One of the good things about smart home technology, is that it improves over time. Through software and firmware updates, new features and functionality is delivered to make your smart technologies even more useful. This year, Philips have added new features to the Hue system, and here I take a look at what's changed.
You may remember some of my earlier posts on the Philips Hue system, such as 'Discovering Philips Hue Routines' or 'Discovering Philips Hue Labs'. In those and other posts, I explored some of the features available using the Hue app.
Over time though, that app will evolve, and there have already been updates this year that have added new capabilities, and modified existing ones. So, it's a good time now to take a look at some of those new features and how it's affected our use of the system.
Routines is one key area where changes have been made. Joining the existing options for 'Home & Away', 'Wake up', 'Go to Sleep', and 'My Routines' (now renamed to 'Other routines'), is the new 'Timers' and 'From other apps' sections.
'Timers' is exactly what it sounds like. Set a simple countdown timer (several can be created), and at the end of the timer, instead of an alarm sounding, lights will activate or flash. You can choose what happens, and in which room. Options include turning on a scene, activating the last state of your lights, or having your lights flash.
The 'From other apps' section is also useful. The Hue app is not the only place where you might have created routines and schedules. You may have used Hue Labs, you might have used a third party app, an integration service like IFTTT, or even a smart home controller. If those routes have been used to create routines on the Hue Bridge, the 'From other apps' screen is where you can see these. You can deactivate and reactivate them here, or delete them completely.
Also updated is the 'Other routines' section. Here, you could already set custom schedules to activate light scenes, or indeed turn lights off. Now, you can incorporate 'randomisation' into those schedules. That allows for up to 60 minutes of randomisation around your chosen times. Useful if you're using a timer to have lights activate for security reasons when you're away from home.
It's not just the routines that have been updated. Software updating has been improved too. Previously the system would notify you of new updates to firmware, but you'd have to manually initiate the installation of these. Now, you can turn on automatic updates to have new firmware applied at a time of day of your choosing. I'd advise anyone using Hue to turn this capability on. Updates don't just deliver new features, but they also fix security problems - and that's crucial for any smart home.
Turning back to routines, I'm now able to answer a question about geolocation. The 'Home and Away' capability allows Hue to turn lights on when you get home, and off again when you leave. However, what happens if multiple people live at home, and only one person leaves the property for a while? Is the system smart enough to know some people are still at home?
The answer was ... no! We found that out very quickly. I left to go to the shops, and my partner stayed behind - but the system detected I'd left, and dutifully turned off all the lights!
Thankfully, Philips have addressed this through a Hue Labs formula called 'Multi user geofencing'. It does exactly what you'd expect, allowing the system to distinguish between a scenario where everyone has left, and only some people have left. This then avoids anyone being left in the dark!
There are lots of other capabilities that are new in Hue Labs too, and I want to have a look at some of those soon. It's interesting that capabilities like randomness in routines are features that were first tested in Hue Labs. Clearly, the idea with Labs is not just to 'garage test' features, but to actually see what functionality makes sense to push through into the native side of the app.
How do all these capabilities affect us? Well, not all of them do. However capabilities like automatic updates mean we have less work to do to maintain our smart home system. Labs features like Multi User Geofencing mean that the 'Home and Away' functionality that previously we simply couldn't use, is now viable.
As mentioned at the beginning, all this is really a reflection of the fact that as time passes and new updates are released, a smart home can only get smarter!