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Consumers Turned off by Philips DRM Light Bulbs

Posted by: , 14:53 AEDT, Sat December 19, 2015

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Decision by Philips to add DRM to light bulbs backfires
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Image/Photo Credit: Philips

A consumer backlash has forced Philips to reverse a decision that would have added DRM (Digital Rights Management) to light bulbs used in its Hue lighting system.

Philips's Hue lighting system is the company's latest invention, an "Internet of Things" (IoT) network connected multicolor lighting system that has received some stellar reviews.

However, earlier this week, the company rolled out a firmware update which seems to disable to use of third-party light bulbs, instead, forcing consumers to buy Philips branded bulbs (or bulbs only from "approved" suppliers) to use with the system. While strictly speaking it isn't a DRM system, the implementation of the usage control, based on chips present in the light bulb, isn't too dissimilar to how DRM would be implemented for things like game consoles and movie discs. 

As expected, consumers reacted angrily at what they perceived to be Philips's heavy handed attempt to stifle price competition, especially considering that Philips's actions break the Hue system's previous conformation to the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for IoT devices. The vocal angry backlash forced Philips to eventually admit their mistake and reverse the firmware update to allow third party bulbs to be used once again.

Philips said the original change was made in "good faith" in the best interest of customers.

"We recently upgraded the software for Philips Hue to ensure the best seamless connected lighting experience for our customers. This change was made in good faith," Philips said.

"However, we under-estimated the impact this would have on a small number of customers who use lights from other brands which could not be controlled by the Philips Hue software. In view of the sentiment expressed by our customers, we have decided to reverse the software upgrade so that lights from other brands continue to work as they did before with the Philips Hue system."

This isn't the first time that a company tried to add DRM into an everyday use item, and was forced to reverse its decision due to the general public's strong anti-DRM sentiment. Coffee machine maker Keurig was too embroiled in its own DRM scandal, blocking out third party "unapproved" pods, before reversing course due to public pressure.


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