What is Philips Hue? A guide to the indoor and outdoor smart lighting system

Lighting is a vital part of the smart home, and whether it's changing the ambience with your voice or having auto sensors in each room, Philips Hue can do it for you.

Philips was one of first companies to get into smart lighting, with the electronics giant's Philips Hue range offering lights which could be controlled over wi-fi using a smartphone app.

It has come a long way since it first went on sale and now the company now offers a dizzying array of options including indoor and outdoor lights and lighting strips. You can still control Hue lights with the app, but you also have the option of altering your lighting using voice control via Siri, AlexaGoogle Assistant and you can even use a conventional light switch.

In this guide we’ll explain what Philips Hue is, how it works and how to get started.

How Philips Hue works

Philips Hue is a smart lighting system that lets you control the lights around your home using an app on your smartphone or tablet.

Hue sells both individual bulbs and lamps for both indoors and outdoors. Hue offers three types of lighting: White, White Ambience and finally White and Colour Ambience.

Hue bulbs are connected using the Hue Bridge, which in turn is plugged into your Wi-Fi routerDespite this, it should be known that Hue can work without the internet. As long as the Bridge is connected to your router and your phone is connected to your home wi-fi network you’ll have full control over your lights.

For the traditionalists among you you’ll be relieved to know that Hue lights also work with a range of manual switches and remotes so if you miss simply pressing a switch you can do that too.

What can Philips Hue lights do?

By connecting all your lights together you can create groups of lights, create custom scenes and even have them alert you to messages, someone at the front door and more.

Groups

With the ability to control up to 50 Hue lights at once, you can divide them into groups or rooms depending on where they are in the house or garden.

These groups can then be collectively controlled at once or individually with the tap of a button.

Routines

This is where Hue really starts to shine. Routines are essentially instructions for your lights to behave in a certain way. 

The best example is waking up and going to sleep. Rather than having an alarm rudely bring you into the world the Hue app has a routine that will gently raise the brightness of the lights, mimicking the sunrise going on outside. Getting ready for bed? It’ll start dimming the lights and change their colour to a warmer glow – preparing you for sleep.

Combining the lights with accessories like the Hue Motion Sensor can take things a step further. Rather than stumbling around in the dark looking for a light switch, the motion sensor can automatically turn the lights on and then turn them off once you’ve left a room.

Labs

Labs is where developers can experiment, come up with new routines and then share them with you. Think of it as a App Store for your lights. One example is the Candlelight routine which turns all your lights into artificial candles, gently flickering with a warm glow.

Another example is the Cooking timer that lets you set a timer and then be notified by gentle blink of the lights in your kitchen. Finally there’s even a Nursery light which when activated creates a gentle light, bright enough for breastfeeding or a diaper change. Upon finishing it then automatically dims back down to being a nightlight.

Can Philips Hue work with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri?

Yes, Philips Hue works with Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri voice assistant. All three will give you comprehensive control over your lights using just your voice, from turning rooms on and off to even changing the colour or scene.

This also means that Philips Hue is compatible with the latest smart speakers and smart displays including Amazon’s EchoGoogle Home, Apple HomePod and more.

Amazon’s Alexa

Simply add the Philips Hue Skill to your Alexa account through the Alexa app on your smartphone. Now go to Devices and simply tap on the Philips Hue icon. You’ll then be taken through the steps needed to add all your lights to your Echo device.

Google Assistant

Open the Google Home app on your phone, go to your profile then tap on Set up device. It’ll then search for your lights and automatically add them.

Apple Siri

Open the Philips Hue app, go to Settings and then tap on HomeKit & Siri. You’ll then be asked to point your phone’s camera at the bottom of your Hue Bridge. It’ll detect a unique HomeKit code and everything will be setup for you.

Which Hue bulbs should I buy?

The place to start when buying Philips Hue bulbs is to pick a single room, work out which bulbs you need and then go from there.

Note: Hue lamps and fixtures are considerably more expensive than the bulbs, so best to work out if it’s cheaper to simply buy a smart bulb or replace the light fixture entirely.

White Ambience Starter Kit

If you're new to Philips Hue, this is  the perfect starting block. You get three standard B22 bulbs (screw or bayonet), a Hue Bridge for connecting them all together and a manual remote control.

White And Colour Ambience Starter Kit

This is identical to the previous starter kit but with full colour bulbs instead. With these you’ll be able to make full use of Hue Labs to create different ‘scenes’ and even match the lighting to the music or games you’re playing.

White/White and Colour Ambience GU10

This spotlight bulb can be bought in two versions; the standard White Ambience or the more expensive White and Colour Ambience.

Hue Go

This small but powerful colour floor lamp is a brilliant for wall-lighting and thanks to a built-in battery it can be moved around the home at will while still being controlled via the smartphone app.

Hue Play

The newest addition to the Philips Hue range, the Play spotlights can be used on their side around the home or placed on either side of your TV using the stands provided. 

Hue Lightstrip

Available in White Ambience/White and Colour Ambience hues and in multiple lengths, these LED lightstrips are perfect for people who want to get really creative with their lighting. You can place them just about anywhere and however you please.

Philips Hue Outdoor Range

Philips also has a huge range of premium outdoor lighting options including both wall lights and floor spotlights.

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