Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor review: A must-have accessory for Hue smart lighting owners Credit: SignifySupplied Art
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Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor review: A must-have accessory for Hue smart lighting owners

Any smart floodlight will have a motion detector that will turn on its light when someone enters its detection zone. What makes the Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor special is that it can trigger multiple Philips Hue smart bulbs and smart luminaires. And those lights can be both outside and inside your home.

When a burglar trips a floodlight, they just might shrug, duck out of the pool of light, and proceed to break into your home, thinking “Eh, it’s just a dumb floodlight.” But an intruder might think twice if they also see a light flip on inside your home. The last thing the typical thief wants to do is break in while someone’s home.

Installing a Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor

To install the sensor, you’ll screw a plastic bracket to a flat surface, hook the sensor on that bracket, and then secure it to the bracket with a set screw. Philips provides an optional bracket that lets you mount the sensor to an inside or outside corner. The user manual indicates a third mounting option, using a cable tie—which might be a good option for mounting to something like a rain gutter downspout—but Philips doesn't provide a cable tie.

philips hue outdoor motion sensor components Michael Brown / IDG

The bracket to the left of the Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor allows you to mount the sensor on either an inside or outside corner.

Screws (which are overly long if you’re mounting the bracket to wood siding or trim) and hollow-wall anchors (which might also work for installation on stucco or masonry) are provided in the box, as is a fold-out installation manual that covers only the physical installation. While this documentation does instruct you to call up the Accessory menu in the Philips Hue app to add the sensor, that’s all it says. You’re on your own when it comes to figuring out how to configure the app to turn on lights in response to motion.

Configuring a Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor

philips hue outdoor motion sensor app screenshot 2 Michael Brown / IDG

The Philips Hue app lets you program Philips Hue lights to any scene based on outdoor motion.

Fortunately, those steps are not difficult to figure out. The sensor can trigger multiple Philips Hue smart bulbs and luminaires at once, but its trigger is based on rooms, not individual fixtures. When you install Philips Hue bulbs or fixtures, the app has you assign those devices to “rooms.” When you configure the motion detector, the app allows you to select a maximum of three rooms in which all Hue bulbs assigned to those rooms can be controlled whenever motion is detected.

I mounted the sensor above a set of French screen doors on my back porch and set it up in the app to control the lights in my “backyard” room and in my “pool table room.” “Backyard” has one Philips Hue Calla bollard-style pathway light and three Philips Hue Lily landscape spotlights, while “pool table room” has five Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 smart bulbs in a lamp hanging over my pool table.

The app allows you to set two sets of actions (“behaviors,” as the app labels them) for daylight hours, and a second set of two for nighttime hours. You define when each period begins and ends. One behavior determines what all the lights in each room will do when motion is detected, and the other controls what the lights will do once motion is no longer detected for a user-defined period ranging from two minutes to one hour.

It's an all or nothing affair

Behaviors can trigger all the lights in a room to switch to any of the Philips Hue lighting scenes or light recipes, or you can program the app so that the lights in a room do nothing at all. You can program different behaviors for each room, but not for the individual lights in that room. I programmed the app so that the Lily spotlights and Calla pathway light in my backyard would switch to their brightest value at night, while my pool table light would come on in a “nightlight” mode. After 10 minutes, the pool table light turns off, and the backyard lights return to their previous state. That last option is important, because you might want brighter light only when motion is detected, and then have your landscape lighting revert to a more atmospheric setting afterward.

The motion sensor offers 12 meters of range (39.4 feet), with a horizontal field of view of 160 degrees and an 80-degree vertical field of view. The top half of the dome-shaped sensor is covered with a black plastic hood, so that birds flying overhead or leaves falling from nearby trees won’t produce false alarms. The sensor detects variations in infrared radiation in the environment, and its lens monitors movement directly beneath it, so that it will respond when you open a door and walk under it. The top half of the lens detects movement at longer distances, such as someone approaching your door from the front or side.

philips hue outdoor motion sensor installed Michael Brown / IDG

The author installed the Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor above a French screendoor on his patio.

If you discover that the motion sensor is turning lights on unnecessarily, you can adjust its sensitivity in the Hue app. The device also has a built-in light sensor that should prevent it from unnecessarily turning lights on during daylight hours (although the daylight behavior you program in the app might override that).

A must-have accessory for Philips Hue users

As with all Philips Hue devices, the outdoor motion sensor uses a ZigBee radio for command and control. As such, adding one will extend the range of your Philips Hue network, which might be particularly useful if you’re installing Hue products outside your home and you discover that the required Hue Bridge is having difficulty reaching them. You can install any combination of Philips Hue indoor sensors, outdoor sensors, and wireless switches, but you're limited to 12 such devices on a single network.

This sensor is useless if you don’t have Philips Hue lighting products in your home, but it adds significant value to that ecosystem if you do. Being able to control lights outside and inside your home based on outdoor motion detection delivers both safety and security benefits. This is a great idea that’s exceedingly well executed.

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