The ‘smart light bulb’ revolution is upon us and there is perhaps no name more synonymous with the movement than Philips Hue. Paul Skelton looks at the latest extension to the range – Hue Tap.
“We want to take lighting beyond being just a light bulb,” says Filip Jan Depauw, the co-founder of Hue and the head of business development, strategy and marketing for Philips’ Connected Lighting division.
“We’re trying to make lighting more than a commodity device hanging from your ceiling.”
Launched in 2013, Hue quickly found a place in many homes where the cost of a complete automation system outweighed the perceived benefit.
Now, the company has released Hue Tap – a controller that offers users easy access to four preset lighting scenarios from a device that runs on kinetic energy.
WHAT IT IS
Hue Tap operates using kinetic energy powered by your touch. The energy needed to communicate with Hue is harvested. With each press of the button it creates enough power to recharge itself again.
Each of the four buttons can be programmed from the app on the user’s smart phone or tablet, whether it’s to set a favourite scene, or just to turn Hue on and off.
Before I could setup Hue Tap, I had to install Hue first.
Fortunately, in the box I received from Philips was a Hue Tap as well as a Hue starter kit, which included three Hue bulbs (all with E27 bases – but more on that later), the Hue bridge, a power cable and an Ethernet cable, which is used to connect the bridge to a WiFi router.
The box itself featured built-in instructions in pin-wheel form, which made the three step process even easier to follow.
The first task was to screw the bulb into the light fixture. The problem here is that Hue was designed in Europe, where Edison Screw (ES) fittings are more common than bayonets (BC) – which has traditionally been the fitting of choice in Australia.
Recently, though, the Australian use of BC versus ES fittings has shifted from around 70-30 to now being 50-50. And the majority of new luminaires in the market have shifted to an ES base type.
But, that doesn’t help me as all of my ceiling light fixtures are BC; and of the four lamps I own, only one took E27 bulbs.
Anyway, I screwed in the bulb, hit the switch and voila! There was light. Of course, to stop the setup process here would have resulted in a lamp with an expensive light bulb and nothing else. Where Hue comes to the fore is that it is an entry-level, consumer-friendly lighting control system. So I plugged the Hue bridge into my router via Ethernet. Three seconds later, the system was fully active and ready to go.
I downloaded the Hue app and hit ‘Link’ on the bridge. It discovered the device straightaway.
Up to this point, the only things that have taken longer than a few seconds were downloading the app and updating the Hue bridge.
The ease of this entire process so far makes we want to change the light fittings in my ceiling to ES fittings, just so I can have a lighting control system installed at home, without having to pay exorbitant prices (I’m on a journo’s wage, remember).
The Hue app comes with 17 pre-defined lighting scenes that range from the generic (e.g. ‘Concentrate’ and ‘Relax’) through to the more specific (e.g. ‘Ski’, ‘Blue rain’, ‘Jump!’, ‘Grease’), to the not-at-all-confusingly-titled ‘Kathy’ lighting scene (which, I assume, is for the times where you wake up a bit Kathy in the morning).
Aside from individual light control and timers, of particular interest to me was the geofencing functionality, which is great if you regularly get home after dark.
With geofencing, the Philips Hue system can turn on automatically when the user is crossing a predefined geographical boundary around his/her house. When geofencing is activated, the Philips Hue lights could also be set to all turn off automatically when the user is leaving the house.
Now that Hue is setup in my house, it’s time to turn our attention to Hue Tap.
Relying on kinetic energy, the Hue Tap requires no batteries. You’ll also never need to worry about power consumption again, which is an increasingly important consideration.
In the box is a Hue Tap device, double sided tape and some instructions. That’s it – but that’s really all you need.
Before you install Hue Tap, you need to update to the latest software on the bulbs, bridge and app, which can all be done through the app.
According to the instructions, to connect Tap, after opening the app you access the side menu and select ‘Settings’, ‘My Devices’, ‘Connect New Devices’ and ‘Switch’. Everything else is done automatically.
Then you’re ready to go, supposedly.
While connecting the Tap to the app, it says to select ‘Connect New Devices’ then hold down ‘Button 4’ for 10 seconds. That seems easy but after four attempts, it hasn’t worked.
Attempt six is the charm.
While annoying, this is the only ‘hurdle’ I faced during the entire installation and the result was taking a minute instead of 10 seconds. That’s hardly a deal breaker.
Once connected, the interface used to setup scenes is incredibly straightforward – it’s a diagram of the Tap, which you then use to assign commands. After setting up each of the four buttons, within a second the Tap was configured and ready to go and everything worked perfectly.
While the Hue system is far cheaper than a dedicated lighting control system, it’s not ‘cheap’. It does what it claims to do simply and effectively.
It’s not in the same market as, say, a Philips Dynalite lighting control system, but it’s not designed to be. It’s an entry level product. Integrators would best use this in entry level systems where clients can’t or won’t install a full control system.
As for the problem I had with not having ready access to ES fittings? Philips has announced that it will be introducing BC bases for Philips Hue in mid-2016. These bases will be available for both Hue Colour and a new range, Hue White.
Hue White Ambiance (tuneable white), which is scheduled for launch late 2016, will also be available in both an ES and BC fitting.