Philips Hue has three new smart security cameras
By Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, a smart home reviewer who's been testing connected gadgets since 2013. Previously a writer for Wirecutter, Wired, and BBC Science Focus.
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Philips Hue is moving into the smart home security space with the launch of Philips Hue Secure, a DIY security system that leverages new cameras and new sensors that work alongside Philips Hue’s smart lighting system to scare off potential burglars. When the system is triggered by a sensor, you can activate any compatible Hue lights to flash red or white and/or sound an alarm through the camera.
Philips Hue Secure is launching this fall with a wired indoor/outdoor camera ($199.99), a battery-powered indoor/outdoor camera ($249.99), a full-color floodlight camera ($349.99), and new contact sensors ($39.99) to secure windows and doors.
The Verge got an in-person preview of the new devices at IFA 2023 in Berlin this week. I was impressed by the modern look and simple magnetic mounting system, but in terms of specs, the only real stand-out features are end-to-end encryption and the tight integration with Hue’s lighting system. They are also, predictably, very pricey. These are some of the most expensive smart security cameras you can buy.
The cameras work over Wi-Fi, have 1080p video, two-way talk, end-to-end encryption, smart alerts for people, pets, and vehicles, and a built-in siren. They double as motion sensors for the security system and then can be used as motion sensors for Hue lights when not on sentry duty.
At launch, there is no compatibility with Amazon Alexa or Google Home, although George Yianni, head of technology at Philips Hue, said that they are working on an integration to view live footage on those companies’ smart displays.
The cameras will not work with Apple Home until cameras are supported in Matter, he said. There are no plans to support HomeKit Secure Video. Instead, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee starting at $3.99 per month / $39.99 a year, per camera to view recorded footage.
Philips Hue did announce that it is finally bringing Matter support to its bridge next month, which means the new contact sensors will work with Matter, and there’s potential for the motion sensors in the cameras to show up in any Matter-compatible platform.
Here’s a closer look at the new products coming this fall.
The Philips Hue Secure wired camera costs $199.99 and comes in black or white. It has an included magnetic wall mount, or you can get it with a desktop stand for $229.99. It works indoors or outdoors, and the cable is weatherproof, but the plug isn’t. The camera is compact and solid, but the cable management is awkward. It sticks out of the bottom in an ungainly way and uses a proprietary four-prong cable.
The Philips Hue Secure battery camera is $249.99 and looks like an elongated version of the wired camera. It also comes in black or white, and its battery is estimated to last four months with five activations a day. The battery is not removable — like those from Arlo and Ring — so you have to take it down to charge it. It is possible to power it with Philips Hue’s low-voltage outdoor cables ($29.99) designed for its outdoor lighting.
The battery camera also comes with a small magnetic mount, and there’s the option of a ground spike camera mount ($39.99) you can stick in the shrubs or a flower pot.
The Philips Hue Secure floodlight camera is available in black only and is launching in early 2024 for $349.99. It’s basically the wired camera attached to Hue’s existing floodlight and needs to be hardwired to your home’s wiring. It uses both Wi-Fi (for the camera) and Zigbee (for the light) to connect and is designed to be mounted to a wall, not under an eave.
The new Philips Hue Secure contact sensor comes in black or white for $39.99 for one, or $69.99 for two. They work over Hue’s Zigbee network connecting to the Hue Bridge to send an alert when the system’s armed, or to trigger lighting automations when it’s not. They are basic contact sensors; there are no motion-sensing features.
While the cameras work as stand-alone devices, you need the bridge for most security features, including the contact sensor, floodlight camera, light and sound alarms, and automations. You don’t need the cameras for the security system. According to Yanni, if you already have motion sensors and Hue lights, you’ll be able to set up security automations to flash your lights in the new Security Center in the Hue app.
The Security Center is where you manage the security system and set up the different ways you want it to react when you’re home or away. When a sensor is triggered while armed, the app sends an alert, and you can take action to flash your lights, sound the alarm, or call 911 or a trusted contact directly from the app.
Arming and disarming also controls the camera’s recording state. Yanni said that when disarmed, it shuts off the Wi-Fi, so the cameras are not recording. However, they can still act as motion sensors; the wired version uses its optical sensor, and the battery version uses a PIR sensor. They then send the signal over Zigbee to the bridge.
On-device processing of smart alerts for people, packages, and vehicles, plus end-to-end encryption turned on by default, means footage should be secure and only accessible by you.
There’s no local storage, so if you want recorded video, you need to pay for a cloud plan starting at $3.99 per camera a month ($39.99 a year) or $9.99 ($99.99 a year) for up to 10 cameras. Motion-activated recorded events will be uploaded to the cloud, where they’re stored for 30 to 60 days. The cameras also work with activity zones and smart alerts, but these require a paid subscription.
My initial impression is the new cameras are most comparable to Google Nest cameras, which use magnetic mounts, have indoor/outdoor capabilities, and do on-device processing of smart alerts.
They look similar design-wise and have the same solid feel and quality materials. However, Google Nest cameras are cheaper — $179.99 for the battery-powered one compared to $249.99 for Hue’s. But Google doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption — a feature that is not common and much sought after with security cameras.
While the Hue Secure cameras are expensive and the video quality and smart alerts fairly standard, the products from this Netherlands-based company look nice, appear well-made, and offer the type of privacy protection that many people will feel is worth paying more for.
As a security system, it feels a little underdone at launch. It appears to be all manually triggered — so you have to see and act on one of the alerts (there’s no option for professional monitoring). You’d also need a lot of Hue light bulbs, or a few very expensive outdoor light fixtures, for the flashing lights to really attract any attention outside of your home, so how effective a deterrent this will be remains to be seen.
Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge
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