Building A Simple IoT Light Switch

Jan 18, 2015 · 549 words · 3 minute read programming python hardware

I’m lucky enough to own a Philips Hue wireless lighting unit (thanks NUACM!) which essentially is this really awesome Internet of Things (IoT) product that lets me replace all my standard light bulbs with special RGB ones that can be controlled wirelessly. The bulbs communicate via ZigBee with a “Bridge” unit that is connected to my local network and hosts an HTTP API for interfacing with the lights. This API is used by the official Hue mobile app for controlling the lights, but is also publicly documented and totally hacker friendly. The lights are awesome, but it is a bit of a drag to have to use an app to turn them all off rather than having some physical switch 1, so I decided to fully embrace the IoT trend and use my Raspberry Pi to build a simple HTTP-fluent light switch for turning my lights on and off.


The circuitry itself is literally as simple as it gets for this kind of thing, all I have is GPIO pin 11 on the board (BCM pin 17) connected to pin 6 (GND), with a switch in between. In my code, I’ll configure pin 17 to use an internal pull up resistor which will bring the voltage up to 3.3V when the button is not pressed and down to 0V when it is.


The Raspberry Pi Python library makes it really easy to control circuits. For simplicity, my code uses a polling approach to detect when the button is pressed but the RPi library also supports real callbacks using threading.

def main():
    while True:
        inp = gpio.input(PIN)
        # pull up resistor will cause inp to be True when button is not
        # pressed and False when button is pressed
        if not inp:

My callback() function consists of code that uses the Hue API to request a diagnostic of the lights, which comes back as a JSON blob with each light represented as an object. If no lights are on, it turns them on, otherwise turning them all off. Turning the lights on and off is as simple as submitting a PUT request to the API endpoint for each light with a JSON blob specifying the state to turn to (On=True, Off=False).

def callback():
    survey = requests.get(BASE + '/lights')
    survey = json.loads(survey.text)
    numlights = len(survey)
    # if any are on, turn all off.
    if any([survey[str(x)]['state']['on'] for x in range(1, numlights+1)]):
        for light in survey.keys():
            turn(light, False)
        print '[{}] Off'.format(
    else:  # else if all are off, then all on
        for light in survey.keys():
            turn(light, True)
        print '[{}] On'.format(

def turn(light, state):
    data = json.dumps({'on':state})
    requests.put(BASE + '/lights/{}/state'.format(light), data=data)

That’s it! I leave the script running in a tmux pane on the Pi and I can hit the button at any point to toggle the lights on and off. The full code is available on github.

For future work, it would be cool to integrate RF chips so the button wouldn’t have to be physically attached to the Pi and I could have a little remote control. I’ll leave that for another day. Thanks for reading!

  1. Of course I could physically go to each light and flip the switch but manually turning off all three lights in my room is even more work than launching the app. [return]
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