Category Archives: Review

Philips Hue Entertainment setup and testing

Now that Philips has launched its Entertainment facility for the Hue lights, it’s time to implement and test the features.

What is Entertainment?

It’s a new method for the Bulbs to communicate, meaning that light effects and changes can be synchronised to the split second. This means that the bulbs can react to films, broadcasts, games and music without any lag.  The instructions are sent out in bursts and then carried out all at the same time by the bulbs themselves.  This, in the purest form, means that the bulbs are truly “smart”.

Setting an Entertainment area

You need to tell Hue where your entertainment area(s) are.  An entertainment area is a collection of lights that you want to join together when you’re doing an activity that will use Hue Entertainment – such as playing a video game or watching a film.  You set this up through the Hue app.  Open the app, go to Settings (the gears icon) then choose Entertainment areas.

Select a room or rooms where the entertainment area is to be set up.

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Select the lights that will be used in your entertainment area.  Notice that Hue recommends the ones that will work best with this feature.  The recommended ones have increased range for brightness and can also show all colours more vividly.

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Your selected lights appear on a pretend ‘map’ of your entertainment area.  Drag each one into where it is physically positioned in the room.  As you drag, the light in your room will flash so you know which one you are moving on the screen.  Each one will turn from orange to green once you have moved it.

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When you have positioned the lights on the screen to match where they are, press Test area.

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The lights will all change colour at the same time, to match the colours showing on the app.

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Finally, the app will flash each light separately.

Once set up, the area is stored in the bridge’s memory for use later.  At this time the bridge also works out which bulb in the entertainment area should be used as the first point of contact to send out messages to the other bulbs in the area.  You can change this in the app but the automatic decision seems to work well.

Testing the Entertainment area

At the time of writing this entry, there is only one Entertainment partner available on the app – this is Razer hardware (a gaming hardware company).  However, there’s another way to test your new Entertainment area.

A reddit user called CrustaceanSoup has developed a Windows app called Huestacean which can be downloaded and run easily.  The app samples what is displayed on the screen and then converts this to colours in the entertainment area.  For example, you can watch a film or a YouTube video on your computer and your Hue lights sync perfectly to the action on screen.

Thoughts

Thanks to people like CrustaceanSoup we can see the potential for this amazing immersive experience.  The level of synchronicity takes my breath away.

I cannot wait to see how other partners join in with this.  More than merely matching what is on screen, I can see streamed films coming with encoded Hue light programs and live broadcasts sending their stage lighting to Hue to recreate in your living room.

For now, I would be really happy if Hue extended their already strong partnership with Apple and brought a similar screen-mirroring function to the Apple TV, this would mean that practically everything we watch could be extended outwards into the whole living room.

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Open sesame! The Yale keyless connected lock

I’ve been wanting to expand our connected home into access control, and with Yale’s latest offering my head was turned.

Inspired by the opening seconds of this guy’s home control setup, I wanted to make sure that the lock would have a few different methods of user detection.  The lock itself had to be able to interface with the home control system and I wanted to be able to use keys or cards of some description to open the door.  This lock ticks all the boxes.

smartlock

The lock itself appears very well made and solid (as expected from Yale) and was surprisingly easy to fit as only one additional hole needs to be drilled (for the cable to be passed from the front keypad to the battery pack and home control interface that is affixed to the inside of the door).  You can choose when fitting the lock if you want to turn the knob clockwise or anticlockwise to open the latch.  I opted for both.

When not in use the keypad remains unlit and just looks like an inconspicuous glossy black panel.

There are a few methods to open the door: firstly you can place your palm on the black area to light up the keypad, then enter a particular code.  The codes can be of varying lengths for different users.  After confirming the code, the keypad lights animate in a ‘waterfall’ pattern to indicate that entry is permitted.  If an incorrect entry is made, some numbers extinguish while the 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 numerals blink to make an ‘X’ shape.

Alternatively, and this is where my gadget-loving heart goes aflutter, you can use RFID keyfobs or key cards available from Yale or other retailers.  These are not expensive and are very useful.  To gain entry you simply present the item to the centre of the keypad (marked with the word ‘CARD’) and access is granted.  As simple as that.

There are also 3 modules that can be bought for the lock and slotted into the top.  The first is to link the lock to Yale’s proprietary security system, another is to enable the lock to be opened from a longer distance via a remote control keyfob and the third connects the lock to a home control hub using the Z-wave protocol.

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The actual mechanism seems to connect the outside knob with the inside latch when engaged (by default for 6 seconds) then after this period the connection is released so the knob moves freely but does not move the latch and therefore effectively no longer allows entry.

The memory is set up in the lock for twenty users.  These users can either have a code, a key fob, a card or a mobile-phone tag.  The user can have one code and one of the wireless devices.

There are many options to ensure you are happy with the lock, from selecting the volume of the beeps emitted, to the length of time the lock will remain unlocked after a validated entry is permitted.  There is also the facility to enter a 24-hour code so that a visitor can let themselves in for a day but then the code is erased from the lock’s memory.

We have been using this lock for a month or so now.  There have been no problems with it and indeed it has been quite a talking point at times.  The main benefit I have had is the knowledge that that horrible moment when you pull the door closed and realise that you have forgotten your keys is a thing of the past.  You can just type in your code to get back in.  It’s also a strangely liberating feeling to nip out without taking keys.

I can also see this lock benefiting an older person who perhaps lives alone and is cared for by rotating staff.  Each staff member can be given their own code and perhaps even a keyfob, so that they can gain access when required.  If and when that member of staff leaves their employment, the lock can simply forget that member of staff so access would not be granted again.  Relatives could also respond if a neighbour found that the older person had wandered outside and needed to get back in, by giving the neighbour a code to allow the safe return of the occupant.

More fun and games are to be had when I get the interface module for Z-wave.  For now, however, I’m really pleased with this lock and would heartily recommend it for geeks, gadget lovers and forgetful families alike.

 

LightwaveRF and IFTTT

LightwaveRF have opened a channel on IFTTT, meaning that as long as you have a Lightwave Link Hub, you can control your lights (and later, switches) via a staggering array of recipes  using pre-made ones or by picking a choosing events from a long list of items such as calendar entries, Nest devices and emails.

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Although not as useful for me as I prefer lower-level controlling of the devices, I can see that this is a great leap for LightwaveRF.  The company produces really good quality products and I am surprised that not more people have heard about them.  Hopefully this partnership will switch on more people to the potential time and energy saving attributes of good quality home automation products.

 

Hue Go

My latest purchase is a Hue Go.  It’s a rechargeable (and therefore totally mobile) version of a Philips Hue bulb, encased in a bowl shaped frosted enclosure.

After a 1 and a half hour charge the light is good to go for 3 hours.  There’s a build in ‘bulge’ stand to allow for it to be pointed towards a surface, like the Iris or the Bloom.

What makes the light more usable for the whole family is that there’s a button on it to cycle through moods and colours, and to switch the light on or off.  The moods include such campness as Warm white, Cozy candle and Night adventure (which has a pink hue and a heart icon, I wonder what that mood is for…)

I like it, and think it’s going to make a great addition to the 20 or so Hue lights we already have.  For one thing, it can be moved in the dry to a balcony table – perfect for the approaching summer nights.

bowl2From a home automation point of view, there may be issues with having the light in ‘mobile’ mode, i.e. unplugged.  According to the literature, the light switches from ‘standby’ to ‘off’ after 2 hours of inactivity when in battery mode, so I’m guessing that means even if an ‘on’ command is sent, it won’t respond until either plugged in again or the button is pressed.  Obviously this is a fail-safe to ensure the battery does not drain completely.

£80 puts the Hue Go at the same price point as the Lightstrips, and I can see why.  It’s well made and even looks pretty when in standby mode.  I like the modern, ‘glossy glass’ look of the front panel and this continues even to the back where the understated function button resides.

The pros far outweigh the cons though, especially as after testing the Hue Go with the homemade disco controller I made, it is very responsive to commands even when in battery mode.

The brightness and saturation (although not seen well in these pictures) is as expected for a Hue product – read: amazing,

The literature seems to suggest that on battery mode, the brightness is reduced to extend battery life.  I can’t say I’ve noticed that, unless they mean that when displaying the pre-set moods that feature is enabled.

The charging cable (reminiscent of a cable for the Living Colours lamps) looks strong enough to be plugged and unplugged regularly.  The charging port on the unit itself is also recessed quite a distance which is good for protection purposes.

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Overall, a great product and another reason to get excited about Hue!