Technology

Philips Hue uses ZigBee (more specifically ZigBee Light Link) to control the Connected Bulbs. Of course, smartphones and tablets don’t have ZigBee built into them, nor for that matter do PCs and Macs (yes, you could get a ZigBee USB dongle if you wanted), and hence the need for the Hue Bridge. It basically acts as a link between the devices running Apps that use the home network/WiFi and the ZigBee link to the bulbs. The App sends the command to the Bridge, the Bridge converts it to the ZigBee protocol, and vice versa. ZigBee operates in the 900-928MHz band in North America and Australia, 868MHz in Europe, and 900-924MHz plus 2.4GHz worldwide.

You might think that the bridge is simply an additional device; why not make the bulbs WiFi? It’s a valid question and it could be done, but imagine trying to get each bulb connected to the network. Technically savvy users could likely figure it out, but for everyone else it would be a nightmare. I’ve tried helping friends and family with basic WiFi configuration issues over the phone, using PCs where all they need to do is enter the network password, and it can still be a pain. Trying to deal with IP addresses and potential conflicts on a per-bulb basis isn’t something most people would be interested in doing.

There are additional factors as well, such as cost, power consumption of WiFi vs. ZigBee, and range requirements. ZigBee range is typically lower than 2.4GHz WiFi range; however, ZigBee is a mesh network so each device added can function as a repeater to extend the coverage area. That means as long as there are some devices closer to the Bridge coverage should be sufficient. ZigBee also consumes less power than WiFi and usually costs less as well, which is important when you’re looking at integrating the functionality into devices like bulbs.

Ultimately, though, I think managing the setup and being able to control the bulbs effectively are the primary reasons why ZigBee is the right choice. Having the Bridge also makes it far easier to use multiple devices to communicate with the network, and it makes the creation and use of an app a lot simpler as well.

Teardown and Design The Philips Hue Experience
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  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    I didn't see any whining and complaining about LUXURY item or product ?!

    What's going on here ?

    Did our usual crybaby posting crew defer their usual stank to a knee jerk reflexive Apple muzzle worship ? I doubt that - maybe they just brainfarted out.
    Reply
  • glugglug - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    The extra weight is normal for LED lights, programmable or not, as LEDs don't work as well when they get hot, so LED light bulbs have hefty heatsinks.

    A decent LED bulb goes for $30-$40, especially if you try to get a warm white close to incandescent color instead of the typical painful bluish, so $60 for color adjustable LEDs is actually quite reasonable.

    In areas like NYC where the ConEd prices are highway robbery at face value, and they multiply that by claiming you use several times more than you do, a $60 LED bulb can pay for itself in 2 months if you use it 24-7.
    Reply
  • wiyosaya - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    Philips was already in home automation before this with their Pronto remotes. They got out of that due to lack of profitability a bit over a ago year now.

    While home automation is nice, I personally do not see the need for lights that change color. For people who experience seasonal affective disorder, this package might be the worst thing that they could do for themselves as "daylight" light sources are the best for them.

    IMHO, the changing color aspect is marketing bling that Philips is adding to a high-priced product to market it to the masses. As I see it, the price of this product resides in the cost of the LED lights. One might be able to find a simpler and lower cost home automation starter kit, and then put LED bulbs in where they make sense - this approach, however, would abandon the changing color LEDs which may be of little use to most people anyway other than for novelty uses.
    Reply
  • glugglug - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - link

    1. Instead of the LED approximation of a standard light bulb (which they do poorly due to the heatsink affecting the form factor), make the bulbs available in PAR30 or other PAR form factors, which LEDs exel in, and which is typically used for recessed ceiling lighting for a greater effect on room ambiance.

    2. Provide an API for controlling them which can be integrated into an Windows audio filter driver or WMP visualization for the full disco effect.

    If both of those were in place, I'd probably get 15 of the bulbs for my basement.
    Reply
  • shriganesh - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    What a nice and detailed and clean article! Thanks a lot Ashu Joshi! Keep up the great work. I never thought of the neighbor's commands interfering with ours! Reply
  • sotoa - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    Can these be used outside? Like to light up the front porch? For example, I can see changing the lights to Green for St. Patrick's Day, or Orange for Halloween, etc. What do you think?

    Are these bulbs equivalent to a 60 watt incadescent? I wasn't quite clear on that.
    Reply
  • Velocialume - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    So this is the third review I've read for the Hue system.. I'm about to purchase it, but I can't seem to find confirmation that you can in fact, have the bulbs cycle colors autonomously. I really like the idea of having a sort of dreamscape type room with each bulb gradually changing color every few minutes.

    Either I'm blind or inattentive, but I haven't seen this feature mentioned in any review. Is this possible?
    Reply
  • Ualdayan - Monday, March 11, 2013 - link

    While I researched them like you are doing (I went ahead and ordered some btw) I found that they basically respond to HTTP POST commands (that's what he meant by open source). That means a simple javascript running on one of your computers could cycle through the different colors on all the lights for you. Take a look at every hue for ideas. (Funky comment system claimed it was spam when I tried to type the URL in an easily clickable link for you) Reply
  • mgc8599 - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - link

    The power consumption figures seem incorrect to me. Kill-A-watt is showing current reading as 0.08 to 0.09 amps so the power draw should be (0.08*110=8.8 w or 0.09*110 = 9.9 w) and not 5.4 w which gives 60 to 67.5 volts. also in off state the power draw will be (0.01*110=1.1 w or 0.02*110=2.2 w) and not 0.4 w as written because it gives 20-40 volts. Reply
  • random2 - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    "...they’re quite a bit heavier than a typical light bulb. Most likely the added weight comes from the controller and antenna necessary to talk to the network, and possibly the addition of multi-colored LEDs adds a bit as well..."

    If this has already been posted in the comments my apologies.

    I believe these are heavy in part because household 120v current needs to be stepped down to a DC supply for these LED lamps. meaning each lamp has a transformer.
    Reply

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