Hue as a Home Automation Controller

Given the fact that Hue uses a ZigBee controller, one of the questions some will have is whether the Hue can be extended to support other devices. While it’s possible for Philips to create other devices that could work with Hue, I have serious doubts that the Bridge can act as a sophisticated home automation device given the choice of the microcontroller and the amount of memory on the Bridge controller. If Philips changes the firmware on the ZigBee controller in the Bridge, it could be extended to control other ZigBee devices in the home, but right now it appears that the CC2530 is being used in the Light Link profile of ZigBee.

Despite my doubts, the hacker community amazes me. A simple Google search brought me to this site, run by Ross McKillop. Ross has reverse engineered the HTTP protocol between the App and the Hue Bridge, and it appears that communication is done in the open, not with SSL. (Potentially the CPU on the Bridge just isn’t fast enough to make SSL encryption viable.) He has additional details, but then goes on to link to EveryHue as a source of further unofficial help/discussion.

Philips has stated their intention to open up the APIs and the app SDKs for developers. Once they do this I have no doubt that there is an immense potential to use the Hue in interesting ways that perhaps weren’t part of Philips’ initial plan. I can imagine Universal Remote controllers that are app-based tying into the Hue or high end systems such as those from Control4, or perhaps a GoogleTV app that controls the bulbs in your living room while watching a movie. Only time will tell what the hacking community will do with Hue as they gain more experience.

Closing Thoughts

The Philips Hue is at present a unique and interesting lighting system with elements of home automation that can be attractive to a diverse set of users. I found it was easy to set it up and I’ve really enjoyed the experience of having the lighting scenes and controls if affords. However, like any other consumer electronics device, the Hue has its pros and cons.

The good aspects include the aforementioned ease of setup; many home automation devices can get pretty complex, especially for the less technically inclined. Hue is relatively simple in terms of what it allows, and that helps to keep the learning curve pretty shallow. Once it’s up and running, it can provide some really cool functions, and it’s sure to be a great conversation topic at your next party. Finally, while we couldn’t fully test this, the Hue Bridge appears to have very good range so communicating with lights within any reasonably sized house shouldn’t be a problem—if your WiFi can cover the area, Hue should be able to do that and more (via its mesh network).

Not all is perfect, however. At present, there’s very limited extensibility or integration today. Hue does one thing and does it reasonably well, but if you want to use it as part of an existing platform you’ll have to do quite a bit more work. This is yet another app/system for home automation, and if you’re already invested into one of the other solutions you might want to wait for the APIs to open up and let someone else get Hue working with whatever platform you’re running. The other major hurdle to overcome is the price, which is often the case with home automation. At $200 for the Starter Pack with just three Connected Bulbs and the Hue Bridge, you basically only get enough lights to handle a single moderately sized room, or perhaps three smaller rooms. Additional Connected Bulbs will run $60 each (plus shipping and tax), and while the colored lighting offered by Hue is unusual, that’s still three to ten times as much as you’ll pay for other LED bulbs.

For those with the money and interest in colored lights, though, I think the Hue lighting system can be a great way to go. It provides a good base set of features and functionality right now, and over time I expect things will continue to improve as others get creative with the hardware and software. I would personally highly recommend the Philips Hue, but it’s definitely not the type of product that will appeal to everyone.

Testing and Power Consumption


View All Comments

  • Egg - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    I'm not sure how I feel about Anandtech and Ashu Joshi taking what is essentially a 5 week old blog post adding inline pictures from doing some edition/revision/expansion work and posting it as an article.

    I don't see Brian Klug posting his reviews on his blog.

    (Note: I am not alleging AnandTech took this without permission. But rather that they're repacking content the author already released.)

    On one hand, both AnandTech and Ashu Joshi are perfectly within their rights to do so. On the other, it's a bit deceptive, and certainly unlike the rest of Anandtech's journalism.

    (Typo: "experience of this lighting system *if* is quite the change from your everyday lights")

    Regarding the content itself, this is incredible niche. I would never use colored lights in my home. I can see them having some business applications, but $60/light is a bit steep.

    Also, for anyone whose interest was piqued by the disclaimer, according to, Ashu works for Cisco. Tangentially related to this article. Nothing to be concerned about, in my opinion.
  • Doken44 - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    I see your point, but I for one, would never have seen the blog, and am interested to see home automation making bigger steps into the mainstream. Reply
  • ilihijan - Sunday, March 3, 2013 - link

    I just got paid $6784 working on my laptop using these simple steps leaked on this web page. Make up to $85 per hour doing simple tasks that are so easy to do that you won't forgive yourself if you don't check it out! Weekly payments! Here is what I've been doing Epic2.c(om) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    I'm not quite sure who contacted whom, but his initial blog post was far less detailed than what we've posted here. Yes, he had the photos, but there's additional information and the text has been heavily edited (mostly by me). It's definitely a niche product, at least from my perspective, but it's also not something we would have normally covered. Since Ashu had the hardware and the knowledge to write about it, and I'm sure most of our readers haven't ever seen his personal blog, I don't really see it as a problem. Reply
  • JPForums - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    I doubt his blog had anywhere near the readership as Anandtech.
    So he detailed the paint job and polished it to bring it in line with Anandtech's standards, then posted the rewrite here where it would reach a much broader audience.

    No legal issue.
    No conflict of interest.
    Plenty of reason to rewrite.
    A subject one wouldn't be surprised to see on a site like Anandtech.
    I find nothing objectionable about this particular situation.
  • 2kfire - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    Haters gonna hate... Reply
  • Samus - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    people act as if Anandtech is the New York fucking Times... Reply
  • This Guy - Saturday, March 2, 2013 - link

    Na bro, if they were given a Tesla they would actually test it. Reply
  • Egg - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    I didn't see his blog before this email. I found it on his LinkedIn profile. Reply
  • Egg - Friday, March 1, 2013 - link

    Oops, article, not email. Reply

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