Philips Hue: Making lighting wireless and personal


The most impactful innovation doesn’t necessarily draw attention to itself. Often, it’s the kind that fulfils such an important and necessary role in a person’s life that it becomes almost mundane, quietly doing its job in the background.

For over a hundred years, this was the case of the light bulb, shaping the way people lived their lives without them really noticing. That is until we decided to ask a big question how can we move from the iconic incandescent bulb something already so vital and ingrained in our day to day lives – and create a light innovation that’s even better?

The result was the Philips Hue, a smart lighting system that lets you play with tone, color and brightness to create any mood you could possibly imagine.

The birth of Hue

It’s the logical next step in the evolution of lighting: connecting the light bulb to the internet. Yet, the creation of Hue didn’t come down to a single light bulb moment. Rather, it was the result of many creative and determined minds pushing the boundaries of what could be done with lighting and the idea of the smart home. The initial light bulb moment came when Pei-Yin Chao, an interaction designer, started exploring the possibilities of using apps in innovative product design. He created a prototype app that could dynamically display the colors of a Philips LivingColors lamp on a smartphone. At the same time, a technology specialist named George Yianni was working on ways that smartphones could enhance the user experience of lighting. One important characteristic of light, he realised, was the way in which it could affect mood and wellbeing so strongly. He elaborated on Pei-Yin’s idea and, together with a forward-thinking Research-and-Development team, developed a prototype bridge that could link a light bulb to a smartphone.

What were the customer needs?

With the basic technology in place, our teams of innovators started investigating what could be done with it. Lighting expert Filip Jan Depauw knew he needed deep customer insight if this new technology was to have the same disruptive impact as the light bulb. So, he sought out consumer opinion on which scenarios they would use it for. After rigorous testing, the app was almost ready for its close-up. During the innovation process however, we realised one very important fact: that the potential applications of Hue were nearly limitless. So, we decided to make Hue an open platform, allowing for users to explore the potential uses of Hue on their own through third-party apps.

Next-gen lighting

We’ve all heard of smart homes and the internet of things. We believe that by allowing for easy personalization and control of one of the most basic and important parts of any house, Hue is the first step into the truly connected home. It’s a cinch to install and use. All you need is a Hue starter kit, smartphone and a normal light fixture to get started. Hue can be retrofitted straight into existing lighting infrastructure. This isn’t a technology reserved solely for the tech-heads. Hue is for everyone.

Making it personal

Imagine a couple that gets up during winter mornings aided by their Hue gradually emulating sunlight. Or a college student who watches his favorite movie with Hue providing ambience at key moments. What about a mother who automatically schedules all of her children’s activities according to Hue, so that they know when to play, study and go to bed?

Everyone has different lighting needs. With Hue, we sought to address that by creating a system that puts customisation first and foremost. Hue has a huge variety of uses, and because it is an open system, can support many more through numerous apps. Currently, there are more than 200 third-party apps, and this number keeps on growing.

What is your Hue?

The possibilities are endless. We want the Hue to improve as many people’s lives as the light bulb has. The amazing examples we see every day of people using Hue as a platform for even more meaningful innovation tell us we’re off to an amazing start. It’s another great example of Innovation and You.

For more information, please read Hue’s innovation backgrounder.

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