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Using the Philips Hue Lighting System in Your Home and Controlling It with Your iPhone or iPad

Jason R. Rich introduces you to Philips Hue, the world’s first LED home lighting system that can be managed and controlled using an Apple iPhone or iPad. Use Hue to create ambiance, assist in home security, and make your home energy usage more efficient.
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The light bulb was first invented in the 1800s, but it took until late 2012 for home lights to be able to change colors at someone’s whim, and for that same person to be able to have total control over a home’s lights using an iPhone or iPad.

The web-enabled Hue lighting system from Philips utilizes special, 600-lumen (50-watt equivalent), color-changing LED light bulbs that can replace any standard light bulb within a home’s existing light fixtures. Then, by accessing the Hue system’s Bridge device, which connects to an Internet router and a home’s wireless network, anyone with an iOS mobile device can remotely control each Hue light bulb that’s connected to the system.

While the concept of being able to turn lights on or off remotely is nothing new, Hue lights can emulate and display any user-selectable color (any color in the visible spectrum). They are designed to work in conjunction with each other to create extremely visual and versatile color combinations to set a mood or establish personalized ambience with light in a room.

The core Philips Hue Introduction Package ($199) includes three LED Hue light bulbs, the Hue Bridge, a LAN cable and power supply for the Bridge, and information about downloading the Hue app from the App Store, which is used to program and control the system from any iOS mobile device, either using a Wi-Fi or 3G/4G (LTE) Internet connection.

The three Hue bulbs that come with the Introduction Package can be used separately in different rooms, or multiple bulbs can be used in a single room to create custom light scenes (recipes) that can be changed instantly with a tap on the iPhone or iPad screen. Beyond offering the cutting-edge ability to display any user-selectable colors, or many different shades and intensities of white light, one key benefit to using the Phillips Hue lighting system is to lower energy consumption and in-home energy costs.

Each Hue LED light bulb uses 80 percent less power than a traditional light bulb, and the bulbs last significantly longer than traditional light bulbs. Beyond the initial three bulbs that come bundled in the Introduction Package, additional bulbs can be purchased separately for $59 each. Up to 50 individual bulbs can be controlled separately or together using a single Bridge device and an iOS mobile device.

Using the Hue app, creating custom-lighting scenes within a room takes minutes, and each light recipe can be saved and reused with a single screen touch (see Figure 1). As a result, you can give an entire room a visual makeover, simply by adjusting the color and intensity of one or more Hue light bulbs in a room.

Beyond just setting a mood, however, the Hue lighting system has practical purposes, too. For example, from the app, you can set up multiple timers and automatically set the color and intensity of each bulb. Thus, you can set Hue to wake you up with gradually brightening light in your bedroom, or set various lights in your home to go on or off at pre-defined times when you’re home, away at work, or on vacation.

Setting Up a Philips Hue System Takes Just Minutes

After purchasing the Philips Hue Introduction Package from any Apple Store, Apple.com, or directly from Philips’ website, setting up and initially programming the system takes just minutes, as long as you have a functioning wireless home network.

Begin by replacing any three traditional light bulbs in your home with the Hue bulbs that come within the Introduction Package. To create multi-color light combinations in a single room, use between two and five bulbs within a room. Or, place the individual bulbs into lighting fixtures within separate rooms, as desired.

Once the bulbs are inserted into light fixtures, turn them on using their regular switch. Each bulb will initially illuminate in a bright-white color. Using the supplied LAN cable, connect the Hue Bridge to your Internet router, and plug in its power supply. The Bridge will connect to your home network via Wi-Fi and seek out each of the Hue light bulbs that have been installed within your home.

Next, from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, launch the App Store app. Perform a search for the Hue app. Alternatively, access www.meethue.com/app, and follow the on-screen directions for installing the app onto your iOS mobile device. Upon launching the app, you will be able to control the color and intensity of each individual bulb; use pre-created, multi-bulb light recipes to create visually stunning lighting effects within your home; or create your own light recipes (see Figure 2).

Creating your own single or multi-bulb light recipe is easy, and it can be done without programming, by manually selecting colors and intensities within the Hue app, or by loading any full-color digital image into the app, and then selecting colors from that image for the Hue bulbs to emulate within a room.

For example, if you load a photo of a vibrant sunset into the app, you can choose different colors from that sunset photo and re-create them perfectly using the Hue bulbs, which results in you being able to display the same color combinations as the sunset photo using light in whatever room(s) you have Hue bulbs installed.

Tap a Vast Resource of Free Lighting Recipes

One of the more fun aspects of using the Hue system is the online community that Philips has created to support the product. Users from all over the world continue to create and share light recipes that other users can download and enjoy using their own Hue lighting systems via the MeetHue.com website.

Here, you’ll find creative recipes that create visually impressive scenes that can match any mood. Some of these recipes use between 3 and 10 bulbs to create, and use the timer feature within the app to create visually spectacular effects. The Hue app can store up to 90 different light recipes at once, making each accessible with a single tap.

In recent years, extensive research has gone into the impact lighting has on people’s moods. Using the Hue system, Philips has tapped this research to create specialized light recipes that are optimized for relaxation, concentration, reading, energy restoration, or mood improvement. These are all built in to the Hue app and accessible with a few taps on the screen.

More information about independent light therapy research can be found on these websites:

What’s great about the Hue lighting system is that it requires no programming skills and very little technical know-how to fully utilize all of the system’s features and functions. While the initial cost of the system and additional bulbs remains a bit high, over time you will notice savings on your monthly electrical bill due to the energy efficiency of the LED bulbs.

While Philips has created the core technology that operates the Hue system, the company has made the operating software open source, and has invited software and app developers to begin incorporating controls over Hue lights within various other apps and software applications. As a result, the Philips Hue system is compatible with industry-standard Zigbee Lightlink products. According to the Zigbee Alliance website:

“Products using this standard will let consumers change lighting remotely to reflect ambiance, task or season, all while managing energy use and making their homes greener…Products built using this standard are as easy-to-use as a common dimmer switch. The standard does not require any special devices to coordinate with the lighting network, making it both easy and intuitive for consumers to use every day.”

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a die-hard geek who enjoys having the latest gadgets and technological innovations at your disposal, you want to improve the lighting within your home and be able to alter the ambience within any room within seconds, or you simply want a more energy-efficient home that will feature lighting that can enhance your mood and improve your concentration, consider installing the Philips Hue lighting system into your own home.

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