More Than Illumination


    June 24, 2021


    Philips Hue’s Head of Technology, George Yianni joins the Speaking of Signify podcast to share his insights into the Philips Hue journey

    Speaking of Signify with George Yianni

    Lighting is more than illumination: it is entertainment, wellbeing, atmosphere, and an active part of our life. Philips Hue has shown that this is possible.

    But how did Philips Hue get here, and what does its future hold?

    The latest episode of the Speaking of Signify podcast features a discussion between our chief editor, Ryan Millar, and George Yianni. George answers these questions and many more – even sharing a little bit of his personal life as well.

    The Hue Origins

    Every great journey has a beginning. In the case of Philips Hue, this was a humble remote-control device – at least that’s what the project that eventually became Philips Hue started out as, George explains.

    That idea, of using a smartphone to control the lights, seemed small-scale. Keep in mind that we’re in the (now, seemingly ancient) year of 2008. The groundbreaking iPhone just came out, and how we understood apps were really different – they were still in their infancy.

    George and his team built up the prototype for Philips Hue during the dawn of third-party smartphone applications – and they soon recognized the potential in this.

    Philips Hue was pitched as an “internal startup” – a consumer-centered lighting app. This approach led them on a new, and exciting route, where they could explore not only the product, but market entry points as well.
    Philips Hue as internal startup
    Putting Philips Hue on the map was a different undertaking than selling traditional lightbulbs. George admits that it was a bit of a gamble – after all, people may think that it was just a gimmick, and that the increased price tag was a bit too steep (even though all test audiences absolutely loved the product).

    They had to show that they really made a splash with Hue – so they turned to one of the trailblazers of innovation: Apple, who saw the potential in this new way of lighting. Thus, brand new smart lightbulbs were beginning to sell alongside brand-new smartphones – and boy did they sell well. When George saw that Philips Hue sold out upon launch, he knew that something big was about to begin.

    lighting is all around us all the time, so it should be doing something more than being on and off"

    Building a product together with its fans

    George is personally a believer that light is more than just illumination, and he was happy to see that others did not need too much convincing about this either. After all, lighting is all around us, all the time, so it should be doing something more than just being on or off. He believes this mindset is entering the norm – it is not mainstream yet, but it’s more than a niche.

    Philips Hue has a passionately engaged  community. And they are active parts of its development cycle. George is amazed at some creations that Hue users have uploaded on its subreddit.

    Hue has a roadmap, which is influenced by customer feedback. Its development is partially steered by what users say, what do they like and dislike. However, the roadmap also holds quite a few surprises – after all its novelty and uniqueness is what made Philips Hue special.

    George thinks new ideas can come from anywhere. Therefore, the team behind Hue is always on the lookout for new things to adapt, or innovative technologies to use.
    Philips Hue ambience creation and decoration
    Among future plans, you can find ambience creation and decoration – after all, changing your light is easier than repainting your walls or changing your curtains. In addition, Hue’s making great strides on the field of entertainment, enabling your lights to be synchronized with whatever’s on your screen. Last, but not least, Hue is aiming to heighten its focus on wellbeing: to help its users have a healthy circadian rhythm, and a good night’s sleep each day.

    Lessons Learned

    Creating Hue was a learning experience, and George sure has some insights to share. The two key takeaways are the following:

    Firstly, widen your horizons. You can’t do a breakthrough from solely a technological/innovation perspective. To really leave your mark, you have to think in parallels, and consider many perspectives: marketing, sales, and long-term strategies alongside technology.

    Secondly, embrace the power of platforms, and take your customers on a journey with you as you develop the product. It may be scary to launch something without knowing what it’ll be in the future but keeping up with innovations of platforms can multiply your product’s value. It’s a leap of faith, really – but it sure did work with Hue.

    Finally, George mentions how the lighting industry in general does not get the exposure it deserves. After all, it is an industry, the products of which are around us almost 24/7. So let’s leverage this, he argues. It’s a fertile ground for innovations, such as Philips Hue, but its also our challenge to let people know how impactful what we’re doing here at Signify.

    And that is exactly why we are Speaking of Signify to promote how the lighting industry does more than illumination. To hear the story you just read about from George himself, and to get to know him as a person as well – his passion for cooking, his love of fun Marvel movies, or his treasured items – tune in to this episode of our podcast.

    Episodes are now available on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts.

    About the author:

    Marton Kottmayer

    Marton Kottmayer

    Integrated Communications Intern


    For further information, please contact:

    Signify Global Integrated Communications
    Neil Pattie
    Tel: + 31 6 15 08 48 17

    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. In 2023, we had sales of EUR 6.7 billion, approximately 32,000 employees and a presence in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for seven consecutive years and have achieved the EcoVadis Platinum rating for four consecutive years, placing Signify in the top one percent of companies assessed. News from Signify can be found in the Newsroom, on X, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors is located on the Investor Relations page.

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