Reusing Old Smart bulbs



Around five years ago I purchased some smart light bulbs. They are designed to be used with a smart hub, on of these. Turns out that the company behind this has made a new version of the hub, the miboxer, which is not backwards compatible with the older bulbs. It also requires an android account with rather dubious permission requirements to use.

I’m not a fan of this kind of behaviour from companies and would rather reuse things where possible. With this in mind I set out to do some reverse engineering. A few seconds later I discovered this awesome project from Christopher Mullins. Sometimes I love the Internet.

So, with lots of time saved, I set out to build a replacement hub for my smart bulbs.

The Shopping List

| Item                         | Cost |
| ---------------------------- | ---- |
| ESP8266 NodeMCU CP2102       | £3   |
| NRF24L01+PA+LNA RF           | £2   |
| Dupont Female to Female Wire | £0   |

Ebay or Amazon have both the NodeMCUv2 and radio. I happened to have the dupont wire already.


Plugging it all in

This guide details how to connect an NRF24 to an ESP8266

NodeMCU Radio Color
3V3 VCC Red
D2 (GPIO4) CE Orange
D8 (GPIO15) CSN/CS Yellow
D5 (GPIO14) SCK Green
D7 (GPIO13) MOSI Blue
D6 (GPIO12) MISO Violet


Prepare for installation

I’m using a mac with homebrew, so the below steps assume familarity with the terminal and homebrew

brew tap homebrew/cask-drivers
brew install --cask silicon-labs-vcp-driver
brew install gettext
brew link gettext --force

Install the project

git clone
cd esp8266_milight_hub

At this point I plugged the esp8266 into my laptop in preparation for installation.

export ESP_BOARD=nodemcuv2
platformio run -e $ESP_BOARD --target upload

The output if successful looks like this:


Adding to my WiFi network

This was pretty simple, just bare in mind that the NodeMCU only supports 2.4Ghz. The project readme has more information on how to configure this.

Pairing a light

This works the similarily to the official smarthub - hit the pair button in the web UI within a few seconds of turning on the light and your done.

Using the REST API

An example of using the rest API with curl to turn on a light:

 curl --request POST --header "Content-Type: application/json" --data '{
"state": "On"}'

Next Steps

  • Design and print a box
  • Integrate with Home Assistant
  • Make a nice friendly android app to control my lights