Connected devices are changing our lives in subtle but meaningful ways, and if you don’t yet live in a home where you can control all minutiae of your living experience from your smartphone’s screen, you soon will. The Internet of Things offers tons of potential, but we can only fully take advantage of it when all those connected devices know how to talk to each other. That’s why we were so concerned earlier this week when we learned about an update headed out to users of the Philips Hue home lighting-control system, one that threatened to block access to previously compatible bulbs made by companies other than Philips itself. We’ve got good news for you today, though, as Philips announces that it’s backing down, and restoring compatibility.
The issue was tied to how Philips Hue communicates with smart light bulbs via the open ZigBee wireless protocol. That embrace of an open standard meant that any manufacturer could produce a bulb that would work with Hue, and you were free to use the bulbs of your choice with the Hue hub, regardless of who made them. But in a recent hub firmware update, Philips began locking out those third-party bulbs, citing fears of “an increasing number of issues with untested light” – even though many users reported using such bulbs with no issues whatsoever.
User backlash was intense, but Philips seems to have heard their message: today the company has announced that it’s working to reverse the recent Hue hub update and restore full access to non-Philips smart bulbs.
The company’s still going to continue with the Friends of Hue certification program it mentioned earlier, but that’s no longer going to be a requirement for Hue compatibility; shoppers can certainly look for that label on third-party bulbs to get extra assurance that they’ll work well with Philips Hue, but they’ll still be able to use non-certified hardware if they so choose.
It was a bumpy road for a minute there, but in the end this looks like a real victory for the Internet of Things: open standards emerge victorious, consumers come away armed with new info about the products they’re buying, and we can keep on using the connected devices we choose.