SmartHome Philips Hue lights Bulbs and Accessories become unreachable

Regularly, my Philips Hue lights and accessories do not respond anymore. Looking into the Philips Hue App, they appear as "Unreachable" (no link). The solution was to avoid WiFi interference!

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In French, the message displayed by the App, for the Lights and accessories, is "impossible d'établir le lien".

If your Philips Hue lights aren't responding, maybe it's time to ...

 

Notice that each time, a few bulbs and accessories were still connected and the App was perfectly able to connect onto the Bridge, both via Internet and via my local Network. Notice also that I have many Philips Hue Light Bulbs, Sensors and Dimmer Switches in the house (less than 50, which is the theoretical maximum for a Philips Hue Bridge) as well as a few Tradfri Bulbs in the corridors.

I really spent hours to investigate this issue which occurred once every few months ...

  • Unplug the power supply of the Philips Bridge for 30 sec.
  • Switch off all the lights for 30 sec.
  • Remove the Bulbs from their sockets.
  • Press the 4 buttons of the remotes (Philips Hue Dimmer Switch) all together for a few seconds (until the led start to blink red/green).
  • Press both the On and Off buttons of the remote to reset the Bulbs.
  • Turn on/off the lights quickly several times (and do an incantation for Apollo).
  • Delete and Re-add again the lights and accessories within the App.
  • Go through the whole FAQ of Philips Hue.
  • Drink a bottle of wine and cry alone in my sofa.
  • etc...

I was always finally switching off all electric devices which were possibly disrupting the Zigbee signals : my routers, my wifi access points, my other Bridges (Tahoma Somfy, Z-Wave, ...) ... and even powering off the whole house... This extreme action was solving the problem ! But impossible to conclude what was the precise root cause.

Today, the problem occurred again. After various unsuccessful attempts (those mentioned above),  I read on a blog that the quality of the ethernet connection between the Philips Hue Bridge and Internet matters ?!? And I realized that my Bridge was plugged into a Devolo Powerline Adapter (Ethernet via Power Sockets). I also remember that in the past, unplugging and replugging that Devolo Powerline Adapter was an action I did and which solved the problem (but I actually did this to restart the various Bridges and WiFi access points connected onto it).

So, I moved the Philips Hue devices from that Adapter into the main Ethernet Router and boom, it worked !

Et voilà ? Really not sure. The ethernet connection is only for the Bridge to have access on a Wifi Access Point and be able to connect with the mobile App... The bulbs and the Bridge are connected via Zigbee. So, there  must be another reason hidden behind this (fake) "solution".

Note that the Phillips Hue Light Bulbs, even though they are Zigbee, do not act as repeaters for anything except other Light Bulbs on the same Hue bridge if they are connected to the Hue bridge (They use actually a "Zigbee Light Link" protocol instead of the regular Zigbee).

As I noticed that the disconnected Bulbs are often the Tradfri ones and the Philips Hue far from the Bridge, I thought that the problem was possibly more with the Tradfri light bulbs not receiving/repeating properly the signal for the Philips Hue light bulbs ? Two possible options:

  • Replace the cheap Tradfri light bulbs with expensive Philips Hue light bulbs. I will do so soon or later...
  • Investigate why receiving/repeating the ZigBee signal could fail... I can start with this.

It's often mentioned on the web that ZigBee can suffer for WiFi interferences. It shares the same 2.4GHz wireless band as WiFi routers and overlaps by default with the Wifi channel 11 (https://statusq.org/archives/2018/01/09/8435/). And indeed, moving the Philips Hue Bridge or Turning On/Off all Wifi Devices in the house used to solve, at least temporarily, the problem.

Ex.: Zigbee channels 21 to 24 overlaps with WiFi channel 11 as illustrated bellow. 

A first obvious solution  is to disable the WiFi 2.4GHz band and use only the 5GHz band for the WiFi Devices at home. But not all of them support 5GHz...

Another solution is to change the channel used by the Philips Hue Bridge  to use a ZigBee channel having less conflict with your WiFi (All lights must be powered on). Do the change via Philips Hue App's settings > Hue Bridges > touch the "i" of the Bridge to update > ZibBee channel change > Change Channel.

It will take about 30 seconds, but the Hue system will change the channel to another one automatically. Once done, the lights should all come back online (And indeed, this did the trick once for me too, without doing any other action). If they don’t, turn them on and off again at the main light switch/plug socket. Possible Zigbee channels are 11, 15, 20 and 25

Philips Hue Zigbee channel

Also you can try to move the Philips Hue Bridge to another location, not too close of the WiFi access points and in central location regarding the various ZigBee devices. This is what I did by connecting the Bridge directly on the Router (So the solution was not the improvement of the ethernet connection quality, but most probably a lower WiFi interference next to that Router).

Notice that this won't update the channel used by the Tradfri lights! As explained on Reddit by Erik1971, you can try, after changing the Hue System channel, to power cycle the Tradfri lights (make sure they are not powered for at least 1 minute). This should trigger the Tradfri lights to scan over the channels to join the network again. Best way to do this is to power off all Tradfri lights and keep the Hue Lights and Bridge powered and then one by one power on the Tradfri lights (to prevent that the Tradfri Lights see the other Tradfri lights on the wrong channel and rejoin on the wrong channel).

So, for the time being, my conclusion is that bulbs and accessories became unreachable due to (many?) new devices connecting on the WiFi or WiFi Access Points changing automatically their channels (This can be checked with an App like Wifi Analyzer).

Tips Easily connect Ikea Tradfri bulbs on Philips Hue Bridge

I did spent a lot of time trying to connect Smart/Cheap Ikea bulbs on my Philips Hue Bridge.

I finally found an easy way: use the Android App HueDynamic !

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First, you must be sure to have Ikea Tradfri bulbs with a firmware >= 1.2.x

To be sure about the firmware of Ikea bulbs, no choice but buy the Ikea Bridge and at least one Ikea Remote, then connect the bulb to the Android App "Tradfri". If the firmware is obsolete, then the App can be used to trigger an update. But my experience is that even to connect the Ikea bulbs with their App, it's a real pain in t.... Also, before connecting next the bulbs to the Philips Hue Brige, you will have to disconnect them from any Ikea remote and from to the App "Tradfri" (Check here).

An option is however to check the batch id of the production, on the box. It is said that all bulbs produced with a batch id equal or above 1721 should have a firmware compatible with the Philips Hue Bridge.

Here a sample of Ikea bulbs with a batch id 1733. I bought 6 of those and had (nearly) no issue to connect them.

Ikea Tradfri Batch Id

Ikea Tradfri Batch Id

Once you have a bulb with adhoc firmware, turn it on and place it very close to your Philips Hue Bridge (less than 2 cm ;). The easiest for that is to use a cable like this one (I did one myself):

Cable with adapter E14

Cable with adapter E14           

The bulb being on and next to the Hue Bridge, open the App HueDynamic and click on the three horizontal lines in the upper-left corner to open the menu. Then scroll down to the "Settings" section and pick the entry "Lights":

Click on the sign +, in the top-right corner to add the bulb:

And select the option "With TouchLink" (This is the magic trick !!):

Now, press the "TouchLink" button of your Philips Hue Bridge:

The App HueDynamic will search for the bulb during 1 or 2 minutes... Once in touch with the bulb, this one will start to dim and bright several times before finally turning off. The App will continue to search for several minutes (for other bulbs) after that. When it stops to search, you see the bulb found on the screen. Accept it !

Notice that this process failed for one of my bulb (out of 6). I tried twice and got each time the message here under:

But when I came back to the list of bulbs, I saw that the bulb was actually in the list (Maybe I did something wrong without noticing ?!).

Since the bulbs are connected, I have been able to combine them into rooms and control them with Philips Hue Motion Sensors. They work great so far !

NB.: I read that Ikea remotes may not be used as once connected to a bulb, the bulb disappear from the Philips Hue Bridge... I didn't try that yet and won't ;)

Tips Tips and tricks in French to use Philips Hue via Google Home

Here is a list of a few tips & tricks to use the Bulbs of Philips Hue with a French Google Assistant.

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Important notice: based on my experience, Google Assistant is evolving fast (possibly learning). Meaning that at the beginning, only specific and correct sentences were supported.

After some time, Google Assistant accept more flavor of those sentences.

Synchronize Google Home and Philips Hue to see new Bubbles

Prerequisite: link Google Home with your Philips Hue account.

Reminder: Open the "Google Home" App. In the top part of the screen, there are various icons under the name of your house: "Eteindre" (Off), "Allumer" (On), "Lire" (Play) , "Ajouter" (Add), "Paramètres" (Settings) .... Click on "Ajouter" (Add) >  "Configurer un appareil" > "Fonctionne avec Google". This is opening a screen to manage the linked accounts. Philips Hue must be added.

Assuming that you have already linked Google Home with your Philips Hue account, when you add bubbles via the Philips Hue App, they don't appear immediately in Google Home. To force Google Home to sync with Philips Hue, say "Ok Google" or "Dis Google". Then "Mets à jour les lumières", "Mets à jour les lampes" or "Synchronise les appareils".

[04/2019] It's quite weird but initially the following sentences didn't work: "Mets à jour les appareils", "Synchronise les lumières", "Synchronise les lampes". Google was answering that you have to use Google Home for that... But after a few weeks, it started to work. It was not the first time that I notice this kind of "progress" with various commands. It's seems that there is a kind of learning curve for the Google Assistant !

Turn on/off Philips Hue's lights

Initially, I was only able to tell:

  • "Allume/éteins (le) X", where X is the name of a light (Ex.: "Spot 1", "Spot de Klara" - Notice that the names of my lights are not prefixed with an definite article 'the'. So I can say "Allume le spot 1" or "Allume spot 1").
  • "Allume/éteins (le) X à x%",  where x is the percentage or luminosity
  • "Allume/éteins les lumières (de/du) X", where X is the name of a room, to turn on/off all the lights in that room (Ex.: "Chambre de Klara", "Bureau" - Notice that the names of my rooms are not prefixed with an definite article 'the').
  • "Allume/éteins les lumières (de/du) X à x%", where x is the percentage or luminosity
  • "Allume/éteins les lumières" to turn on/off all the lights in the current room (I.e.: the room where the Google Assistant is assigned)
  • "Allume/éteins les lumières à x%", where x is the percentage or luminosity

Now, a bit confusing as not 10% consistent:

  • "Allume", is going to turn on all the devices in the room, not only the light. In my case it also turn on Nvidia Shield TV
  • "Éteins", does not work
  • "Allume/Éteins tout" turn on/off all the lights in the current room (I.e.: the room where the Google Assistant is assigned)
  • "Allume/Éteins tout dans (le/la) X" where X is the name of a room, to turn on/off all the devices in the current room (I.e.: the room where the Google Assistant is assigned)

I also tried to use the word "lampes" instead of "lumières" but this was not recognized. I discussed that issue with Google Support. They told me that this was possibly due to the fact that the name of some lights used to be "lampe XYZ". I did rename my lamps but without success at that time. Now, weeks later, it works. I can tell "Allume/éteins les lumières ..." or "Allume/éteins les lampes ...". So, my experience is that the overall experience is not always consistent.

Use Philips Hue Scenario

To start a scenario named X, use the sentence "Active X". Ex.: "Active Color Loop"

To stop it, use the sentence "Désactive X" or "Stop X"

Turn off and on only some Bubbles in a room using Philips Hue Scenario

With Google Home, it's currently not possible to create several groups of Bubbles in a room. It's also not possible to include a Bubble within several rooms (if you want to use fake rooms to group your bubbles). But as a trick, you can create a "Scenario" within the Philips Hue App (Scene) to turn off or on any subset of Bubbles.

Open the Philips Hue App and tap the room containing the Bubbles to group. Once the room opened, tap "Nouveau Scénario" (New Scene).

On the color picker (color or white disc), you see your lamps (a bubble or small circles with the amount of bubbles, one bubble or circle per type of lamp - color or white). Tap the circle representing several bubbles to access each bubble individually and define its rightness or its state on/off in the Scene. You can decide to have x lights on, y lights off and z lights dimmed to 50%.

Name that new scene like "les lumières XYZ" (the lights XYZ). Once Google Home and Philips Hue synchronized, you will be able to tell "Ok Google", "Active les lumières XYZ" (Activate the lights XYZ).

Combine commands into a routines [03/2019]

I did create routines to combine commands into a sequence, with sometimes delays between each commands. Ex.: to turn on all the devices to watch a movie, I simply say "Ok Google, allume le cinéma". The routine is a set of individual commands to turn on the projector, turn on the console NVidia and open the projection screen: "active l'allumage du projecteur", "allume shield", "active l'ouverture d'écran".

"active l'allumage du projecteur" and "active l'ouverture d'écran" are two scénario define in my Broadlink account (to remote control devices via IR: See this note). As those are accessing scenario via services, we have to use the verb "active".

"allume shield" is a native command of Google Home. Indeed, no need to integrate any service to remote contro a NVidia Shield TV. But keep in mind that there are plenty of issues with remote controlling Shield: can open Netflix, but can't start a movie. the volume is decreased each time you tell a command but is not restored to its initial level once the command executed, etc...

Command Somfy blinds with Tahoma box [04/2019]

In the past, I used to control blinds motorized with Somfy via voice commands thanks to the integration between Google Home and the Tahoma box via IFTTT.

Now, thanks to the native integration of "Somfy Tahoma & Connexoon" services with Google Home, I could get rid of IFTTT to control the blinds.

Here are the supported sentence once all devices are assigned to rooms in Google Home:

  • "Ok Google, ouvre/ferme X" - X being the name of a blind ("store" or "volet" in Tahoma)
  • "Ok Google, ouvre/ferme X à x %"

X can have articles but Google Assistant will quickly learn that there are various flavor possible: "le volet du salon", "le volet au salon", "mon volet du salon".

To close all the blinds, I was only able to do it for sure with

  • "OK Google, ouvre/ferme tout" to close all blind in the home
  • "OK Google, ouvre/ferme tout dans X" to close all blinds in a room named X. Another way is to tell :" Ok Google, ouvrir X". This is not a nice French sentence and seems a direct translation of the English version. Notice that if X = "Bureau", you won't be able to tell "Ok Google, ouvrir le Bureau". To do that, the room must be named "le Bureau" instead of simple "Bureau".

Although the documentation of Tahoma pretends that we should be able to tell "OK Google, ouvre/ferme tous les volets" to close all the blinds in the current room (room where the Assistant is assigned), this does not work. Also notice that you may not open the door of the Garage due to Google security Policy applied on the integrated services. You may only do it via IFTTT !!!

use several commands and/or routines together

I discovered by accident that Google Home was supporting sentences combining several commands X, Y, Z ..., simply by telling "Ok Google, X et Y et Z ...". Ex.:

  • "Ok Google, allume le cinéma et ferme tout dans le bureau" where "allume le cinéma" and "ferme tout dans le bureau" are two distinct routines.
  • "Ok Google, allume le cinéma et ferme tout dans le bureau et éteins tout" where "allume le cinéma" and "ferme tout dans le bureau" are two distinct routines.