Logitech Harmony – a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion

Logitech Harmony Elite

How many remote controls do you (have to) use?

How many times are you searching for one of them, only to find you need the other one? Switching input channels and turning devices on, on multiple remotes, every single time.

What if it would take you only one, single touch?
Or, if you prefer handsfree: “Alexa/Hey Google, turn on NBC”.

How easy would it be for the whole family? No need to learn multiple remotes and features.

And yes, your lighting can dim down when the movie starts, no additional remote or voice command required.

A quick remark: Since this became by far the longest post, ever, I think a table of contents might help you to get an overview and jump to sections you’d like to (re-)visit. Enjoy!

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Welcome to Harmony

It comes as no surprise, that we find the Logitech Harmony Remotes under Logitech’s “smart home” product category. The Harmony product line serves as universal remote not only for your entertainment but also for some of your smart home devices.

If you want to briefly jump back in time and check out the exciting history of remote controls, see the post: Introduction to Smart Entertainment: A Very Brief History of Wireless Remote Controls.

In this post, we will look into setting up and configuring our Logitech Harmony remote to control all of our devices at once, with only one touch. In the subsequent assistant posts, we will enable the integration with Google Assistant and Alexa to be able to control all our devices with voice commands.

Sorry, no Siri here (yet), unless you check out some Raspberry Pi projects, more on this in future posts.

Who is Logitech?

Logitech logo
Logitech Logo

Based in Switzerland, Lausanne and California, Newark, Logitech has become a major provider of PC and mobile accessories. Logitech offers speakers and cams, mice and keyboards, headsets and it’s currently fastest growing segment, gaming accessories.

The Harmony has a long history going back to 2001. Originally created by the Canadian company Easy Zapper, which got acquired by Logitech in 2004.

Logitech recently received public attention, when trying to discontinue the support of the Harmony Link, the predecessor of the Harmony Hub. Logitech received so much attention, that it decided to replace all Harmony Links with Harmony Hubs, free of charge.

Logitech Harmony Product Line

The current lineup consists of the bundles Harmony Ultimate, Harmony Elite and Harmony Companion. The Hub and the Harmony 950 (the remote from the Elite bundle) can be separately purchased.

Our personal Harmony journey started with the Harmony One back in 2010. We upgraded to Harmony Ultimate and Hub in 2015, got another Hub in 2016 and recently upgraded to Harmony Elite with Hub.

So, what’s a Hub?

Logitech Harmony Hub
A nice little dust trap: The Logitech Harmony Hub

You might be used to remote controls, but what is a Hub in this context?

  • The Hub supports additionally to infrared (IR), also Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to control devices.
  • The smartphone Harmony app, which turns your mobile into a remote control, connects to the Harmony Hub through your Wi-Fi.
  • A Hub is required if you would like to link smart home devices, like Philips Hue.
  • Since the app uses Wi-Fi and the remotes use radio frequency (RF) to connect to the Hub, you don’t need to point your remote at your devices. The Hub could be placed inside closed cabinets, so you can even hide all your devices. It has 2 wired IR Mini-Blaster so you can reach different parts of your cabinet from your hub.
  • And last, but definitely not least: if you want Alexa and/or Google Assistant support, you need the Hub.

What’s the difference between the Harmony remote models?

The Logitech Harmony Companion features smart home buttons on top and a numeric pad on the bottom but lacks the touchscreen. It does not have any IR emitters itself and therefore works only via Hub. Up to 8 devices are supported.

Logitech Harmony Elite and Ultimate
Two Logitechs in Harmony: Logitech Harmony Elite and dirty old Logitech Harmony Ultimate.

The Logitech Harmony Ultimate has media controls on top, features a touchscreen and lacks dedicated smart home controls. It supports up to 15 devices.

The Logitech Harmony Elite is the newest model, has the media controls below the touchscreen and has additional smart home controls on the bottom. The rechargeable battery can be user-replaced. It supports up to 15 devices.

The Gist of Harmony

There are certain concepts which are beneficial to understand before diving into the Logitech Harmony world.

Your Harmony Account: All your settings, from all your remotes (you can have up to 15) and Hubs are saved in your Logitech MyHarmony account. This not only helps to migrate from one model to another, it also makes it possible to connect your Harmony hub to Alexa and Google Assistant.

Logitech Harmony – Your Devices: You will start by adding your devices. These can be entertainment or smart home devices. Wi-Fi connected devices can only be found through the Harmony Hub. Some IR devices need to be manually added, by specifying the manufacturer and model number. You will be able to access all your devices commands anytime through the “devices” tab in the app and on the remote.

Logitech Harmony – Your Activities: An Activity is the core concept of Harmony. There can be only one activity active. Activities consist of startup and shutdown commands for all devices grouped into an activity. Startup commands usually power up all the devices needed and set the correct inputs, while shutdown commands take care of powering off your devices. When you switch the activity, Harmony will keep the devices still required turned on.

Note, your devices might be configured for HDMI CEC. You may need to deactivate this feature since it interferes with Harmony’s Activity concept.

Automatic Mapping of Remote Buttons: Logitech suggests some activity types, like “Watch TV” based on your devices and then automatically maps the correct device commands to your remote control. Your volume control buttons will be mapped to your AVR, media buttons like pause, play, record, etc to your satellite/cable box, and so on.

Are your devices supported? With over 270.000 devices supported, chances are high, that yours are supported as well. You can query Logitech Harmonys Compatibility Database here (scroll down for smart home devices). If your IR controlled device is missing, there is an option to “learn” IR commands from your original remote control. We will look in detail at this feature in future posts.

Preparation

IR needs line of sight. Place your hub inside the cabinet, close to your devices. Use one IR mini blaster to reach additional devices inside and place one on top of the cabinet to reach your TV or any device on top if it. Once your hub is plugged in, it needs half a minute to boot up. Power the charging station and put your remote in.

From here on, we will use our Harmony mobile app to configure our remote and Hub.

Logitech Harmony Setup

1. Connecting and creating Your Harmony Account

Logitech Harmony Setup
Logitech Harmony Setting up the first Bridge

The initial setup process is lengthy but straightforward. We start by selecting to “set up a new hub”. We pick our Wi-Fi network and enter our Wi-Fi password. Next, we need to create our Harmony account and verify it by e-mail.

Note, if you already have a Harmony remote and want its settings backed up, you can create a new Harmony account and import the devices and activities from your old remote.

2. Adding Wi-Fi Devices

Logitech Harmony found WiFi Devices
Logitech Harmony scanning WiFi Devices

The Harmony Hub will scan our Wi-Fi network for supported devices. Select the devices that you want to be assigned to this Hub. If you plan to add another hub/remote, for instance in your bedroom, exclude any Wi-Fi devices you would like to control from there.

3. Adding Missing Devices

Add any other (IR) entertainment devices, which are not connected via Wi-Fi, by entering the manufacturer and model number.

4. Adding and Grouping Home Control Devices

To add home control devices like Philips Hue, select the Home Control menu. Let the Hub search for the Philips Hue bridge and confirm by pressing the center button of your Hue bridge.

Logitech Harmony Grouping Home Control Devices
Logitech Harmony Home Control Groups

Now, we need to re-group our lights, since Philips Hue rooms are not imported. In the Harmony universe, one light can be part of many groups, which gives you the flexibility to address parts of your living room and the whole living room together.

Note, that at the end of the setup process, any of the groups you create now, can be mapped to one of the four Home Control remote buttons. You will be able to turn the groups on and off, as well as dim them with your Harmony Remote (Elite & Companion).

5. Creating our first Activity: “Watch TV”

Logitech Harmony Creating our Watch TV Activity
Logitech Harmony Selecting the Devices for our Watch TV Activity

Based on the devices you have added, you will see a different list of suggested activities. Especially when you are starting with Harmony, I’d recommend to use the suggested activities rather than creating your own custom activities, since they automatically map your devices most common commands to your remote control.

It depends on your entertainment setup, whether you listen to the sound of your TV, a soundbar or use an audio/video receiver (AVR) which serves as the center of your home theater system and connects your components providing surround audio. In our example, we pick the living room TV, cable box, and AVR. In the next step, we need to power on our devices with the Harmony app.

Logitech Harmony Setting Input Device
Logitech Harmony Input Settings of our first activity

Now, we can set the input channels. Since the cable box connects via HDMI with the AVR Input “CBL/SAT” we select this channel along with the TVs input channel “HDMI 1” through which the AVR connects to the TV.

Logitech Harmony Input Testing
Logitech Harmony – Testing our first activity

The next screen checks whether we see and hear what we expect, and finally, we can also adjust our home control devices, when we start and end an activity.

Let’s dim down the TV area by selecting Couch: Nightlight, but only after sunset.

A final test will turn off all devices and then re-start the activity.

Note, in case the devices do not behave as expected, Harmony might adapt device parameters in the background during the setup process. Just hang in until everything works.

6. Selecting our favorite Channels

Logitech Harmony Favorites Setup
Logitech Harmony – Setting our Favorites

In the next setup step, we can specify up to 50 favorite channels, which are imported (including icon) and displayed in the app and on the remote touchscreen.

7. Mapping the Home Control Buttons

Logitech Harmony Mapping Home Control Buttons
Logitech Harmony Mapping our Home Control Groups to the Home Control Buttons

Our final step is to map the home control groups created in step 4, to the home control buttons of our Harmony Remote. A short press will turn a group on, a long press will turn it off. The last group turned on via the home control buttons, can be dimmed using the rocker switch labeled with “+/-“.

Using your Logitech Harmony

Using your remote

Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Activities
Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Activities

With the touch buttons below the remote screen, we can swiftly switch between our “activities” and our “devices”. We can use the “devices” menu in case we occasionally want to control some device, which is not part of the current activity.

Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Help
Logitech Harmony Remote Screen Help

Let’s turn our “Watch TV” activity on. When something with our activities does not work as expected, we can select “Help” from the configuration menu, to have our Harmony try to fix the activity.

Dependent on which devices are used in an activity, you will find different pages on the remote control touchscreen. In our case, we can swipe between activities, favorites, a num pad, and a bunch of other commands. Commonly used commands are automatically mapped to the remote control buttons.

Using the app

Logitech Harmony Activities Tab
Logitech Harmony App: Activities Tab

Opening the Harmony app on a smartphone welcomes us also to our main screen: the Activities list. From here we can turn our activities on and off. Or we can access all commands of a device directly through the devices tab.

As soon as an activity is turned on, we see the controls which belong to the activity from all the devices involved, usually with multiple pages, we can swipe through. The bottom menu of our app features a question mark, which offers fixing power on and input switching anomalies and editing the currently active activity. Next to it, we find an innovative touch screen input to control our devices with one and two finger gestures. And finally, a button to return to the control pages.

Using the Harmony app on a tablet, it shows us an optimized layout, with activities and devices accessible from one screen.

Logitech Harmony App on iPad
Logitech Harmony App Layout on iPad

Tuning your Logitech Harmony

So far, we have only used the basic features of the Logitech Harmony. In this section we will spot the “hidden” configuration options we might need to fine-tune our devices and activities.

Customizing Devices

Logitech Harmony Add-Edit Devices and Activities
Logitech Harmony – Hidden under Menu / Harmony Setup / Add-Edit Devices & Activities

Through the “burger” menu top left on our app, we can find the Harmony Setup menu. When we tap “Add/Edit Devices and Activities”, we can find an extensive menu of configuration options.

Looking into the “devices” list, we can find following device dependent options:

  • Add/Fix Command: for fixing/configuring specific device commands of one device.
  • Fix Delay: with four different delay settings (some devices need some time to process one command before another can be executed).
  • Power settings: We might add devices to activities, which we do not want to power off when switching activities.
  • Input Settings: Some devices offer different ways to switch between input channels. A list, a toggle, or direct commands.
  • Command repeats: some devices might need a repeated IR signal to react (quicker).
  • Device Versions: Some devices offer multiple “IR languages”, here you can specify your version.

Customizing Activities

Back to our “Add/Edit Devices and Activities” menu, let’s tap the activities and have quick look at our “Watch TV” activity.

1. Edit Start Sequence

Logitech Harmony Adding Steps and Delays
Logitech Harmony – Adding Steps and Delays to create our “Watch Netflix” activity

This option offers us to add additional steps/delays to our activity. Here is an example of a custom “Netflix” activity running on Apple TV. The added steps switch to the Apple TV home screen, pause (the Apple TV needs some time to digest the commands), then go two apps down and hit the select to start the Apple TV Netflix app.

Note, you could of course also add a “Netflix” activity via a Smart TV input channel or Fire TV stick, etc. this is just an example of how to customize activities to your liking. The trick here is to make sure you find a stable starting point for navigation commands, so your activities have the same reference point when they start (“Home”, “Back” for Apple TV).

We can also edit home controls to specify what our smart home devices should do when we start an activity. For instance dimming our Hue lights, by switching to a predefined Hue scene.

2. Edit End Sequence:

This menu lets us specify additional steps/delays when an activity is turned off and configuring related home control commands.

3. Customize Remote

This powerful option displays us a picture of every remote control button. We can tap a button and customize for every activity, which of our devices should receive which command or sequence of commands.

4. Schedule

You can program any activity to start and to end at a certain time or at sunrise/sunset, on specific weekdays.

5. (Soft) Keyboard

In case you have devices which support text input for browsing/searching, you can add your Harmony Hub as a bluetooth keyboard to your device. This will offer you a soft keyboard input from your Harmony app.

Customizing Remote & Hub

Logitech Harmony Configuring the Buttons
Logitech Harmony -Configuring the Buttons

The “Harmony Setup”, “Add/Edit Devices and Activities” hides under the menu “Remote & Hub” another access to customize your remote buttons. Here you can configure your home control buttons, activity control buttons and device control buttons for long/short press as well as create command sequences.

Adding a Second Hub

Adding a second hub/remote to your Harmony account is as easy as installing your first one. Remember, you can specify some other Harmony account to copy existing remote configurations like devices and activities from.

Through the “burger” menu, top left in your app you can switch between the Hubs you would like to control.

Note, that multiple Harmony Hubs are not supported by Alexa and Google Assistant (again?!). We will look into workarounds for our upcoming assistant posts.

Troubleshooting & Final Tips

Logitech provides an extensive Harmony Knowledge Base, a community forum, and e-mail support.

There seem to be different opinions on whether to use the desktop Harmony app or the mobile one. To me, it seems a personal preference, since both apps offer similar functionality (and I don’t like the slow Silverlight based Mac desktop app).

Conclusion

No wonder it took me so long to write up this post, Logitech Harmony offers many features. The setup process is straightforward for common activities, the app guides you nicely through setting up your devices and activities and testing them. The complex features are well hidden from beginners, the customization options are extensive.

Is it worth to upgrade from Ultimate to Elite? Some like the new Elite remote layout with the touchscreen on top, for me it’s the Home Control buttons. Though I am not excited about the Philips Hue integration, which seems quite slow when controlling many lights, having the Philips Hue scenes available is a big help during configuration. Missing HomeKit/Siri support is disappointing.

To sum up: the Logitech Harmony remotes bring harmony to your devices. It takes time to configure them properly, but this time is well spent. Once working, it’s going to be a single touch to control your entertainment and (parts of your) smart home setup.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

In the assistant posts we look into the setup of Google Home and Alexa to speech enable our Logitech Harmony:

In our Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google? we will compare how well our assistants support our Logitech Harmony.

If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with Logitech Harmony, please leave your comment below.

Nanoleaf Aurora – Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art?

Nanoleaf Aurora provides a personal smart lighting experience which is indeed unlike anything I have seen before. It is a smart lighting device, consisting of triangular LED panels which you can plug together in any artful shape the triangles allow. You attach the panels to your wall, power them up and paint your wall with colorful animations. So yes, we can call it smart lighting, living paint and smart art in one product.

And with the Rhythm module, the Aurora visualizes the music you are playing. Here is a post dedicated to the Aurora Rhythm: Nanoleaf Aurora and Rhythm: See your Music in 14 Trillion Ways!

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we are examining how you can create your individual design and literally picture it on your own wall, for free. Then we will look into how you can mount your design on your wall and the options you have with the Nanoleaf app to fill your Aurora with different animations. In the assistants posts, we will set up Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant to control our personal smart light art.

Who is Nanoleaf?

Nanoleaf App - Welcome to Smarter Living
Nanoleaf App – Welcome to Smarter Living

Nanoleaf was founded 2012 by Gimmy Chu (CEO), Tom Rodinger (CTO) and Christian Yan (COO). With offices in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Toronto, Nanoleaf manufactures smart lighting based upon their patented technology for sustainable manufacturing and energy efficiency.

If you are interested what Nanoleaf is up to, you can even find their roadmap on their website.

Nanoleaf Product Range

Nanoleaf One was the companies first product released on Kickstarter 2013. The dimmable Nanoleaf Bloom followed in 2014 and their bestselling product Nanoleaf Gem was released in 2015. Nanoleaf Ivy released end of 2015 supports HomeKit and is listed as the world’s most energy efficient bulb. In November 2016 Nanoleaf released the Aurora as first color changing product with Siri, Google Home, and Alexa support.

Find Your Design

Before we ordered our Aurora – almost a year ago – there were some creative hurdles to overcome. The Aurora inviting empty wall was there, but how many panels do we need, which shape are we going to build, how will it look on our wall? Since we knew we had to attach the Aurora with adhesive tape to the wall, we wanted to do it right, from the very beginning. I will spare you our lengthy (but fun) process which led to our Hexagon shape because with today’s Nanoleaf app, it is much easier: Yes, we can use Augmented Reality.

Nanoleaf Aurora App – Layout Assistant

Before buying, download the free Nanoleaf Smarter Series app. You can skip the setup process and head over to the “…” More tab. Under “Aurora Layout Assistant” you will find a panel, where you can play around and construct your own design. If you need more tiles you just add them at the top of the screen. Once you have something which fits your taste and your budget, you can click the little eye in the center of the bottom screen.

Nanoleaf Aurora – Augmented Reality – original Aurora with QR Code and virtual Aurora next to it

A dialog guides you to download a QR code which you can directly send from your smartphone to your printer. You stick the printed page on the wall where you would like to mount your Aurora and point your smartphone at it and your design appears on your wall. You can now rotate and position your design more precisely where it should be on the wall, the initial size of the tiles is quite accurate. You can walk around, take screenshots and once you are happy, you know exactly what to order and how it will look like.

Note, that Nanoleaf has meanwhile developed a screw mount kit which includes screws, anchors, and flex linkers as well as a flex linkers only kit. You can use them to build your shapes around corners and mount them with screws rather than with the adhesive tape.

First Contact

A couple of days later, when you receive your Aurora, you will find that there is surprisingly little documentation coming with it, except for some nice words. This is because all the information you need is online. I just checked out their updated “Getting Started” page and have to admit a lot has changed over the last year. They have developed brand new tutorials covering all different aspects of mounting and dismounting (spoiler: dental floss helps) your Aurora including their new mounting kits.

It is recommended that you check the panels and pair your Aurora before mounting it. Lay your tiles on a flat surface, plug into the power and then connect the controller to the panels. If you have not downloaded the Nanoleaf Smarter Series app yet, it is a good time to do so. Aurora takes up to 2 minutes to boot and indicates being ready by loading the Northern Lights scene. Don’t let Aurora’s initial brightness confuse you (100 Lumen per panel!), you will be able to configure this and much much more with the app.

Nanoleaf Aurora – Get Started Screen

Nanoleaf’s app has received a complete redesign a couple of months back. Start with adding a new Aurora device and follow the instructions. Don’t play too long with the many features in the app, we will examine them later.

Mounting Your Aurora

Take a picture of the back of the controller. It contains the serial number and the connection codes for the assistants, which we will need later on. So we better have this info handy, before glueing the controller to the wall.

The one tutorial which helped me most is missing now on Nanoleaf’s page. Understanding the general process of how to put the tiles together, which is straightforward and easy, I was still super nervous. What if I make a mistake and peel off the paint from our wall when having to remorsefully remount it? Though the adhesive stripes are supposed to come off without paint, I did not really want to try it.

So I searched the Nanoleaf Page for some inspiration and found a clip of their marketing guy standing there with a Ukulele. Two minutes later I learned it was his bosses Ukulele and he was using it instead of a level because he could not find one.

No, seriously?

I grabbed my level and the first part of my tiles (I split up the hexagon into 4 parts for easier mounting) and minutes later it was good.

Exploring the App

Assuming you have gone through the app built-in tutorials, we will focus here only on an overview of the many features you can find in the app.

Nanoleaf app – Dashboard

The initial screen is your Aurora dashboard, which on the top provides you an overview of the status of your Aurora, on/off, brightness and which scene is loaded. Below you can find the three scene tabs:

  1. Colors, for your “painted” or “dynamic” scenes
  2. Rhythm, for your Aurora Rhythm scenes and
  3. Groups, which reflect your HomeKit scenes (check out our Siri & Nanoleaf Aurora post for that)

Swiping any scene to the left allows you to edit, share or delete it.

Painted Scenes

Painted scenes are static. You see the shape of your Aurora, and you can select or create a palette of colors and paint every panel to your liking. Since the dynamic scenes are much more impressive, we use a painted scene only as nightlight.

Dynamic Scenes

Dynamic scenes are animated based on: the selected palette, 6 different algorithms and a couple of parameters. Sounds complex, but it isn’t (you should have seen the previous version of the app).

Nanoleaf Aurora – Dynamic Scene Settings

Apart of brightness and speed, which you can always set, the availability of other parameters depend on the type of animation:

  1. Random: Colors your panels randomly with the palette colors. You can specify the color transition: Block (colors pause briefly) or Curvy (colors transition smoothly) squiggle.
  2. Flow: Each color of the palette flows into the direction you choose. You can additionally choose the color transition and whether the animation should run once or loop continuously.
  3. Wheel: Displays a moving gradient created from the palette colors. You can choose the color transition and how many of your palette colors are displayed at once.
  4. Highlight: Works like random but highlights the colors left in your color palette.
  5. Fade: Cycles through your palette colors. You can then chose color transition and whether the animation should play once or loop through.
  6. Burst: Displays palette colors bursting from the center of the Aurora. Color transitions and repetitions can be additionally configured.
Aurora Energize Animation

Since your preferred animation types will very much depend on the shape of your Aurora and your very personal mood and taste, it is a good idea to spend some time playing around with the different settings.

Our preferred scenes for different times of the day (remember the “Natural Smart Lighting” post), are mainly based around the “Random” type with different speed and brightness settings.

Social Light

I almost forgot one additional feature of the app: you can share your favorite scenes and download the presets from Nanoleaf and the Nanoleaf community (tribe =). You can find our SmartEnlight scenes under the “Discover” Tab, where you can preview all scenes on your Aurora before downloading them to your dashboard. Hope to see your favorite scenes soon there as well!

Smart Assistants

Having our Aurora configured so far, we can finally speech-enable her with

For a comparison of all assistants with Nanoleaf Aurora, see: Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google?

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with your Aurora, please leave your comment below.

Philips Hue – Smart Lighting needs a Smart Setup

Philips Hue is a personal wireless lighting system, enabling you to control and automate your lights from your smartphone and digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

There are many smart lighting vendors: Osram with Lightify, LIFX, Hive and lately IKEA with TRÅDFRI, just to name a few. Philips Hue has been a pioneer in this area developing a broad product range and third-party app ecosystem throughout the years.

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we will shed some light on the Philips Hue product family and generations. We will look into efficiently setting up and grouping (many) lights within the Philips Hue app to bring this setup to Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Who is Philips?

Royal Philips is headquartered in the Netherlands and was founded 1891 by Gerard Philips and no, he did not invent the Phillips screwdriver. Today, Philips is one of the largest electronic companies in the world focussing on healthcare, electronics, and lighting. Already back in 2008 Philips demonstrated the future of lighting with the LivingColors LED lamps mood lights, before stepping 2012 into the smart lighting era.

What is Smart Lighting?

Smart lighting is about energy efficiency. We consume a lot of energy for our lighting and by using optimized LEDs, which are programmable and controllable through sensors, we can not only streamline and minimize our energy consumption but also increase comfort and convenience.

Philips Hue Generations

Philips Hue App Splash Screen

Philips Hue was introduced in October 2012 and over the years received updates in October 2015 and 2016. Dependent on when you obtained your bridge and bulbs you might have Generation 1, 2 or 3.

  1. Generation 1 features a round bridge,
  2. Generation 2 comes in a square shaped bridge and adds support for Apples HomeKit and Siri, as well as brighter bulbs and LED strips. You also need the Gen 2 bridge for Alexa Scene and Color support.
  3. Generation 3 is an update of the Color Ambiance bulbs with an improved color presentation.

Philips Hue Product Range

Apart of the Hue Bridge, which serves as the central hub for all the devices, the Philips Hue product range covers spots and bulbs in white, white ambiance and white and color ambiance, light strips, lamps, and controls, like the tap, the dimmer and the motion sensor. The product range covers all aspects of smart lighting: task-, accent- and general lighting.

Basic Setup

Philips Hue App Home Screen

The setup process as documented by Philips are 4 simple steps:

  1. Power your light sources
  2. Set up your bridge
  3. Download the Philips hue app and connect to your bridge
  4. Play around and experience light in ways you had never imagined

Chances are, that you are beginning with a starter pack and your lights will be preconfigured. Following above steps will quickly lead you through the process. If you, however, plan to add (many) additional lamps to your existing system and want to voice-enable your setup with Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, here are some concepts which can save you time and nerves.

Extended Setup

Let’s start with some vital information, especially for larger setups: According to Philips, you can connect up to 50 lights to one bridge. Furthermore, you can connect up to 25 Hue taps and up to 7 dimmers or a combination thereof. Last but not least you can connect up to 12 motion sensors, but only if you do not have any taps and dimmers connected (otherwise its less).

What does this mean?

This cryptic information basically tells us that the storage on the bridge is limited. Behind the curtain, every time you create rules, add sensors, schedules, and lights, or try a new animation, all of this consumes memory on the bridge. Even worse, some apps leave their configurations on the bridge and never delete them, filling up your bridge over time. When the bridge hits its limit, which is defined by your personal configuration of the restrictions above, you get a notification that your bridges memory is full and you cannot save additional rules, sensors or schedules anymore.

When do you need multiple bridges?

iConnectHue Bridge Resources Monitor
iConnectHue Bridge Resources Monitor

You might end up having to split a setup of fewer than 50 lights, because of e.g. the many rules which were saved per dimmer on your bridge. Extending to a second hub does not only add overhead during the setup, it adds complexity and limitations when setting Hue up for Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Since there is no way of monitoring the memory usage of your bridge in the Philips app, we recommend using one of the third-party apps to avoid running unconsciously into the bridge-memory-limitation-wall.

Hue Lights Bridge Resources Monitor
Hue Lights Bridge Resources Monitor

In case you require two or more bridges for your setup, you will need to split up your rooms in a way, where lights, dimmers and motion sensors belonging together, are on the same bridge.

Unless you are using a third-party app with multi-bridge support, you will need to manually switch between the bridges on the Philips Hue app before you can control the other rooms.

 

Take a Note of your Serials

Before powering your light sources, make sure you note down the six character serial numbers of each of your lights, especially the ones which are difficult to reach. The Philips app offers a search function to find your lights, but if this fails, the serial numbers are the most reliable way to add your lights. You don’t want to carry a ladder around during the setup process to look up the serial of every undiscovered light. In case you plan to move the lights from one bridge to another, you will definitely need the serial numbers to migrate.

Creating Rooms

Philips Hue App connecting to the bridge
Philips Hue App connecting to the bridge

After connecting to your (first) bridge, the Philips Hue app will guide you to create your first room. Rooms are an important concept in Philips and HomeKit. You can create multiple scenes per room, which will control the light settings of all the lights within this room.

The Philips App does not support grouping one light into more than one room, which would come handy if you have a larger e.g. living room and would like to create multiple groups within this room, to be able to “read” at the table and “relax” on the couch.

Since there are ways to later re-group your Philips app rooms into a larger room for Siri and Alexa, you can segment your large rooms at this point into smaller rooms, eg create a couch, table, shelf room instead of one large living room. Note, that there is another restriction here: You can only group up to 4 rooms later on to HomeKit/Siri scenes with the Hue app.

Step by Step

Dependent on how big your setup is, it makes sense to add your lights in iterations, so you don’t have to run around your house identifying the lights. Start with powering on the lights that are in the room where your bridge is located and search for them. After a minute the app will return with (almost) all the lights you powered on. You do not need to wait for the process to finish, as new lights are dynamically added to the list.

Adding and Naming Lights

Philips Hue app light setup
Philips Hue app light setup

The Philips Hue app names your lights as type and number, eg “Hue Color Spot 17”. By tapping on the light, it will blink so you can locate/identify it. Rename your lights in a way which you can remember and which works for you as voice command if you want to control the lights individually, the digital assistants will recognize these names.

A combination of the location of the light and a number is usually easy to remember, eg Ceiling 2, Center 3, Shelf 5, etc. You can run the search again to find any light, which was not found during the first search. If all lights are connected the app will come back with the message “no new lights found”.

From here you can start the next iteration, turn on the lights in the next room and search for them. The app will come back with the newly found lights (on the bottom of the list), you can identify them by their default names and the green tag “New”. Rename them like you did in the first step and move on to the next room.

Mapping Lights to Rooms

Philips Hue app room setup
Philips Hue app room setup

Now that we have our rooms and lights named, it is time to map the lights to the rooms in the Room Setup. If you are using spots, the location of the spot and the room/section it points to might differ, eg the spot in your entrance named “Entrance 5” points to the kitchen, hence make it part of the Kitchen room.

Defining Scenes

Philips Hue app scene setup
Philips Hue app scene setup

Scenes – which define the state (color/hue, brightness) – for a group of lights, are saved in the Philips app per room.

Philips comes with pre-configured scenes to “energize”, “concentrate”, “relax”, “read”, as well as a “bright”, “dimmed” and “nightlight” scene.

Grouping your lights into rooms will make these preconfigured scenes automatically available in the app. This is a good time to create your own personal scenes.

Digital Assistants

Having our lights configured so far, we can finally speech-enable the setup with

For a comparison of the assistants in combination with Philips Hue, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.

For smart ideas around smart lighting, see:

Let me know about your Philips Hue setup experience by posting below!