Kudos Where Due: Phillips Hue Smart Bulbs

We’ve had remote control lighting of some kind for almost twenty years. In the early days it was simple X-10 remote controlled outlets. For a while it was some Z-wave stuff. For the past two years it’s been Phillips Hue lights, which leverage Zigbee.

A few weeks ago one of the Phillips Hue bulbs began to occasionally turn itself on, completely on it’s own. This particular bulb was in my night stand. After going to bed, I’d ask Alexa to turn off the bedroom lights, which she would do as usual. A few minutes later my night stand lap would turn itself on.

The first time this was completely unexpected, and quite a shock. The second time wasn’t so shocking, but each time got progressively more annoying.

One Sunday morning I reached out to Phillips via the contact page on their web site. Also, via their Facebook page. Surprisingly, someone responded to the FB query with some simple suggestions; disable all third-party app integration and see if it still occurred. Also, try moving the bulb into a different lamp.

I removed the Hue connections to Yonomi and IFTTT, the two smart home apps that I’d used in the past. Over time the Hue and Alexa apps had themselves grown to encompass the functions I wanted without using these services.

Disabling all third party apps meant severing the link between the Hue lights and our Amazon Echo devices. Thus the only remote control of the lights was be via the app on our Android phones. No more asking Alexa to turn lights on or off by room. That was sure to annoy the Mrs. Nonetheless, it was only for a day or two as a diagnostic process, so I did as they requested.

As a backup, I ordered a Phillips Hue dimmer that would give us acceptable remote control of the bedroom lights. This dimmer acts in the Zigbee realm, so we’d have remote control even if we took the Hue hub off our local network. Taking it offline is the ultimate act of isolation from third-party apps.

Even before the new dimmer arrived the bedside lamp again misbehaved. On that basis, we know that the problem is not some remote app or service. We were narrowing the scope of possible causes.

Then something unexpected happened. Someone from Phillips called me. They were responding to the email contact. Given the experiments I had already run they were quickly able to point to a fault bulb as the most likely cause.

Further, they were able to decode the serial number to determine when that bulb was manufactured. That would suggest if it might still be under warranty. The bulb in question was made in June 2016, and most likely purchased in October 2016. Thus it was under warranty and Phillips would replace it.

Just knowing that the bulb itself was the cause of the behavior was useful. Until it can be returned, I moved it to a different location where its odd behavior would not cause a problem.

Kudos to Phillips for being in touch and being informed.