Lighting Industry, News, Residential

Philips opens its Hue bulbs to Internet control. This time for real!

Yes, back in March 2013 Philips released Hue’s ‘API’ – the ‘application programming interface’ that software developers use to write apps that communicate with the bulbs.

At the time, the Dutch lighting giant gained wide coverage from publications ranging from the venerable New York Times to enthusiastic techie sites such as Apple Insider, TechCrunch and Ars Technica, many of which foresaw an onslaught of apps enabling Hue bulbs to sing and dance. 

‘The outside interest in adding new functions has been so strong that Philips plans to announce…that it is opening up its software and publishing guides and libraries as part of an official developer’s kit,’ the New York Times said on the eve of the move. ‘The company hopes to attract even more people to create new ways to use its product, including companies that want to make devices to work with it, like universal remotes, thermostats and home automation systems that might also control heat, ventilation and blinds.’

That was then. It turns out there is open, and then there is open.

As the technology trade publication eWEEK noted this week, Hue has been good for turning lights on and off, changing colours and things like that, but ‘there were limitations.’ It noted that Hue ‘wasn’t open to other innovative uses that are becoming more possible through the so-called Internet of things, where more and more products are able to be connected to the Internet.’

Alas, a fix is on the way. eWEEK reported that Philips has struck a deal with a San Jose, Calif.-based company called Apigee (it has an api in its name, get it?) that will really really open up Hue. Really.

For those who talk the talk, Philips’ Kevin Toms explained that:

 ‘We are using the Apigee toolset to re-engineer our server interface so that we can provide a managed API for third-party developers and partners. Our current system was not designed for such wide use, and Apigee is providing what we need to manage and deliver that. Without Apigee, we would have to custom-build a lot of the toolset they provide in their solution.’

Toms is manager of the development program for Hue, which as an LED (light emitting diode) bulb lends itself to digital control, since LEDs are seminductors.

Philips hopes to release the Apigee API by the end of the year, as the market to wirelessly control and connect lights to other things heats up with entrants like Google’s Nest and others.

eWEEK wrote that, ‘Such a custom and open API could then be offered to developers and partners so that they can use it to extend the Hue line with new useful features that may not even be thought of today.’

Like what? Let the imagination take over. 

Get ready to outfit your pet’s collar with a transponder that orders the light bulb to open the cat flap for Fluffy – and Fluffy only (magnets are so 2013). The wirelessly connected Hue bulb could then send data about the feline’s movements to Google, which could sell it to Mars Inc.’s Sheba kitty food business.

Or maybe, just maybe, the light bulbs could somehow wash up the dishes after all. Hail APIs!

Photo: Open for business. With the new API, Philips is opening up the independent development possibilities more than ever for remote control and interaction of its Hue LED lights. Image is from Philips via Flickr.