Philips has refreshed it’s line of Smart Home Lighting products and, not only are the new Hue Bulbs brighter, nicer and warm, but using the new Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 you can now control them using Siri.
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The previous iteration of the Bridge came bundled in the Hue Connected Bulb. The 2.0 model comes equipped with HomeKit, Apple’s smart home background that makes controlling Smart Home and IoT devices easy using voice commands via Siri.
If you have already spent some money on bringing Hue lights into your home, you’ll need to pick up the Bridge 2.0 if you want HomeKit integration. If you are new to the Hue system, Bridge 2.0 is an obvious place to start, but if you plan on building your entire home lighting around the Hue system, the bulbs will be pricey.
Design and Features
The standalone bridge will run you about $60CAD, or you can pick it up in some bundle kits which come with bulbs and switches.
The Bridge 2.0 is slightly smaller than it’s predecessor. It’s a square with rounded corners with a large ‘Philips’-logo emblazoned on a round button at its centre, which glows a cool blue when it gets power and Wi-Fi.
Imagine Nest designed by Iron Man.
It’s smooth and matte, save for the front of the device, which is home to Ethernet and AC ports. The bottom has four tiny rubber feet and the Philips Hue Logo, serial numbers, and the all important HomeKit number you’ll need to pair the device with your iOS. The device also has notches you can use to mount the Bridge 2.0 on a wall. Overall, the device is a much more modern, clean design than the previous Bridge.
For users new to HomeKit, it’s essentially its own platform. It offers a way to connect the variety of apps that control Smart Home Products. These, while seemingly a trivial idea, leads to great things: devices as wide-ranging as lights, thermostats, smart blinds, door locks and odd else can all be turned on / off / adjusted to your specification, in unison or together, via a single command.
Saying something like “Siri, I’m Home” leads to doors being unlocked, Air Conditioning turned up, Blinds opened and, thanks to the Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 turn on the lights of your choice. “Siri, I’m leaving for work” could, for example, do the exact opposite.
Link the Hue Bridge 2.0 with another HomeKit-enabled device, such as the Ecobee 3 Thermostat, for example, and you can turn off your Lights and Heating at the same time.
If you happen to be a fan of Hue without an iOS device, a lot of the device’s HomeKit perks fall by the wayside: Apple HomeKit, for obvious reasons, will not work with Android Phones. Android users should stick with their original Hue Bridge instead of picking up the 2.0, or use a third-party system, like our favourite trigger-site If This Then That (IFTTT)
Installation and Setup
Setting up the Hue Bridge 2.0 is as straightforward as they come: download the Philips Hue App and go.
On iOS, the app works with 8.0 and up, but you’ll need 9.0 or better for HomeKit voice control to work. On Android, it works with devices running on Android 2.3 or later, although we tested the device on a Samsung Galaxy S6 running 5.4 and it worked well.
After downloading the App and creating an account, connect the Bridge to your Wi-Fi router using the included (included!) Ethernet cable. The app searches for the Hue hub connected to your Wi-Fi when you launch it. The app will then prompt you to depress the big centre button once, and enter the HomeKit number on the back. The whole process should take five minutes
Full Disclosure. We had an office debate about mounting the device or just setting it down. I won the debate and mounted the device on the wall. Before setting it up, be sure to write down the HomeKit number. Don’t do what I did, you’ll need that number, or else you’ll have to buy tomorrow’s donuts.
Adding more lights or accessories is also really easy. Put them in, turn them on, and use the app to search for them. A single Bridge 2.0 can connect up to 12 accessories and up to 50 lightbulbs.
About the App:
The Hue app remains basically the same: there have been no real design or feature changes since the original Bridge came out. The Settings page is the default Main page, and lets you choose a Bridge, see you light, and modify some options, like randomize colours when you create a Scene. Scenes can be accessed by pressing the icon in the upper left corner, or just by swiping left. Scenes lets you set the exact brightness, or color for a particular ‘Scene’ – basically a preset.
Siri plays really, really well with the app. Inside of the Hue app, just tape on ‘New Siri Function’ and check which Scenes you want Siri to utilize. Then just say to Siri “Turn on Lights” “Set Party Scene” etc to start the Scene you’ve already made in the Hue app.
We connected 2 Hue Lux bulbs and a Hue Lightstrip for testing. Each light automatically is assigned a name, but you can change the names if you want. We then ran through a series of prompts to Siri: turn lights on, turn light off, turn ALL lights on,on and on. Every time they worked exactly as we would expect them to. It’s a solid, well-built idea, one that really makes me feel like I’m living the future, on the Enterprise or something.
For what it’s worth, our favourite little voice box, the Amazon Echo, also lets you control Hue lights via voice commands – even if you have a Gen1 bridge – as long as you are connected to your home network.
If you have an iOS device, or devices, and especially if you have a home filled with the Philips Hue system of bulbs, dimmers and strips, upgrading is an easy decision. It’s easy to install, looks like a pieces of Tony Stark-designed art, and works suspiciously well. Android users could comfortably keep using the original Bridge, but the big deal maker is the HomeKit integration.
Using Siri to control your lights is fast, easy, and surprisingly fun. The fact that Siri/Homekit can also add Hue support to its bevy of other devices to connect your home, it’s a steal at $60. If, however, you are starting out with smart lighting, the Hue system isn’t cheap.
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