Philips’ Hue Sensor Automation

I wrote about my first pass at the Philips’ Hue API to customise the motion sensor functionality back in December.¬†At the time, I tested out my approach to force a third time slot [use of a nightlight setting for part of the the night] using a simple mobile app in Objective C. The approach isn’t that fancy: it’s basically 3 API PUT calls: two to rules, and then a third to a resourcelink all basically doing the same thing: inverting references to scenes [one for full brightness, and the other for the nightlight setting].

At the time I thought it would be handy to use a Raspberry Pi using cron jobs to toggle it off and on, and the long and short of it, that’s what I’ve gone with. It’s a simple Python script [using the Requests module, which is great, to make the API calls], and it’s working really well so far.

A couple of observations. First, I found an article on the Hue discussion forum – which I only found when I got a weird error and which, unfortunately I can’t find any more – that has what’s probably a more purist way of using the API to create extra slots. While it’s smarter than what I’m doing, unfortunately [and the author of the post does point this out] it has the effect of stopping the mobile app from working to set the sensor.

Secondly, my approach is pretty brittle. Between writing the app and implementing the Python script the state had changed in the bridge: there was a new scene [not one we added – at least intentionally] which was causing the API calls to fail.

Currently, my script is doing exactly what my mobile app did, which is creating the PUT payload for the API calls from files, and ‘hoping’ that they work. What the Philips’ mobile app does is to GET the various API resources and then PUT them back. I’ll do this when the current implementation breaks as it’s more trouble than it’s worth for now.

I was telling someone at work [a proper developer] about my results with proxying via ZAP, which I had to revisit to figure out why my original implementation had stopped working, and he couldn’t believe the fact that the app is making around 55 API calls to effect a change in the sensor setup. Based on the diffs I looked at, It seems to pretty blindly do the GETting and PUTting where no changes have been made.

I managed to completely corrupt the setup on the bridge by playing the ‘I wonder what will happen if I do this?’ game: I deleted the scene that was breaking my API calls. I ended up having to do a factory reset – about a five minute job for me, but worth bearing in mind if you are playing with this stuff and have a more sophisticated configuration.