I awoke Saturday morning with a crisp virtual coupon from Best Buy siting in my Gmail box. Apparently, my last trip through Best Buy had netted me a $30 coupon. Having absolutely no need to buy a damn thing, I headed to my local shop to find a worthy item to spend that hard earned reward on. Ever in search of devices to add to my network, I had heard about these new wifi enabled lightbulbs from Philips. People that had hands on use claimed that they were "addictive", and that idea intrigued me. They were lightbulbs...how addictive could they be? I went to the shelf and found two boxes left on a otherwise very barren shelf. Looking at the labels I could tell that it had been full, or at least designed to be full at some point. Interesting...
Quite honestly I had a bit of sticker shock at this point. The retail price was $199 for the starter kit. In the kit were three bulbs, and the base station. After doing some research via my iPhone, I found that they were only available at Apple Stores. I suspect that Best Buy has access to them due to their relationship with Apple. Against my better decision making capabilities I pulled the trigger and walked out with my new toy.
Once home I identified the three lamps that would get these bulbs. A floor lamp in the living room, a table lamp in my bedroom, and my desk lamp were the lucky winners of these $60 a piece bulbs. Once they were installed I went to my wireless router and installed the base station. (note: I had to unplug my sony bluray player from being directly connected...I see a new gigabit switch in my future) Once the base station was plugged in to the router I pressed the one button on the unit, it blinked a couple times and then went solid.
Last preparatory step was to download the Philips branded app from the iTunes app store. It's probably important to note that there were several choices of apps that appeared capable of controlling these bulbs. Some were free and some were not. I must go back and play with them later.
At this point the app came up and showed me three bulbs in a settings menu. I touched bulb 1 and the light in my bed room started to flash. Now knowing which one that was, the app let me rename the light, and then worked through the two remaining bulbs. Now that they were a little easier to identify, I began working my way through the various menus in the app.
First up were the "Scene's". This menu was somewhat confusing. There were pictures with names that seemed to indicate specific kinds of emotions. "Feet Up", "Jump", "Blue Rain", were just some of the default scenes that I could choose from. I clicked on Feet Up and my whole apartment turned the color of a crushed Smurf. So that was unexpected. I clicked the pencil icon in the upper right corner of the scene and a picture of some feet on a stool wearing rainbow socks was shown. Each lightbulb was identified using a icon similar to a small map pin on the image. The interface allowed me to move the pin around to various places on the image and the light that the pin represented changed its color to match the color on the image. (the pin itself would change color to give an indication of what the setting would do) As you moved the pins the lights kept up with the changes in real time. In addition, there was a brightness slider on the bottom. After playing around with this interface I found that I could change the color and brightness of each light independently. When exiting it would save the settings and I now had a one click button to set each of the three lights to a unique color and brightness setting.
When in the edit screen for a scene I noticed four icons across the bottom of the interface. The first was a clock that allowed a "alarm" type feature. Fundamentally, you could program the lights to turn on and/or off at specific times. You had granular control of the days of the week that the alarm was activated, and you could also enable a "Fade" option that would either turn them on or off over a 3 or 9 minute period of time. Next to the alarm was a timer option. Similar to the alarm it had the fade options and could turn the lights on or off after a period of time had elapsed.
Next up was a location based services option. Now this was interesting and had me out driving around to test it. Fundamentally, you could tell the scene to turn on and off as you came and went from your house. The only real option in this setting was to tell the system to only turn the lights on if you came home after sunset. (pretty freak'n cool if you ask me!)
The last two icons allowed you to take a picture with your phone and choose which bulbs you wanted to take part in the scene. You have to be careful with this option. It would have been easy to accidentally replace the picture of those color socks with a snapshot of my coffee cup and TV remote. (not saying that happened or anything)
So at this point, I suspect that my neighbors are certain that I'm either having the quietest rave in history or being abducted by the weirdest aliens ever! Next up on the app was "Light Control". This was very similar to the scene control option, but instead presented you with the standard color scale that had every color of the rainbow at various intensities. You could move the same map style indicators around on the chart. At this point I realized that if you dropped on indicator on top of the other they would group together and you could control two lights as one. (handy if you have a bunch of bulbs I suspect). Also, this menu allowed you to create a "scene" based off of your settings so you could then use the aforementioned automations on it.
Lastly, there was a "Light Overview" screen that simply gave you dimmer sliders for each light and had a "All Off" button to shut them all down. Strangely enough there isn't a "All On" button to put it back to how it was when you shut them down. I guess you can accomplish the same thing by going to a specific scene, but you have to navigate to a separate window and find the right scene. Seems like a gap in the design to me.
So that about covers this particular foray. I've setup a couple scenes to be my defaults. I have a scene that is a very mellow light that turns on at 5:30AM M-F taking 9 minutes to turn on. I then have a scene setup to turn all the lights off when I leave and on when I arrive back home. Note on this, the iPhone gets a notification both when turning them off and on so you are comfortable that it did it's job.
Also, of note is that the base station seemed to put a tunnel through my firewall to a Hue website. That site allows my phone to interact with my lights via the Internet, as well as giving me web access to them too. This all took me setting up an account on their site and linking it to the app on my phone.
Unfortunately, I now find myself in a position where either I just use these three bulbs and continue with my other lights as is or begin migrating all my other bulbs over. In my apartment I have counted 28 more incandescent light bulbs. At $50 a piece for the additional bulbs that is just crazy talk. I have three ceiling fans which each have four bulbs, and the rest are in the standard frosted glass dome fixtures. (two a piece). What I might have to do is just buy more lamps and place them in strategic places and then get new bulbs just for those spots. I don't think that these bulbs would be bright enough to do the trick through the frosted glass domes (From what I have researched, at full level they are equivalent of about a 55 watt bulb)
I really like the functionality and being able to adjust them from my phone is nicer than you might think. I can get into bed and turn them off easy peasy. Being woken up by a nice soft light in the morning is also a nice feature. I can be a bit of a klutz, and I suspect my neighbors are enjoying the lack of expletives making their way to them at five in the morning when I stub my toe on my bed post making my way to the light switch.
I would say that they are not as "addictive" as I have heard, but I can say that it is highly likely that I'll probably buy a few more to give enough light that I can cut down my use of the regular lights in the house to a minimal level.
3.5 stubbed toes out of 5...oh wait that's just silly.