What is Philips Hue? How to control your home lighting using your phone

Put your home lighting in the palm of your hand and help it enhance your mood using Philips’ Hue connected lighting system.

Buying a light bulb has traditionally been a matter of choosing the wattage, colour and energy-efficiency, taking it home and plugging it into the socket.

But as internet-enabled devices start to fill every corner of our homes - what’s called the internet of things - the humble light bulb is about to undergo a radical transformation.

[Read more: How the Connected Home will change the way you live]

By adding intelligence to your home’s network of lamps and lights, you can use connected lighting to complement your changing mood, help you feel relaxed or energised, let you know when it’s time to get up or even if tell you if you’ve got an email - and best of all, you can control it from the palm of your hand.

What is Philips Hue?

In 2012 Philips introduced a connected lighting system called Hue. The Hue system consists of internet-enabled bulbs, lamps, lightstrips and motion sensors. It connected to your home wi-fi using a bridge and you control it wirelessly using the Philips Hue smartphone app.

What do connected lightbulbs do?

The Philips Hue app lets users control up to 50 Hue light bulbs so you could change their colour (there are 16 million colours via the app), alter the light temperature, wake you up, turn on at a specific time (so they are on when you come home), set light schedules or function as a timer, all from your tablet or smartphone.

What’s really clever about the Hue range is that they can connect to other devices so that a flashing light flash or a change in colour takes on a new significance. Connect your Philips Hue to your Amazon Echo or Google Home and you can control lights using your voice. It works with Nest products too - use your Nest Cam to turn off lights when you leave a room or as a security light.

Using the Philips Hue channel on IFTTT (see below), you can programme Hue devices to work with other apps.

For example if it begins to rain the lights will change blue, if you are tagged in a Facebook status or receive an email from a specific address the lights blink and it can even connect to the ESPN app to flash when your team scores.

As well as being controlled by the official Philips Hue app, the Hue range is compatible with third-party apps that allow them to do many different things.

Philips claims there are currently 150 compatible apps, which let you do things like turn the lights on on when you enter your house (iConnectHue) or even provide a mobile disco (Amblify).

Convo Lights app

An app called Convo Lights (above) has been especially created for deaf people, and enables them to ‘hear’ through light. A light can be activated when a call comes in and the app can even create personalised light ringtones for individual callers.

Russ Stein, who is deaf and owns a pizzeria in San Francisco, believes the app has made a huge difference to his business. Prior to using the app he was missing 50% of calls, but now that’s down to just 5%.

Jarrod Musano CEO of Convo believes connected lights will have the potential to change the lives of those with hearing difficulties.

“Deaf culture has found something which is both visually beautiful and endlessly customisable in Hue – a truly meaningful innovation,” she said.

“The response from the deaf community has been overwhelmingly positive, and this is only the beginning.”

What internet of things devices does Philips Hue work with?

Philips Hue is compatible with a range of devices and systems including: Amazon Alexa, Bosch Smart Home, Google Assistant, Nest, Xfinity Home and the Logitech Harmony remote.

How much does Philips Hue cost?

BT Shop sells a range of Philips Hue products including: The Philips Hue White Starter Kit (£59) and the Philips Hue LightStrips (£59.98).

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