Philips Hue is already an excellent, premium priced smart lighting system. Now, with the launch of Philips Hue Bridge 2.0, it gains compatibility with Apple HomeKit and adds voice control via Siri.
During a brief pre-release demo, Philips Hue supremo George Yanni turned on and off, dimmed and changed the colour of various Hue lights.
We can't let it pass that an attempt to turn one lamp's bulb yellow failed because, "yellow is one of those words Siri doesn't understand" - we think this was actually just a general, one-off Siri fail rather than its inability to understand a specific, commonplace word.
That aside, the demo was impressive, with Siri able to tweak individual lights, sets of lights in rooms ("Turn off the lounge lights") and even more sophisticated instructions such as, "Turn off the left TV room lamp" or "set the left TV lamp to energise", with 'energise' being a preset lighting 'scene'.
It just couldn't handle yellow on this occasion. But who wants yellow light in a room, anyway? Nobody.
Interestingly, where Apple is pushing most HomeKit product manufacturers to add control for all other HomeKit products to their apps, Philips is having none of that, and its app will control Hue and nothing else.
However, other HomeKit products will be able to control Hue from their apps. In fact, at a demo at Apple HQ a few months back, we saw a dimmer and colour wheel incorporated into an unrelated, third-party HomeKit product app.
The new Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 will work with all existing Hue products, and its processor and other upgrades should help make adding Hue support to new systems other than HomeKit easier, future-proofing the device.
Philips is also keen to stress that the original Bridge will continue to be supported.
HomeKit integration means that Hue can now be one element within automated 'scenes', with the bulbs fading up to gently wake you from sleep while your smart thermostat raises the temperature, your smart blinds go up, and your robot butler ambles in with your breakfast. Apple Watch control is also possible with Hue, via both the Hue app and Siri.
Pricing is £50/$60/about AU$110, but with the option for original Hue Bridge owners to get a 33% discount by purchasing via Meethue.com. Alternatively, you can still purchase Hue Bridge 2.0 as part of a starter kit with three bulbs for £149.99/$249.99/AU$320.
Additionally, while the coloured Hue range continues as usual, in the white light department the more expensive Hue Lux bulbs are being phased out, leaving only the Hue White range, which is cheaper. George Yanni did mention that with economies of scale now kicking in for white LED bulbs, pricing is likely to be more "aggressive" in the near future.
That's good new. With consumer interest in smart home and particularly smart and LED lighting peaking, it's price cuts, rather than HomeKit support (welcome though it is), is what will really push smart lighting into the mainstream. That and a yellow option. That'd be great.