Currently attempting to hit a $150,000 funding goal on Kickstarter, a group of engineers have developed a new type of smartplug that attempts to simplify the process of automating your home. Called the Zuli Smartplug, the device utilizes low-power Bluetooth in order to interact with your smartphone. Very similar to how the Kivo Kwikset front door lock will unlock based of the proximity of the homeowner’s smartphone, the Zuli Smartplugs will activate and deactivate based on the proximity of a smartphone owner moving within a home. By simply adding the smartplug to lights within each room, a homeowner won’t have to fumble to find a light switch in a dark room.
This is accomplished by purchasing a minimum of three Zuli Smartplugs and setting them up within multiple rooms of a home. The smartplugs start communicating and form a “Bluetooth mesh network” in order to detect someone’s presence. Of course, increasing the total number of plugs used in a home will improve the accuracy of the detection algorithm. Users can set up specific preferences for each room, ideal for personalizing the activation process. Interestingly, the iOS mobile app also switches automatically based on the room you are currently located in, thus providing a quick way to tweak settings for that room.
While this isn’t the first smartplug device to offer smartphone control for your home’s devices, it’s definitely one of the first to automate location detection without having to purchase and install motion sensors around the home. Also different from other home automation devices, there’s no need for a central hub to facilitate communication between the hardware. Basically, the smartphone application handles all the functions of a central hub like scheduling smartplugs to activate at specific times of the day or remotely powering down the entire home when away or perhaps just before going to bed.
The Zuli mobile application includes a data log of energy consumed as well as total energy costs for the month. This could potentially help users save a bit of money on the electric bill, especially for anyone that constantly forgets to turn off lights when leaving a room.
The app also provides dimming controls for anyone that likes to reduce the lighting level gradually within a room. To date, the team has a working iOS 7 version of the mobile app and plans to expand to Android as soon as possible. It will require an Android phone with Bluetooth 4.0 while running Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) or later.
There are multiple funding levels for the smartplugs as detailed on the project page, but the most common include 1 Zuli Smartplug for $45, 3 Zuli Smartplugs for $135 or 10 Zuli Smartplugs for $450. While one of the early backer discounted levels is still available, there doesn’t appear to be a discount for purchasing the plugs in volume. As with all Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects, be aware that issues with manufacturing can often lead to delays in the estimated delivery time of the product by weeks or even months.
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