Philips Hue Table Light Jam Session

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!

4 COMMENTS

  1. I have just started with a starter kit without too many problems but one problem with my living room light is a 3 bulb light but can only get 2 bulbs to synchronize 2 problems the dining room is on a two way switch so if I switch living room off on the app dining room goes off as well and visa versa any thoughts please

    • Hi Anthony,
      I am not sure, whether I got it right:
      1. In your living room you have 3 bulbs and 1 is not recognized. In this case it would make sense to try to add the light via serial number (it’s on the bulb unfortunately). If the 1 bulb was added, but shows it’s not reachable, it might be too far off from other lights or the bridge or your z-wave channels interfere with your WiFi channels. Try to move the bridge closer or add another light in between. Or change the z-wave channels in the Philips App.
      2. Assuming you are using the Philips app, you should create 2 independent rooms (no matter whether you dining room is part of your living room). As one bulb can only be mapped into one room in the app, you should be able to control the rooms independently. If you would like to group 2 rooms into a larger room, you can do so later in Siri/HomeKit, Alexa and Google Home.
      I hope this helps!
      Cheers,
      K.

  2. I have been working with Iris by Lowes as my smart home controller since January. Originally, the Sylvania Osram product line had “Works with Iris” status. However, several months back, the basic $15 A19 LED bulb was no longer supported by Iris. This left a void in future lighting possibilities. I had purchased a Philips Hue Bridge (2nd Gen) because it conformed to the security standards of Blue Iris, the PC application that I use to enhance control of my 7 ‘Iris by Lowes’ Indoor/Outdoor Cams for voice control using Alexa Echo Dots. Having the Philips Bridge already, the logical solution to the future lighting dilemma was to introduce Philips Hue bulbs. Recently, Iris by Lowes has given Philips Hue “Works with Iris” status. This allowed me to integrate the previously separate Philips Hue and Iris by Lowes systems into one system. I was pleased to discover that the Iris Contact Sensors and the Iris Motion Sensors not only work with Philips Hue, but also the (limited IFTTT standards) Iris “Rules” and “Scenes” were also compatible. And the use of my 3 Alexa Echo Dots has also been successfully integrated. The biggest problem I have however, is the limited distances that the Philips Hue Bridge can handle. Philips Hue conforms to the ZigBee Light Link (ZLL) standard which can only handle distances of about 7 meters or 21-22 feet. Iris by Lowes conforms to the ZigBee Home Automation (HA) standard which is good for 10 meters or about 33 feet. While my Wi-Fi router and the Iris Hub are more or less centered in my home setup, the Philips Hue Bridge, plugged into the same router, is in a corner of the Philips Hue bulbs setup. There are numerous ‘Iris by Lowes’ compliant devices in both the house and in two outbuildings that range from 35 feet to 70 feet from the indoors Iris Hub. While this setup does stretch the distance standard at bit, it is more or less stable because of both ZigBee and Z-Wave compatible devices repeat the two protocols. Unfortunately, the Philips bulbs can only be used within the house and even that is unstable, due to the ZLL distance limitation. Although the individual Philips bulbs are suppose to “hop” the protocol to other bulbs, there is non-stop, constantly changing combination of “not reachable” instability. To add insult to injury, the latency that was only 8-10 seconds for each “not reachable” status with only 6 bulbs is now often over a minute with only 10 bulbs. I must say that I am very much UNIMPRESSED with the capabilities of the Philips Hue system.

    • Hi Scott!

      First of all: a warm welcome to smartenlight! You posted the very first comment on this young website! =)
      And what a high quality comment, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience!

      I started with Philips Hue around 4 years ago and also had initially problems with unreachable lights. Since lights in between (ZigBee mesh network) could not solve all of the unreachable light problems, I had to make sure that the Philips Bridge is as high up and central as possible.
      Even when my setup grew to 2 bridges (one connected to the router, the other to a repeater) I still sometimes observed the “unreachable” light phenomenon.
      Somewhere I found the hint to change the ZigBee channel, I use channel 25 now, to minimize the interference between ZigBee and WIFI network. Since then it seems to run quite stable. Thanks for the input regarding ZLL and HA standard, I was not aware of different ZigBee implementations which lead to different ranges.

      Some of my Hues are outdoors, two E27 (in outdoor housings) and even the light strip plus some extensions (under a outdoor table, shielded from rain). Up to now – for around 2 years – I had no problems, but you are absolutely right, Philips would never support that and I am doing this on my own risk.

      With the Sylvania/Osram Lightify bridge I had bad luck from the beginning. I was not able to update its firmware. Osram must have fixed these early glitches meanwhile. I have set up a smaller Lightify configuration at a friends place 2 weeks ago and it behaved well. I am running my 2 Lightify gardenspots plus extensions on a Philips Hue bridge and it works nicely, though I miss them in my HomeKit setup. Resetting the gardenspots is a nightmare: 5 x 5 seconds connect/disconnect from power-supply.

      I ended up with dimmers and motion sensors from Philips Hue and was quite happy when they released HomeKit compatibility for them through a software update a month ago.

      So far I am happy with my setup. Since I am interested in (comparing) voice control support of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, I was always looking for a lighting system which supports all three. This could be also achieved with HomeBridge and HomeAssistant open source solutions, but I have not mentioned this here, to keep things simple on this website, but maybe will do in the future, lets see …

      Thanks again for sharing your setup and experience in the very first comment on this website. This kind of knowledge exchange is exactly what I was hoping for, when building this website.

      You made my day!

      Thank you,
      Kresimir

      p.s. I am looking into improving the comment section a bit so you can get notifications, when someone responds to a post or your comment. Coming soon!

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