Philips: Lighting the way to home transformation with Google Cloud Platform

Philips Lighting, a global leader in lighting based in the Netherlands, wanted to transform the way people use lighting in their homes. The company aimed to connect light bulbs to the Internet, tie them to usage data, and make them interactive in order to offer benefits beyond basic lighting — for creating amazing experiences, home security or to support wellbeing, like providing the right light for daily activities.

To do that, Philips Lighting launched Philips Hue connected lighting. “With Philips Hue, we don’t just sell light bulbs — we sell a way for lighting to change your home and life,” says George Yianni, head of technology-connected lighting for the home at Philips Lighting and inventor of Hue.

Philips Hue was designed so people could control their lighting from smartphone apps. But Philips needed a backend platform that would let the apps securely access, monitor and interact with the new lighting system.

“We chose Google Cloud Platform to power Philips Hue’s backend because it scales instantly, frees engineers to work on product development rather than managing infrastructure,” says Yianni.

Using data to help lighting transform the home

Philips Lighting built the Philips Hue backend using Google Cloud Platform with the help of Q42, which provided cloud platform design and engineering services. Using Google Cloud Platform, Philips Hue was able to get their services up and running quickly, with minimal upfront costs and the confidence that the platform would scale to support the ultimate success of the business.

Philips Lighting uses a full suite of Google Cloud Platform cloud services, including Google App Engine, Google Cloud SQL, Google Cloud Storage, Google Cloud Datastore, Google Kubernetes Engine and Google Compute Engine to power the backend. Google Cloud Platform enables the out of home connections between the Philips Hue bridge, which acts as the hub that enables communication between the lights and a user’s mobile phone app or web app, and any third-party apps or devices that are connected into the system.

Google Kubernetes Engine (powered by Kubernetes) and Google Compute Engine handle 200 million transactions every day, including 18 million remote lighting commands. “Google Kubernetes Engine provides the infrastructure that allows our lighting bridge to connect to any number of apps and devices,” Yianni says. “It delivers a high-performing, flexible infrastructure that lets us independently scale components for maximum efficiency.”

Philips Hue is also using the Apigee API management platform to help manage their Kubernetes Engine and Kubernetes APIs.

Yianni cites several examples of how Philips Hue goes beyond just providing traditional lighting. Instead of redecorating their homes, people can change their homes’ look multiple times per day by changing its lighting with a tap of a button. And if people often feel tired in the morning, they can put their lights on a routine which replicates the sunrise and encourages them to wake up more naturally.

To extend Philips Hue’s capabilities even further, it works with home automation devices and platforms, including the Nest line of smart home devices. When a Nest security camera detects someone approaching a home, Philips Hue can trigger a light to turn on in an upstairs room, making it look as if someone inside has heard a noise, deterring potential intruders. Google Cloud Platform enables all the connections in the cloud.

“With the help of Google Cloud Platform, we are changing the fundamental business model of selling lighting to consumers. We’re providing an entirely new set of value-based services that transform the home, rather than just replacing bulbs that burn out,” Yianni says.

Scaling fast, cutting costs

Google Cloud Platform has dramatically cut the costs and resources required to handle the Philips Hue backend and scales on demand. From the beginning, Yianni says that Philips runs the platform with 10 times the scale of other similar projects, but with only one-tenth of the workforce – on average requiring half of one person’s time versus the five full-time resources other similar projects require.

“Google Cloud Platform has a rich set of services that lets us be creative in designing new capabilities for Hue. When something comes up that we want to do, there is always a Google cloud service that allows us to build it,” says Yianni.