Review: Philips Hue Motion Sensor
Philips new Hue Motion Sensor is the latest addition to the company's Hue lighting ecosystem, providing a light and motion sensor that can be used to automate all of the Hue lights within a given room based on detecting motion, or a lack of motion. The wireless motion sensor also includes an integrated daylight sensor to allow for more granular control of lights, along with the ability to set separate day and night schedules. Unfortunately, while Hue Motion Sensor is a nice addition to the Hue ecosystem, it lacks any kind of HomeKit support, making it a less useful solution for anybody who wants to mix and match Hue lighting with other HomeKit-enabled solutions.
The Hue Motion Sensor package includes the wireless motion sensor and a magnetic mount with screws for mounting the sensor on a surface, such as a wall. It’s powered by two AAA batteries that are already pre-installed with a plastic strip that you’ll need to remove to initially power on the motion sensor. The mounting system is relatively straightforward — a single screw secures the circular magnetic base to a wall, and then the motion sensor attaches magnetically in any orientation you prefer.
Setting up the motion sensor is similar to setting up a Hue Dimmer Switch; as soon as the motion sensor is powered on by removing the plastic strip, it should go into pairing mode, where it can be discovered and added from the “Add Accessory” option in the Hue app’s settings. This will take you through a quick process of finding and associating the sensor with a given room or set of rooms.
The Hue Motion Sensor will be automatically configured with default settings for daytime, nighttime, and no-motion lighting, which can be customized from within the Hue app. In all cases, motion will only be triggered if insufficient daylight is available — a handy feature designed to save energy by not having lights come on when they’re not needed. You can choose the specific hours during which daytime and nighttime schedules are in effect, although only a daily schedule is available — you won’t be able to use different times on weekends, for instance — and the no-motion timeout can be specified. You can choose a pre-defined lighting level, scene, or recipe for each of the three scenarios, and like the Hue Dimmer Switch, the sensor is designed to operate on rooms, rather than individual bulbs. This means you either need to be content with having the motion sensor control all of the Hue lights in a room, or get a bit creative with how you organize your lights by essentially creating virtual “rooms” as groupings instead of relying on physical rooms. Daylight sensitivity and motion sensitivity can both be adjusted from within the app as well.
As we mentioned in the introduction, the biggest disappointment here is that Hue Motion Sensor has absolutely no tie-in to HomeKit — it doesn’t appear in HomeKit in any way — meaning you’ll only be able to use it with Hue lights. This isn’t a big problem if you’ve heavily bought into the Hue ecosystem and don’t plan to expand into other HomeKit lighting solutions, but it’s still a pretty unfortunate limitation when you consider that even the sensors that come with the ecobee3 thermostat can technically be used as HomeKit motion sensors, at least unofficially. Further, the limitations of the Hue app — which restrict you to controlling lighting based on scenes and rooms — may also limit the usefulness of the Motion Sensor for more serious home automation enthusiasts. (The app arguably simplifies the experience for the more casual user, which could be a positive if you’re a novice.) If you’re looking for a motion sensor to provide basic control of Hue lighting in a given room, the Hue Motion Sensor isn’t a bad choice, and it’s reasonably priced for what it is, but we’d suggest that users with more advanced needs wait for a better HomeKit-compliant option to come along.