For nearly 2 years my living room lights were all controlled via an app. These were the Belkin WeMo Smart Lights. These were on an Amazon Black Friday deal in December 2014.
At the time, the Philips Hue lights were also discounted but they were nearly three times the price, so economics became the deciding factor. Belkin did promise to update the system to provide HomeKit but 2 years down the line they have renegaded on that promise or are asleep at the wheel!
So I decided to bit the bullet a few weeks ago, sell my Belkin WeMo Smart Light system, and acquire a few pieces from the Philips Hue system that work with Apple’s HomeKit and nearly all other systems on the market, including Amazon Echo and Samsung Smart Things.
It is quite handy buying the lights around Christmas time, as often there are some decent deals available. If you are buying into the Philips Hue system make sure you buy the Philips Hue Hub v2 and upwards as this is when HomeKit support was added. If you have the original Hub, you can just go out and buy the newer version hubs. The same goes for the Hue lights. There are now 3 versions. Version 1 are the white bulbs that don’t change colours, version 2 added rgb colours and the brand new ones , version 3 go slightly brighter and have richer blues and greens. However, there is nothing wrong with version 2 or 1 bulbs as these work just fine. Also the extra brightness obtainable in version 3 bulbs is only possible with certain white hues. So buy the older versions and save some money. That is what I did. I decided I would not need every room to have colour changing bulbs.
So the first change I did was to place the Philips Hue version 2 bulbs into my living room. To use with Apple HomeKit is a simple setup. You will need two factor authentication on your iCloud account and for remote access either an iPad left in your home or an Apple TV 4th edition. Fortunately , I have two factor authentication already setup and the latest Apple TV.
To start using Apple HomeKit, you simply open the Home app on your iPhone, search for the bulbs, then scan the HomeKit code on the Philips Hue box or Hub sticker. You can add the bulbs first using the Philips Hue app, which I would recommend doing, as the app will update the firmware. So with HomeKit enabled, activating the lights using Siri is now live. So using Siri via my Apple Watch or iPhone, I have full control of the lights, turning them on or off, setting a scene, adjusting the brightness or changing the colours. Now the real test became with my wife. Could she get used to using Siri to operate the lights or would she get totally p*ssed off with the technology.
Once I had set up HomeKit on my iPhone, added some scenes and a few other settings, from the home app, I invited my wife into the HomeKit setup. She accepted on her iPhone 6S. So when she came into the room, I told her to ask Siri to turn on the lights using her Apple Watch. I then asked my wife to ask Siri to change the colour of the lights to a colour of her choice. She did this and was genuinely suprised at how cool and easy it was to operate the lights. This then gave me the go ahead to start changing more and more of the bulbs around the home, and include a few motion sensors and add some automation to the setup.
Now in case you’re wondering, you don’t need Siri to operate the lights. Flicking up on the iPhone to bring up the control centre, scroll left twice and your in the home scenes and accessories tab. Here you can turn the lights on or off, adjust the brightness or colours. 3D Touch is used on the icons. I will embed a video to show this and a load more options. You really should watch this video to see how Apple have produced such a great home application.
So after nearly a month, I have automated the lights in the upstairs hall landing, master bedroom, living room, kitchen and dining room. If I leave the house or return home, certain sequences of lights turn on or off, at particular levels of brightness and colours. If I move around the house and trigger one of the motion sensors, certain lights are turned on or off. The automated procedures are smart enough also to know that the lights only need come on after sunset as well (if you select this to occur). All this slick functionality is a joy to experience as a tech geek. Also being able to control the lights from the Apple Watch is cool. You don’t even need to use Siri on the Watch, as the home app with dock enables you to control the lights as needed. In the kitchen I added some Philips Hue light strips. These provide superb mood lighting. Green is the favourite colour with these. The light strips are hidden too. They have 3M sticky tape on the strip to secure them properly. If you buy version 1 light strips, these are not extendable. Version 2 can be extended. Version 1 strips do have changing colours though. I have used version 1 strips as they were long enough for my needs and saved money too.
Sounds like a dream doesn’t it. Well, it’s not quite that. These are the lows or things to think about. Unless you live alone, then the below points are not as important or relevant. If you change all the lights or a high percentage, you may not always have your iPhone or Apple Watch on you. My wife is a good example of this. So that means you really need to think about installing the Philips Hue switches in certain rooms to be able to manually control the lights just in case you haven’t got any Apple devices nearby. I would recommend having these switches in the main living areas e.g. Living room, kitchen and main hallway. I haven’t got these installed, so am trying to see if with the aid of motion sensors and automation processes I can avoid installing these. I might not be successful here, as my wife may not enjoy the inability just to walk into the living room and press a switch to turn the lights on which is simple and less effort sometimes. It’s all a fine balance.
Like all uses of technology it has to make life simpler and more enjoyable. I believe I have reached that balance, but if I go the next step and change every single light bulb, I will need to also invest in the Philip Hue light switches. Problem is, going to the next level is very expensive. I also am very pleased with the moderate setup which adds automation, mood lighting and a certain cool factor.
Just some final thoughts. I wish in the UK, that the Apple HomeKit hardware was more extensive. I imagine in the coming months there will be more products coming out though. However, I am prepared to wait patiently as Apple’s HomeKit system is the most secure available. This is really important point as I can tell you I don’t fancy my home lights and other internet connected devices being hacked.
More information and the latest pricing on Philips Hue range of lights, sensors and switches – Click HERE.