re rather expensive. Do you think that will put people off buying this, or will the price come down eventually?
A. Prices usually will come down, but in this case we've made a choice to keep the price point at the same level and add features in as we go. That’s also one of the reasons why we chose a partner like Apple… we noticed in the Apple Store that people don't worry about paying €200 for three light bulbs, basically.
One thing we need to tell, or educate people, is they have a tendency to say ‘I can find a £50 lamp in a store, not just a light bulb’ – but usually the light distribution is not good, and it’s not an equivalent of the 50 Watts we do. [Our bulbs] are 8.5 Watts, but it's equivalent to the traditional 50 Watt lamp, which is way better than the cheap bulbs you can get in stores now.