A lot of intelligent people believe that a platform like Apple’s HomeKit will be the way we control the smart home of the future. But I’d bet on it looking a lot more like the new wireless dimming kit from the Philips Hue line–subtle technology that eliminates the need for electricians and apps at the same time.
Each kit runs $40, and it includes a white Hue bulb and a dimming remote. All you have to do is screw in the bulb to install it–and up to ten others can piggyback on this same network. The remote uses the ZigBee radio protocol to control them in tandem, and it promises to last a minimum of three years, or 50,000 uses, before it needs its battery replaced.
Better still? This remote fits into a sticky base plate that adheres to your wall and looks like any standard light switch. In other words, rather than hiring an electrician to wire up the connection, or googling how to install dimmers without electrocuting yourself, Hue’s new kit allows you to install home lighting as easily as duct taping a switch to a wall.
This is also a stealthily important release from Philips. Unlike their previous Hue products, it operates without the Hue Bridge–what’s basically a router that you could only acquire by purchasing a $200-ish starter pack. As competitors like Cree are driving the price of mainstream LED lighting down, it seems to be having an impact on Philips’s generally higher end product line–both in price, but even more important, usability. Smart home technologies like networked LED light bulbs are never going to take off if a random Joe shopping at Home Depot has to buy special equipment, install various apps, or enter Wi-Fi passwords to make them work.
This dimming kit from Philips is so exciting because, using the time-tested domestic interactions we all already know–remotes and light switches–the company has snuck wireless device protocols right under our noses, all while lowering the difficulty of installation, and giving us the savings of power sipping LEDs, too. Now they just have to figure out how to get the price even lower:
The new dimming kit will be available in September for $40. Extra smart bulbs will run $20 apiece.