Category Archives: Home Automation

Philips Hue Looks Good



There’s a raft of new products and updates coming to Philips Hue with a big announcement from Signify today and confirming the rumoured LED filament lamps. Smart plugs are coming to Hue for the first time too, which have been badly needed and potentially move Hue out of smart lighting and into the wider smart home.

The LED filament bulbs mimic those ever-so-cool retro-style Edison lamps. Depending on your world-wide location, they’re available in up to three shapes – Edison, Filament and Globe. Output is 550lm which, while lower than a standard Hue bulb at 800lm, would be expected for a filament bulb. Think 40W.

In line with previous Hue announcements, these bulbs can be controlled via Bluetooth with a smartphone, while still integrating into the full hub-based Hue setup.

The new smart plug is a much needed addition to the Hue family. There are so many lamps and lights that can’t easily take a Hue bulb but would benefit from inclusion into a smart home. The new smart plug will be perfect, especially when paired with the existing motion detectors. Walk into a room and the lights go on.

An addition to the current controller range, the new smart button attaches magnetically to a wall plate, so can be used as a light switch replacement or as a handy controller.

In minor upgrades, there have been improvements to the GU10 spotlights and the E14 candle bulbs, and the Hue Go now has Bluetooth communication built-in with extended battery life.

Details are thin on the ground, but Hue have announced a partnership with bathroom specialists Hansgrohe. From the beginning of 2020, Philips Hue will be integrated with Hansgrohe’s newest innovation RainTunes. RainTunes “combines water, sound, light, moving image and scent to create a customized and invigorating shower experience. The product is transforming what the bathroom of today can be: a supremely restorative space of sanctuary where a perfect light plays a key role.” Sounds interesting…and expensive!

And in good news for proud home owners everywhere, several companies are now producing light switches that would be considered attractive. Here’s a selection from German firm Busch Jaeger. If I read the blurb correctly, these are kinetically-powered, meaning that the pushing of the button generates enough energy for the switches to work. There’s no need for wiring or batteries, so the switches can be placed wherever is convenient.

All the new Hue products will be available soon.


IKEA Invests in IKEA Home Smart



IKEA announced that it has taken the strategic decision to invest even more in the smart home area by establishing IKEA Home Smart as its own business within IKEA of Sweden. The IKEA Home Smart Business Unit at IKEA will be responsible for the smart home business end to end.

“At IKEA we want to continue to offer products for a better life at home for the many people going forward. In order to do so we need to explore products and solutions beyond conventional home furnishing,” says Björn Block, Head of the new IKEA Home smart Business Unit at IKEA of Sweden.

“We have decided to invest significantly in Home Smart across IKEA to fast-forward the development. This is the biggest New Business we are establishing since the introduction of Children’s IKEA,” says Peter van der Poel, Manager IKEA Range & Supply.

Since the beginning in 2012, IKEA Home smart has set out to enrich all aspects of IKEA by incorporating digital elements and technologies into products and solutions. Launches within the product areas of wireless charging, smart lighting and just recently smart sound at home together with SONOS are all examples of the success to do so. Besides that, IKEA has also created its own echo system and app for smart lighting first introduced by TRÅDFRI, and in June changed its name to IKEA Home smart app.

It makes sense to me that IKEA would invest in its own IKEA Home Smart system of products. People go to IKEA when they want to put together a bedroom or living room that aesthetically fits together. IKEA Home Smart feels like the logical next step.


Flic 2 Launches on Kickstarter



Flic smart buttons first appeared at CES 2015 and since then, they’ve made steady progress as a useful element of a smart home solution. CES 2018 saw the introduction of the Flic Hub which eliminated the need for a nearby smartphone to process activity.

Flic buttons are little rubberised push switches that use Bluetooth to communicate with the complementary Flic smartphone app (or Flic Hub), which then initiates actions based on rules created in the app. There’s lots of flexibility built into the app so the Flic can turn on lights or make Skype calls – all kinds of things.

Flic 2 is coming to Kickstarter on Tuesday and the Swedish team is promising a brand new open platform to encourage community development and integration with other smart home systems. The buttons themselves have been improved with a new design, improved range, better tactile response and a three-coloured LED for additional feedback.

The Flic buttons will support Bluetooth HID (Human Interface Device) meaning the Flics can emulate keyboards, mice, gamepads and other devices. Maybe you want a button to do a screen grab – that’s when you could use HID to “press” PrtScn.

Although I don’t have a Flic Hub, I understand it has a IR port and can control TVs, set-top boxes and media players – anything that has an IR remote control. It would be handy to power everything down without having to find all the remote controls at the end of the day.

If you are interested in more details, you can sign up here (disclosure: this link will get me some Flic brownie points), or you can wait for Flic 2 to launch on Kickstarter at 1600 BST  / 1100 EST on 21st May 2019. Looks like there’s some good value early bird specials.

In particular, I’m hoping there will be good integration with Samsung’s SmartThings. Fingers crossed.


How To Use Ikea Tradfri Bulbs with Philips Hue



When it comes to smart lighting, Philips Hue is the market leader (UK) with a range of bulbs, luminaires and accessories, plus a good app and comprehensive integration to other smart systems. On the other hand, Ikea’s Tradfri is more basic but with the important benefit of being cheap and widely available in Ikea’s stores.

Inevitably, the question crops up… can Tradfri bulbs be used with Philips Hue? The short answer is yes as the Tradfri bulbs use the Zigbee system to communicate, just like Hue. The slightly longer answer is that while it’s possible, there are a number of steps in the process to get the Tradfri bulb transferred reliably onto the the Hue system. This article runs through those steps and the included video will show them too.

As a side note, the cost benefit of Ikea bulbs over Philips isn’t what it used to be, as the price of Hue bulbs, especially white, has significantly dropped in the past year or two, especially with regular 3-for-2 deals. Where the Tradfri bulbs really score though is on brightness. The brightest Hue bulb is around 800 lumens (lm) whereas Tradfri does 1000 lm, which is a noticeable difference. I now have three 1000 lm Tradfri bulbs in my home setup for spaces that would otherwise be too dim using Hue lights.

Let’s cut to the chase….here are my steps to painless use of Tradfri bulbs with Hue.

Part 1 – Tradfri Setup

  1. Buy (or borrow) a Tradfri gateway, dimmer (or other steering device, as Ikea calls them) and bulb(s). Ok, you might not need the gateway and dimmer but my experience suggests it makes life a whole lot easier (you can try going to Part 3 directly). Yes, it puts the price up so maybe this is a chance to ask around and see if you can nip round to a friend’s house to do the first part.
  2. Connect up the gateway with power and a network cable. Wait for all three lights.
  3. Download the Ikea Tradfri app to your phone. Run the app and pair with the gateway – all you have to do is scan a QR code on the back of the gateway.
  4. Continue to the use the app to walk you through the linking process for the dimmer. Pair the dimmer with the gateway by holding down the link button until the lights on the gateway flash. Read the instructions for other steering devices. The app will confirm correct linking.
  5. Plug the bulb into a handy lamp or light fitting and turn it on. The bulb should be lit. Make sure the lamp can be turned on and off easily – you’ll need it later.
  6. Again using the Tradfri app, go through the process of pairing the dimmer with the bulb. Hold the dimmer close to the bulb and press the link button. Watch the app to confirm linking.
  7. The bulb should now be shown in the app and can be controlled with the dimmer. Try it out to make sure.

Part 2 – Update and Disconnect

  1. The next step is to ensure that the bulb’s firmware is up-to-date. Use the Tradfri app to check  and update as necessary. This step is important in case the bulb is an old model with incompatible firmware. Updating to the latest version will remove the incompatibility.
  2. Next, use the app to disconnect the bulb from the gateway. Yes, I know it’s only just been added but trust me. Follow the instructions and use the dimmer. Don’t turn the light off yet.

Part 3 – Connect to Hue

  1. In the next part, you will need to be able to hold the Tradfri bulb very close to the Hue hub. Sort that out first.
  2. I recommend an app called Hue Essentials. It works with both Hue and Tradfri systems, but it’s only available for Android. The reason to recommend Essentials is that it supports a feature called Touchlink. It does have in-app purchases but you don’t need to pay for any of them. There must be similar Hue apps for iOS – look for ones that support Touchlink.
  3. Use Hue Essentials to find and select the Hue hub. Ignore the Tradfri one. You can even turn it off.
  4. Navigate to the part of the app to add or search for new bulbs. It should be like the screen shot on the right.
  5. To reset the Tradfri bulb, you need to switch it off and on six times. A steady quick pace does the job.
  6. Now position the bulb right next to the Hue hub.
  7. In Hue Essentials, press the “Touchlink” button in the bottom right. I find you often have to press it twice to work properly.
  8. If successful, the Tradfri bulb will start to pulse. At this point, press the “Search for Lights” button at the top. With luck, Hue Essentials will find the bulb and add it into the Hue system. Sweet!
  9. That’s it. Now the Ikea bulb is in the system, it can be used as any other Hue bulb. Mine was allocated to “Garden” and then set to come on when motion was detected at the back of the house. I’ve had no problems in several weeks of use.

If you’d like to see these steps in action, then check out the video below which goes through all the steps. It’s about 20 minutes overall. Get a drink.

Any problems or issues, leave a comment below and I’ll see if I can help.


UK Government Consults on IoT Security



The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (aka Ministry of Fun) has announced plans to introduce new laws governing internet-connected devices, i.e. Internet of Things.

Given that there have been some high-profile instances involving connected toys and cameras, this is welcome news. In a perfect world, users should be educated in the basics of IT security such as changing the default password, but sadly it’s case of getting a gadget out of the box and setup as fast as possible.

The Government is consulting on a “Secure by Design” initiative which intends for basic cyber security features to be built into products and for consumers to get better information on how secure the devices are.

Much like food packaging or the energy ratings on white goods, the Government is proposing a mandatory labelling scheme that states the security level of the gadget. Only goods with the applicable “IoT” label could be legally sold in the UK.

The consultation proposes three essential requirements for internet-connected gadgets.

  1. Device passwords must be unique without any standard factory setting
  2. The minimum duration for which the device will receive security updates must explicitly stated
  3. A public point of contact as part of a vulnerability disclosure policy must be given

Point 3 isn’t directly for consumers but rather for security researchers who will be able to directly contact organisations about security issues. All of these points will be a significant deterrent to the “cheap’n’cheerful” IoT gadgets that typically come in from China with zero support.

Overall, this is a very welcome consultation and I would encourage readers to review the proposals and feedback on the options. This is very much about protecting ourselves and our families and reducing the risk of being hacked. For too long, manufacturers have got away with having little responsibility for their devices after they’ve been bought and these ideas address that balance.

If you want to know more on the consultation and comment on the proposals, it’s over here.

Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash.


Sleep Well with Philips Hue at CES



Announced at CES, Philips Hue will closely integrate with Google Assistant to activate sleep and wake lighting effects to replicate the best lighting for winding down before bed time and waking up naturally in the morning. This is the first integration of the Philips Hue sleep and wake up feature with a digital assistant platform.

From launch, the features will include:

  • One-time alarm sync: Users can say “Hey Google, turn on gentle wake up” which will sync their Philips Hue lights with subsequent morning alarms on Google Assistant. Every time the user sets their alarm on the Google Assistant, Philips Hue lights will naturally wake the user up with a sunrise effect commencing 30 minutes beforehand.
  • Scheduled sleep / wake: Users will be able to set sleep by saying “Hey Google, sleep the lights at 10pm”, changing the lights to a warm tone of white light which gradually fades over thirty minutes. It’s the reverse of the wake up process.
  • Direct action: Users can instruct their Philips Hue lights via the Google Assistant to sleep and wake immediately, meaning the Philips Hue lights will activate the sleep and wake process directly for the 30-minute duration.
  • Multi Person activation: Just like the Hue app, the Google Home app lets you manage your lights in different rooms which means you can set the wake-up routine not only for your own bedroom, but also for other rooms, e.g. Kids’ bedroom, Jimmy’s bedroom, etc

I have an Hue Iris as my bedside light and can attest to the benefits of having a light-based alarm clock.

Research is increasingly showing the important role light plays in how we feel and how well we sleep. Melatonin, the hormone that helps to regulate our wake and sleep cycle, is influenced by light, whether that’s natural or artificial light. By having the right light as we prepare for bed, we can get a better night’s sleep, whereas waking up with the right light can help us start the day feeling more energised.

While many people need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, by using light that simulates sunrise by gradually increasing light levels before the alarm goes off, you can improve well-being, mood and cognitive performance even much later in the day.

Sleep plays such an important role in our health and well-being, so we’re pleased to be adding yet another option for our users to help them relax before bedtime and wake up in a way that prepares them well for the day ahead,” says Duncan McCue, Head of Partnerships for Philips Hue at Signify.
Signify is the new name for Philips Lighting – not sure on pronunciation, though…Sig-nify or Sign-ify? Probably the latter.

The new feature will be accessible to all consumers in English speaking countries by March 2019.

For more information about Philips Hue products visit www.meethue.com.


Philips Hue Expands Outdoors at CES



The Philips Hue range has been extended into the garden at this year’s CES with new outdoor luminaires and, more importantly, there’s now a Hue Outdoor motion sensor.

With a premium on indoor space, outdoor spaces are now an affordable extension of your home. Hue’s outdoor lighting range gives you more choice than ever before to brighten up gardens with 16 million colours or bright white light. Whether it’s welcoming a guest at your front door, enjoying a BBQ on the patio or a quiet drink as the sun goes down, you can add a touch of light and ambience for the perfect moment with the new Philips Hue Outdoor fixtures.

Your home is not only the space within your four walls, but includes your outdoor areas, too. We saw tremendous enthusiasm for our initial Philips Hue Outdoor range and we’re now giving our consumers even more ways to bring their front and backyards to life with light,” said Jasper Vervoort, Business Leader, Home Systems and Luminaires at Signify. “We’re happy to expand our Hue Outdoor range so our users can set the right light for each moment of the day. Most importantly, we’re helping them feel safe and secure at home with powerful lighting options while allowing them to personalize their outdoor ambiance.

The addition of a wireless, battery-powered and weather-resistant motion sensor to the Hue range is much needed. With this, Hue can turn on lights automatically when you arrive in the dark, welcoming you home with light as you approach. Via the Philips Hue app, you can choose which lights – inside or out – go on when someone passes by the sensor, and make it look like someone is always at home.

Place the Hue Outdoor sensor on a flat wall in your garage, around your door or where it matters most in your garden. It has a detection range of 12m (39ft) and an integrated dusk-to-dawn sensor, ensuring that your lights will only turn on when it is dark outside. The sensor (RRP: EUR 49.95 / USD 49.95) will be available for purchase in Europe and North America in February 2019.

The newest additions to the outdoor lighting range, available in North America and Europe in February 2019.

  • The Philips Hue Welcome Flood Light (RRP: EUR 129.99 / USD 109.99), a wall-mounted fixture in one shade of bright white light
  • The Philips Hue Discover Flood Light (RRP: EUR 149.99 / USD 139.99), a wall-mounted fixture with White and Color Ambiance light
  • The Philips Hue Econic family of wall lights (RRP: EUR 139.99 / USD 129.99 and EUR 139.99 / USD 129.99)

Available in Europe only, in February 2019.

  • The Philips Hue Econic pedestal and post (RRP: EUR 129.99 and 159.99)
  • The Philips Hue Fuzo family (RRP: from EUR 79.99), which includes a pedestal, a post and three wall lights, with white light.
  • The Philips Hue Calla large bollard (RRP: EUR 149.99, extension available for EUR 119.99), which is a bigger version of the already available Calla path light and has White and Colour Ambiance light

For more information about the new Philips Hue Outdoor smart lighting products, please visit meethue.com.