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The new Philips Hue bridge.  Photograph courtesy of Philips

Philips plans to upgrade its Hue lights to Apple’s HomeKit. Here’s how.

Philips Hue light bulbs are a smart home success story. They are one of the more customer friendly and usable home automation gadgets, even though at $200 for a starter kit of three light bulbs and hub, they are a bit pricey for the average consumer. Since they were named as a partner for Apple's HomeKit home automation program back in June 2014, however, buyers have wondered how the brand would upgrade the lights to work with Apple's program.

Now we know. Existing Hue light bulb owners will have to replace their hub at a cost of $59.99 (although if they go on the Philips web site they will get a 30% discount). The new hub will work with Apple's HomeKit, the new Nest Weave protocol, and contain its own computer to help reduce latency. This lets HomeKit users give Apple's Siri their Hue scenes and even turn their lights a specific color just by naming the scene or saying, "Siri turn my lights red."

All of this hardware packed into the new hub (it's slightly thicker and is now a square instead of a circle) follows along a trend in the smart home industry of adding more computing power to the home automation hubs that didn't have it before. There is a growing realization that these hubs need more intelligence at the edge to relay programming instructions in case the connection to the cloud fails or the actual servers in the cloud go down.

For existing Hue owners who don't want to spend money upgrading their hub, their older hardware will continue to get updates and support, according to Philips. However, along with the new hub, Philips did a refresh of its light bulbs, taking the bulbs from about 700 lumens to 800. That means that if you add the new bulbs to a room with the older bulbs you may notice a difference. The new gear goes on sale Tuesday.

For more on lighting technology, check out this video on LEDs:

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