Philips updates Hue firmware to block bulbs from rivals [Updated]

It seems that the IoT wars are finally heating up and Philips may have just fired the opening shot. The company has just rolled out a firmware update to its Hue brand of network-connected smart bulbs and one of if not the most significant thing it does is to cut off connectivity with third party bulbs, which is to say smart bulbs from its rivals like GE. This will, at least for the time being, probably dash the hopes of some to have an interconnected smart home, or at least smart lighting, with IoT devices from different and competing brands.

Technically, Philips Hue bulbs speaks the language of Zigbee, a wireless communications protocol that many devices, including some routers and remote controls, support. The purpose of such standards is to actually make devices talk to one another. At least in an ideal world. Philips, however, would prefer not to be so communicative.

The company's reason for shutting off those open lines almost sounds justifiable. It claims that it has observed an "increasing number of interoperability issues" with third party products, which is supposedly damaging the image of Philips' Hue. So presumably while they're ironing out the issues, they're closing the door on those untested products.

That said, Philips Isn't completely turning its back on those rival products. For one, it's only blocking new and untested products, so those that have been working with Hue before wil continue to work. For how long, no one knows. For another, Philips has a "Friends of Hue" program, which is practicallyi a certification for devices that wish to connect with Hue. What are the chances of rival companies applying for that?

Philips move does highlight one aspect of the new IoT trend that hasn't been explored that much yet. In an unconnected world, there isn't much of a problem with brands that keep to themselves, since appliances and products are pretty much isolated islands of their own. But with the Internet of Things, the value of these devices come from their ability to interoperate with others, including those from competing brands. Such a world might require a shift in mentality and relations, a shift that some companies might find to be uncomfortable.

Update: Philips has reversed course on its decision.

VIA: Boing Boing