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Philips Hue

The world's smartest LED lightbulb with a range of 16 million colors and 90 shades of white

by Graham Hiemstra in Tech on 28 October 2012

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Since Edison's invention 133 years ago little has changed in the world of lightbulbs, aside from the introduction of fluorescents and LEDs of course. Today Philips pushes the evolution with the announcement of Hue, the next step in consumer lighting, and the world's first Web-enabled LED home lighting system. The innovative LED bulb is capable of producing nearly every color of light in the spectrum—16 million to be exact. While the idea of colored lighting may only excite party throwers and readers under the age of 12, within this broad spectrum are 90 accessible shades of white for the more sophisticated set.

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Driven by an iPhone and iPad app (Hue is Apple exclusive at this point), Hue is capable of being programed to perform a wide array of duties, including fading off or on to a desired color at specific times and over a range of durations. To choose a color, the user can select from a color wheel, a range of pre-loaded images or select your own photo. From here you use touch to arrange a series of individual cursors—with corresponding bulbs—to land on your desired color. Hue also features preprogramed settings in the white range, including optimum lighting for reading, to encourage relaxation and concentration, or to energize.

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Using ZigBee Light Link, up to 50 Hue bulbs can communicate with a single bridge, which connects directly with your router. By talking to each other, even bulbs in the farthest reaches of your home can be controlled by a single Wi-Fi controlled bridge. At this point, the inevitable question arrises, "Why would I ever need a Wi-Fi enabled light bulb?" Convenience and programability seem to best answer the question. Not only does Hue let you control your home's lighting from your sofa, but also while away. Meaning you're free to program Hue remotely, even from around the globe—in the instance you left the lights on before leaving for holiday.

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To encourage innovation, Hue was designed with open-source software, allowing anyone up to the task to develop their own interface or app. And for the environmental angle, Hue bulbs hold an estimated burn time of 15 years. The 8.5 watt bulbs are 80% more energy efficient than traditional bulbs. Available exclusively through Apple stores for the first four months after launching, the Hue starter kit will sell for $199—with one bridge and three bulbs. Additional bulbs will sell for $59.

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