We're now at a point where there are already about 10 applications that have been shared and built from the unofficial developer community for new applications around Hue," explained George Yianni, Hue System Architect in an interview. "Now what we want to do as Philips is we actually want to help and grow and encourage this community, and give them tools and proper documentation. Also, we want to give them commitment that this is the API and we're going to support it and it won't change overnight.
Prior to the official release of an API and SDK, third-party developers had already reverse-engineered Philips' apps to create their own solutions to control hue's system (based on a “bridge” that communicates with the actual lightbulbs). An iOS app called Ambify lets users pair their music with hue lights; here at MacStories, I linked to a video back in November showing an unofficial hue Python library that could work with Pythonista to automate the process of switching lights on and off.
The API opens a lot of interesting possibilities for third-party software and hardware makers. The hue already shipped with its own options for remote control and “presets” (called “recipes”) for different lighting settings aimed at providing users with ways to easily replicate specific color combinations based on photos (available in the app's photo library) or targeted towards lifestyle improvements (such as waking users up in the morning with a gradual light increase).
With an SDK and API, developers can now take advantage of these concepts: aside from the “simple” remote control features, imagine apps that could activate specific hue settings when you're reading or watching a movie, parse voice-based commands with dictation, or integrate with an iOS device's Reminders, Calendars, or Location Services. On the hardware side, it should be possible – at least in theory – to develop gadgets capable of combining personal data with hue to leverage Philips' “smart” lighting system in completely new ways. An obvious implementation would be for health and fitness-monitoring accessories such as Nike's FuelBand; as far as rumors go, an Apple iWatch could integrate with hue to exchange an user's data and personal stats (Apple isn't new to third-party collaborations of this kind).