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Philips Hue Wireless Lighting

We're getting used to wireless control for toys like the Orbotix Sphero (see previous post), and wireless tracking with devices like the Tagg Pet Tracker (see earlier post).

But wireless can integrate even deeper into our lives, as demonstrated by the Philips Hue line of personal wireless lighting

Yes, these are wireless light bulbs -- each bulb can be individually addressed from apps on your smartphone or tablet, so you can set the color palette of your room, animate the lighting with music, or even set them to respond to external events.

Verizon Wireless kindly loaned me a set of the Hue lights to demo for my Holiday Gadget talks, and they were a big hit. I brought along three lamps with the Hue bulbs, and had a fun time showing how you can swipe on a smartphone display to change the colors, tap to make them flash like lightning, or talk into the phone to have them respond to sound.

These are standard size LED light bulbs, so you can just screw them in to any open fixture. They're quite bright at 600 lumens, and can adjust a clean white from warm to cold as well as generate a wide variety of colors. And they use 80 percent less power than traditional light bulbs.

These actually use a different wireless technology called ZigBee LightLink (IEEE 802.15.4), which you can think of as combining the low-energy, lower data rate efficiency of Bluetooth with the extended range of Wi-Fi, up to 300 feet.

The Hue system therefore uses a bridge device that plugs in to your wireless router and bridges communications to the bulbs. You then can run apps on your smartphone or tablet, and control up to 50 Hue light bulbs on a single system.

You can use the free Philips Hue app for iOS or Android to set the brightness and color for each individual bulb, select lighting scenes to set the mood (sunset, beach, skiing), and define your own light recipes. Then you can set your recipes to activate on timers (on / off at specific points during the day), or based on location (leave / arrive home).

There are over 10 additional third-party apps available for the Philips Hue system, especially to animated effects. I used the Hue Party app for my demos, which includes strobe, flow, and candles effects, as well as animating a light show based on listening to your music. It's free to try out with two bulbs, with a $3.99 in-app purchase to support unlimited bulbs.

The Philips Hue Starter Pack is $199, with three bulbs plus the bridge. Individual bulbs are $59. Philips also offers a LivingColors Bloom Lamp for $79 and 2-meter flexible Hue LightStrips for $89.

This may be a bit pricy for everyday use, but you can clearly see the potential. As you design rooms in your home, you can extend the design with custom lighting to match the mood -- from relaxing to energized, quiet to partying.

There's a bright future for these kinds of wireless-enabled components -- The Hue system also can link with other apps, so you can have your lights react to external events, from arriving mail or new photos posted online to changing weather or sports scores.

See my Holiday Gadgets & Portable Accessories 2013 coverage for more on portable audio and other fun devices.

Find the Philips Hue system on Amazon.com

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This entry posted on January 3, 2014.

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