Want to turn out/on the lights or change colors? Just wave.

NFC tag 3rd party Android app

In this Q&A Georgi Tanmazov, CEO of Incorporate Apps, tells us more about his team’s experiences of creating one of the first Android apps for hue.

Where did you first hear about hue?

We've known about HUE since almost the beginning (2012), but only recently decided - after the stable Android SDK release - to try it out in our apps. We wanted to wait for the official SDK to come out.

How did you come up with the idea to make an NFC for hue app?

We looked at the market and what was being offered and there was clearly no such app that does all the things our app does in a straightforward way, or if they did, they were reviewed poorly. We also wanted to incorporate the android notifications, given the knowledge of proximity via NFC, to control the bulbs for such events as incoming/missed calls or missed text/facebook/whatsapp messages. Or any other 3rd party app notification on the phone.

How does your app compare to similar apps?

I think there are one or two more apps which use the NFC technology, but as far as we know we are the first one to do it as in combining the NFC proximity to control specific bulbs via the Android notifications system. Since the users assign specific NFC chips to specific hue bulbs, the app knows exactly where the phone and the user are stationed, and which bulbs to control.

How has your app changed your personal experience of hue lights at home?

I have 5 bulbs at home, which I now can control via my Nexus device and the NFC tags around the house (these are basically small white stickers that nobody see,s positioned under tables or behind doors). I’ve had quite a few people turn their heads around when I wave my phone and change the bulb state and color in the same room, based on my proximity.

How easy was it to develop this app?

It was a bit challenging at first. Our team found some bugs in the SDK which we reported to the Hue SDK team, I believe they are being fixed now. But once we understood the basic principles and got our head around the SDK and the color scheme it was a more straightforward process of developing and testing.

What sorts of challenges did you face when starting to program this app?

The main challenge was what we experienced as the lack of proper SDK control over the bridge/devices' scenes. It gets a bit challenging when the scenes have been controlled over multiple devices: the web page, iOS and Android devices and we still haven't found a good way to present the user with the available scenes. Our workaround is tp use our own scene scenarios inside the app and it seems this is what other developers are doing at the moment as well.

Ed: Actually, the issue here is the way the actual bridge handles scenes. That is, scenes in the bridge are stored with minimal information so it is impossible for the SDK to know the light colors/states of scenes (unless they are activated first). The Android/iOS apps get round this issues by storing all the scenes internally in a database. And on top of all this, not all scenes in the Android/iOS apps are necessarily in the bridge! So it’s not really a straightforward process to get the app's scenes and use them in your own app. So yes, it is a challenging situation with no simple solution, Georgi!

How is the app selling, and reviewing so far?

It is early days, yes, but we’ve had a few hundred downloads already, we hope to reach more users soon. Our free app is a steady 5 star app so far, the paid app is around 4,5 stars.

How is this app complementary to the other apps you’ve developed?

We have around 25 apps on the market and this is the first time we have developed an app in the smart space environment. It was exciting building something like this and incorporating different technologies into one single app (Philips hue bulbs, controlled over Wifi with the help of NFC tags and using Android's notification system on a mobile device)

What other possibilities do you see for hue apps?

We are working on a bunch of add-ons, so stay tuned.

Georgi Tanmazov, CEO Incorporate Apps
Incorporate Apps is based in Berlin, and was established in 2011 by Georgi Tanmazov.
Today the team consists of Georgi, two full time developers, a few interns and a freelance designer.