Philips updates Hue, introduces lightbulb DRM

Philips Hue is a smart light system that’s designed to allow users to create their own lighting “scenes” using pricey bulbs that interface with smartphone apps on iOS and Android. Philips uses the Zigbee protocol for communication between the Hue bulbs and the network bridge station, which means that Hue should support third-party bulbs. Up until recently, it has. Now, however, Philips has deployed an updated firmware that locks out third-party devices that haven’t already been qualified under its new Friends of Hue program.

One user burned by the change describes the problem well: “One reason we based this system on Philips Hue is that Philips is a member of the Connected Lighting Alliance. [Its] mission statement is ‘to promote and stimulate the development of open standard wireless lighting solutions that are maximally interoperable and provide value to end users,” which from a technical perspective means their system speaks the Zigbee Light Link protocol and is interoperable with other brands that speak the same language.

“This is especially important because Philips doesn’t offer certain products, but others do. Such as a light bulb with an E14 socket. So in that case, it was possible to integrate an Osram Lightify bulb that had that socket.”

Now, that’s going away. Philips new firmware update blocks devices that weren’t previously attached to a network unless those devices have been certified under the brand-new Friends of Hue program. The company’s cites several reasons for the change in a recent blog post:

“Next to confusing differences in setup and resetting, we’ve encountered a number of such issues over the years including 3rd party lights which do not turn off when we fade them to off, lights which do not react correctly to scene recalls and lights which stop proper functioning of our Wireless Dimmer Kits. Since the Philips Hue system is continuously updating there is no way to guarantee continued interoperability unless all compatible products are put under continuous test like our own.”

Source: Extreme Tech