Philips Hue Unveils New Bridge for Apple HomeKit
"Hey Siri, turn on the mood lights."
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Apple's HomeKit smart home platform is about to get a little busier with the addition of the Philips Hue lighting family. Philips today announced a new Hue bridge that will allow all existing and new Hue products to work with HomeKit, as well as future smart home ecosystems.
Current Hue customers will be able to replace their old Hue bridge with a new HomeKit-compatible one at a discount, and all Hue lighting kits will now come with the new bridge by default.
With HomeKit support, iOS users will now be able to control their Hue bulbs with Siri, as well as incorporate Hue lights and scenes (custom presets of light colors and brightness levels) into their fledgling HomeKit setup.
We saw a demo of the new HomeKit compatibility via a Skype call with George Yianni, the Philips Hue system architect. Siri control was surprisingly robust, as the virtual assistant was able to turn lights on and off, activate Hue lighting scenes, dim lights, and even change the light color.
Hue scenes also now work as HomeKit scenes, allowing you to add other devices into the scenes. Unfortunately, you'll have to do that from other HomeKit apps.
"We're never going to build a UI for a thermostat or a door lock in our app," said Yianni. "That's not what we're good at, that's not what we want to do, that's not what differentiates us."
However, Yianni did show us how you can integrate a door lock into the scenes using the Elgato Eve HomeKit app.
The only hiccup with using Siri to control Hue scenes is that you have to manually choose which ones Siri can access. This was a conscious choice the Hue team made to keep Siri from getting confused.
"If I were to say 'dinner time,' Siri would recommend me a list of nearby restaurants rather than set a scene called 'dinner time,'" said Yianni.
In addition to Siri-based scene selection, the updated Hue app includes a migration feature that helps current users upgrade to the new bridge without losing their custom scenes and settings.
Alongside its new bridge and lighting kits, Philips is also releasing brighter A19 bulbs that put out 800 lumens—33 percent brighter than the previous model.
But perhaps the biggest announcement is that Philips is making its new bridge future-proof, meaning it will not only work with HomeKit, but should be compatible with other new ecosystems like Nest Weave.
"In the end, we want to participate in all of the leading smart home platforms, because everything you do is better with the lights on," said Yianni. "We think Nest Weave is an exciting platform."
But while it's future-proofing its lighting ecosystem for new platforms, Philips seems to have no interest in owning the smart home with its own platform or protocol.
"We want to be the lighting expert in the smart home and not the center," said Yianni. "And that means we need to be able to connect the most relevant centers that are out there."
The new Philips Hue bridge will be available on October 6 for $60, but current Hue customers can upgrade to the new bridge for $40. If you don't care to upgrade, Philips says it will continue to support and update the old bridge.
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