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Philips Hue Motion Sensor: Putting the auto in home automation

If you have Hue lights in your house, you're going to want to check out the Philips Hue Motion Sensor — trust me.

This tiny white box solves one of the most annoying hurdles in home automation: that you need some sort of controller to interface with your devices (your voice for Siri, your finger for an app, a remote from the manufacturer, etc.).

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Hands- (and voice-) free is the way to be!

I've unashamedly gone all-in on home automation, and one of the critiques I hear regularly from guests is "it's much easier to flip a light switch than to use a phone." Fair point — it's one I'm reminded of every time we host someone and I have to give them a tutorial for controlling the lighting.

With the Philips Hue Motion Sensor in my home, I just have to to tell them not to worry about the tiny white box looking down from above, mwahahahaha! Kidding, I tell 'em exactly what it is and what it does.

Philips Hue Indoor Motion Sensor (Image credit: iMore)

I live in a two-floor home and chose to install the sensor at the top of my stairwell, just outside the bedrooms and bathroom. I have two Hue White bulbs (opens in new tab) installed in the ceiling light fixture. Whether I'm walking up or down the stairs — or walking from room to room upstairs — the sensor turns on my lights without me having to do a darn thing. Turns 'em off, too!

This GIF shows the lights dimming, turning off, and turning back on (thanks to my flailing):

Setup and customization

Setting up the Philips Hue Motion Sensor is pretty simple once you've figured out where in your house you'd like to install it. The sensor can sit on a shelf or table, or it can be mounted to a wall. Philips includes a small magnetic mount that you attach to the wall. Thanks to the magnetic design, you can turn, rotate, and pan the sensor on the mount.

Add the sensor to your Hue setup

Once you've figured out where you want it to go, you pull the plastic tab out of the back to activate the two AAA batteries (Philips says you can expect two to three years of battery life). Once the light begins to blink orange, you're ready to add the accessory to your Hue setup.

  1. Open the Hue app.
  2. Head into Settings (looks like a gear in the top left corner).
  3. Tap Accessory setup.
  4. Tap the Add Accessory button (looks like a plus sign in the bottom right corner).
  5. Tap Hue motion sensor.
  6. Tap LED blinking to confirm the orange LED is blinking and begin the pairing process.
  7. Follow the on-screen prompts to choose the room and lights that your sensor controls.

Customize your Hue Motion Sensor

The best thing about the Hue Motion Sensor is its customization options. It's meant to have more functionality than, say, a floodlight. In other words, it doesn't stop at detects motion, turns on light — it does much more than that.

You assign the device to a room (or rooms) and can control the following settings:

  • When motion is detected: This setting tells the sensor what to do when it senses motion. Philips gives you an option for both day and night, which I've found to be incredibly helpful. I set the light to a much dimmer setting at night so it doesn't blast away my retinas.
  • When there is no motion: This setting tells the sensor what to do when it no longer senses motion. It comes with a time setting and a light setting, so, for example, you can tell the sensor to dim the lights after two minutes of no movement.
  • Daylight sensitivity: This setting adjusts the sensor's sensitivity to light. It works on the assumption that if you've got enough light, there's no reason to turn more on. So if you've got a bright, sunlit room, the sensor will stop detecting motion until the light levels drop below the level you set.
  • Motion sensitivity: This setting adjusts the sensor's sensitivity to motion. If you find your lights are turning on after a house fly soars past your sensor, you might want to decrease the sensitivity. My pets were constantly triggering the motion sensor so I dropped the sensitivity a bit.

Y u no HomeKit?

Philips Hue Motion Sensor in hand.

I've got one complaint regarding the Philips Hue Motion Sensor: It doesn't work with Apple's Home app or HomeKit.

When I first heard about this motion sensor, I had grandiose ideas of setting up multiple HomeKit automations. It'd be nice if a HomeKit-enabled fan, for example, could be activated when the device senses motion. There are ways to get similar automations in Apple's Home app, but a direct link would be a nice addition for the device.

Bottom line

Ultimately, the Philips Hue Motion Sensor is quite honestly my favorite Hue product. I've got several Hue lights (color, ambiance, and white) and a Hue dimmer switch — the Motion Sensor is the first device I'm regularly and actively excited about.

Now when guests complain about the difficulty of pulling out a phone or using their voice to control my lights, I can smugly stomp up the stairs, my path lit before me.

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Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

5 Comments
  • I decided to install Hue Dimmer Switches ( https://www.amazon.com/Philips-458158-Hue-Dimmer-Switch/dp/B014H2OYVW/re... ) for the benefits of my guest and ended installing them all over my house. Its a lot easier than giving on the spot tutorials. They are cheap simple to use and really simplify the setup. I also have a couple of tap switches but those are 3x the price.
  • So my sensor turned up today. The basic functionality seems great, but the app needs some work as there's not enough control. I've placed the sensor at the top of the staircase and linked it to the light above and the bathroom light. When motion is detected, it lights both and then both go off at the set time. What goes wrong is if the bathroom light was already on. It still goes off after the set time. So you could be in the bathroom, someone comes past the door and that triggers a silent timer about to switch off the bathroom light. It'd have expected it to take account of the current state of the bulb before deciding if the motion sensing should take control of it. I.e. If light enabled by motion then disable due to lack of motion. If light enabled by human then do nothing.
  • The daylight sensitivity setting simply does not work. I have stopped using my sensor till they come up with some kind of fix.
  • I have had my sensor for a few days, and changing the daylight sensitivity setting works fine for me.
  • In addition to having more control: During day time: I would like the motion sensor to have an option for increasing the brightness of the existing scene without changing the scene, e.g. stay on energize, stay on reading, stay on relax, just make it brighter. During night time if the scene is dim night-light then I would like the sensor to change the scene and brightness to a medium brightness calm scene, e.g. relax, and then after a timer expiry to go back to night-light function. Currently the only option is to change the scene without reverting back to the original setting. At the end of the expired timer period, the only option is to switch off or to do nothing,