Once upon a time, outfitting your crib with a slick lighting system that could be remotely controlled would cost you an arm and a leg and was a technical nightmare to set up. Thanks to Philips new Hue Personal Wireless Lighting system, such functionality is now relatively affordable and is as easy to install as screwing in a light bulb.
The basic Hue starter kit comes with an innocuous looking wireless bridge that pairs with your home's Internet router and three seemingly normal 50-watt LED bulbs. Inside each Hue bulb, however, there are 11 LEDs that allows it to glow any color of the rainbow, as well as a built-in a wireless transmitter that lets you network up to 50 bulbs in one system.
Once the system is operational, you have complete control over each bulb's hue, saturation, and brightness via an easy-to-use iOS- or Android-based smartphone app.
The goal of all this technology is simple: to give you full control of the color and brightness of your lighting from anywhere in the world. If you want to do some reading, you can make things brighter, if you want to set the mood for a relaxed evening, you can pick a warmer color temperature and less lumens.
Using the app, you can choose the color of each bulb individually, customize them all at once, or do something more advanced like set a scene based on colors from an image from your photo gallery. The bulbs can produce anything from a deep red to violet.
In addition, Hue has four pre-programmed shades of white: Energize, Reading, Relax, and Concentrate. We found these much more useful than the color settings. Energize and Concentrate are designed to boost productivity and keep you alert with cooler temperatures, compared to the incandescent yellow of Reading or the slightly orange Relax.
Hue can also be integrated with any home automation system that uses the ZigBee Light Link Protocol, which makes it a bit more versatile than some competing systems.
And because they system is app-based, it will only become more useful over time. Two of the features currently in the pipeline are reverse-indicating and geo-fencing. The geo-fencing is simple: The lights could turn on and off based on the presence of a smartphone. Reverse indication sounds more complex than it actually is. Basically, you could use the app to check the status of a Hue system. This would be useful when you wanted to check if an elderly person turned their lights on in the morning, or if the kids actually go to bed when you tell them to. [$199 (each additional bulb costs $59); meethue.com]