Osram, a century-old luminary in the German lighting industry, has announced the closure of cloud servers essential for Lightify by next summer. For those familiar with the scene, this development shouldn't raise eyebrows, as Osram Lightify has taken a back seat to its rivals, like Philips' Hue line, due to a lack of innovation.
A Glimmer of Hope
But fear not, there's a silver lining: the shutdown will only impact the Osram Lightify Gateway, sparing your existing or future bulbs. You can simply switch them over to an alternative like the Philips Hue Hub. Nevertheless, it's a poignant reminder of the e-waste generated by perfectly functional devices, a consequence of our reliance on cloud services.
Why Osram Lightify got left behind
The Osram Lightify Gateway, and thus the Lightify system, was launched in the fall of 2014, two years after Philips Hue laid the foundations of smart lighting. But while Philips continued upgrading their Hue Hub with new generations arriving in 2015 and 2016, the Osram Lightify Gateway never so any revisions.
Zigbee 3.0 was never implemented, and thus Osram Lightify's performance was severely limited. Other than that, the Osram Lightify Gateway used Wi-Fi to connect to a network, which is possibly another limited factor as Zigbee and Wi-Fi don't really get along. A wired connection was even an option, as the hub had no Ethernet jack.
I believe it's fair to say that the alternatives were many times more successful than Osram Lightify. Taking a look at the Osram Lightify Android app, we can see that there are only ~6000 reviews posted to it. At the other end of the spectrum, The Philips Hue app has almost 50'000 reviews at the time of writing.
Can the Osram Lightify Gateway be used after August 31st, 2021?
While Osram isn't bricking the Lightify Gateway by pushing out an “update”, its usability will be very much limited without the cloud infrastructure. You will still be able to control lights, i.e. turn them on and off and change the colour, but you won't be able to add any new devices.
Voice control, which was previously possible using the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, will stop working and scenes you might have configured will no longer be available. A full list of the no longer supported functionality can be found on the Osram Lightify website.
Is Osram Lightify gone for good?
While we know that the Osram Lightify Gateway will turn in to what is essentially a fancy paperweight, the question remains whether Osram will give up on all Zigbee products. The FAQ doesn't mention whether the bulbs, switches, and sensors will continue to be sold, and perhaps even revised, or not.
It is possible that Osram will become a producer of Zigbee lights, akin to Gledopto, without selling a dedicated hub. However, the wording of the email they sent to customers makes me doubtful. They don't mention any plans for future Lightify products, but they do mention that the “Lightifysystem is meanwhile technically outdated”. They don't specifically mention the hub but seem to be including every Osram Lightify product.
What are the alternatives to Osram Lightify?
Osram Lightify lights use the Zigbee communication protocol and can thus be connected to numerous hubs. The most popular solution will most likely be the Philips Hue Hub. Alternatively, the most popular self-hosted Zigbee hubs, such as Zigbee2MQTT and ZHA, also support the pairing of Osram Lightify devices.
While disappointing, this situation does highlight one of the biggest benefits of using Zigbee for Home Automation: As an open standard, you aren't tied in to one system. Especially when using your own hub, you can mix and match from a wide variety of lights, switches, sensors, and other devices. And because a hub is used, Zigbee devices don't directly connect to the cloud, as is the case with many Wi-Fi devices.