Using a Smartphone or tablet app is not the only way to control your smart lighting. You can also do this from your Windows PC, laptop or tablet. You'll need a third party app to do this however. Here, I explore one such app, and look at the strengths and weaknesses of using it.
Picture the scene, you're sat in your living room, laptop or tablet PC in front of you, and you decide you'd like to adjust your smart lighting. Maybe you want to boost your mood with cooler lighting. Maybe you'd like to play around with a few colours. However, you left your smart light switch on the wall, and your smartphone is out of battery. Surely, with smart lighting your PC can handle the job?
Turns out it can, but sadly, there's no official app from Philips to do this task.
That isn't to say there's no official route at all. In fact, you can log on to the MeetHue website and control your lighting via a browser. You'll need to have setup a login, and paired it with your bridge first, but once done, this method can be used. The downside is the browser interface is very barebones. You can turn lights on or off, but that's it. Activating scenes? Nope. Controlling brightness? Forget it.
So, for full access, you'll need some kind of app. Before we proceed, I should state that I tried this in Windows 10, so my 'go-to' place to find some software to handle this for me was the app store. Previous versions of Windows like Windows 7 is something I haven't looked at yet.
There are several apps in the Windows 10 store for Hue, but the one I tried is 'Huetro for Hue'. It's a free app with a paid, premium upgrade.
Once downloaded and launched, job one is discovering the bridge. The app scanned my network, found my bridge, and asked me to push the button on top of the bridge to confirm the pairing.
Once done, the app was ready to go. It's fairly straightforward, breaking down it's controls into sections; Lighting, Scenes, Ambiences, Alarmss, Devices, and automation.
The Lighting section lets you control individual lights and bulbs, as well a for entire rooms and even your entire house. The scenes section lets you activate your pre-set scenes, just as you can in the native 'official' app.
Here I ran into a slight quirk. In a previous post 'Philips Hue Labs: Living Scenes', I'd made mention of a Hue Labs recipe called 'Living Scenes'. When used, your chosen lights gently fade through various colour cycles. It would seem that in the background, Hue Labs achieves this by creating lots and lots of hidden scenes on the bridge.
You don't normally see these scenes, but using Huetro, they were visible. Lots of oddly named scenes showed up, all mentioning Hue Labs. Not a major issue, but you have to scroll down to the bottom to find your real scenes grouped by room
The ambiences section is unique to the Huetro app, and a paid 'premium' feature. It will apply it's own colour cycling functionality, creating either a gentle ambience, or a party in your house!
The Alarms section turns lights on or off at set times, the devices section shows you all your remotes, and the automation section is where you'll find routines. The routines here though are not the same as the ones in the native app. This offers some unique functionality such as missed call notifications through light.
All in all the app works OK, but it can be a bit quirky as mentioned above, and I did experience a few crashes, so it's not perfect. Will it get the job done? Sure, but I'm not sure i'd be paying for the premium upgrade. Your experience may vary however.
The app also advertises Windows 10 Cortana integration, which I haven't yet tested. I'll look at that in a future article and video.
For now though, if you've got Windows 10 and Philips Hue, have a browse through the app store and try a few apps - let me know which ones you like in the comments!