Zuli ‘presence’ home automation can now control Philips Hue lights

Update: The article has been amended to clarify the setup process.

Home automation company Zuli announced that its Presence technology and Smartplugs now support Philips Hue bulbs. Via the Zuli iOS app, users can control Hue lighting from inside the home, dim the lights, and schedule on/off times intelligently.

Users will be able to “group Philips Hue lights in a room to easily control the ambiance of an entire space, view the energy consumption, and set a seven-day schedule for all Philips Hue lights,” Zuli says in a related statement, “Users will also be able to set Philips Hue lights to turn on as soon as they walk into the room. When Zuli Presence senses that no one is in the room (via the Smartplugs), it automatically can shut off all unused lights to save energy.”

At Zuli’s headquarters in San Francisco, CEO Taylor Umphreys gave us a quick demo of how it all works. It’s ridiculously simple to set up (Umphreys says it can be done is as little as 30 seconds; in our test, it took a few minutes longer, but you’ll be up and running in about five minutes) and is straightforward to use. Once the Hue lights are integrated with the app (unlike other smartplugs, the beauty of Zuli’s is that they don’t require a central hub, but with Hue lights, the plugs and the app need to communicate with a Hue Bridge), it’s as simple as walking into an unlit room, and once the Smartplugs detect Umphreys iPhone, the overhead lights turned on. When we moved to a couch, a lamp plugged into a Smartplug lit up. The idea is that the smart home should learn to react to you (hence the name, Presence), and you shouldn’t need to tell it to work. Umphreys says that this, as well as its focus on simplicity, is what makes Zuli different from other platforms.

Zuli’s Presence technology uses a setup of three or more Zuli Smartplugs to form a Bluetooth low energy mesh network in a room, instead of motion sensors. Communicating with the Zuli app installed on an iPhone (Android coming soon), it detects the presence of people in order to automatically turn on or off connected devices. With the Hue bulbs, it can even adjust the intensity of the light to create the right ambiance for when you walk in. However, because the plugs use a direct connection with smartphones, instead of communicating with a hub, you can’t control them remotely; Zuli supports the “Works with Nest” platform, so that could change in the future.

Zuli also collects data on energy consumption at all times of the day, so you can better manage usage of your lights, heating and air (Zuli supports the Nest thermostat), and devices and appliances plugged into the Smartplugs, especially during times when nobody is home. (Read more about Zuli here.)

Using Hue with Zuli doesn’t require a Smartplug, but as mentioned, it does need to communicate with the Hue Bridge, which costs around $60. If you want to want to use Hue with Zuli Presence, however, you will need the plugs, which costs $160 for a pack of three; Additional plugs cost $60 each. Umphreys says more devices will be integrated in the near future.

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