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HomeKit-compatible Philips Hue Bridge updated to support Zigbee 3.0 smart light bulbs

Philips has issued new firmware for its HomeKit-compatible Hue lighting system, updating the Bridge to include support for Zigbee 3.0, allowing it to work with a wider array of connected lights, lamps, and similar devices produced by other companies.

The firmware update spotted on Reddit, released for both the original model of the Hue Bridge and the HomeKit-supporting second generation model, extends the existing Zigbee support from the Zigbee Light Link communication protocol to include Zigbee 3.0. The update to Zigbee 3.0 will mean the Hue Bridge will still be backwards compatible with devices using Zigbee Light Link, meaning any existing connected hardware should continue to communicate normally with the Bridge.

Zigbee 3.0 is a unification of the low-power communication protocol designed for Internet of Things devices. While there are multiple separate specifications of Zigbee that relate to specific types of devices, such as Light Link, Remote Control, and Home Automation, Zigbee 3.0 combines them all together into one specification, in theory allowing any Zigbee 3.0 device to communicate with other compatible hardware.

The shift to Zigbee 3.0 effectively enables the Hue Bridge to work with a wider range of third-party lamps that communicates using the protocol, expanding the usability of the Bridge to control more devices in the home. Previously this was possible only with bulbs supporting the earlier Zigbee Light Link standard, but the move to the newer protocol introduces more options to homeowners wanting to add more network-connected lighting and other to their home.

This also means other devices that connect over Zigbee 3.0 can communicate using the Hue Bridge to other hardware. For example, Hue lights could be controlled by a Zigbee 3.0-equipped remote control produced by a third party, and built-in lighting systems using the standard could be turned on and off by the Hue.

In the case of the HomeKit-enabled Hue Bridge, this means that HomeKit can influence devices on the network that use Zigbee 3.0 via the Bridge, but do not have native HomeKit support.

According to Philip's developer site for Hue, the company previously announced plans to certify new products to the Zigbee 3.0 standard after releasing its Hue Bridge software update. Consumers are not expected to notice any negative change in their lighting systems after the update, due to its backwards compatibility with Zigbee Light Link.

Earlier this year, Philips introduced Hue Entertainment, a way for users to synchronize their lights with movies and games using the Hue iOS app. The firm also teased Hue Sync, an upcoming tool for macOS High Sierra that can construct lighting scrips for any media played on a computer, as well as a refreshed version 3.0 of the Hue iOS app that will offer quick access to recent scenes and simplified light grouping options.