A recent Kickstarter project called the Zuli Smartplug makes each of your power outlets intelligent thanks to Bluetooth low-energy, along with remote control from a smartphone, proximity triggering and scheduling, too. It’s sort of like what you maybe have been hearing about with Apple’s iBeacons, where retail can sense a shopper’s specific location within a store and provide different content to their devices based on where they are, but for at-home use with your existing electrical appliances.
Zuli’s Smartplugs can detect when you walk into or out of a room, and trigger customized actions based on what you want them to do in either case. That means you could have your computer, desk lamp, space heater and more turn on when you enter your office, for instance, or have everything but the radio turn off when you leave home for the evening. The Zuli Smartplugs also work in tandem with one another, creating a Bluetooth mesh network to let them communicate with each other. A minimum of three outlets is required for accurate location tracking within a home, according to Zuli, but even without that the gadget can still be used to monitor your energy usage and manage smart scheduling and instant control of power outlets.
The Zuli has a lot in common with existing products like the Belkin WeMo Switch, but that product also requires a Motion accessory separately to use the location-based automation. Zuli’s option is also more cost effective through the Kickstarter campaign, as it offers a three-pack starter kit for $135, while Belkin’s WeMo outlets are $60 each, as are the motion kits separately.
The Zuli team is made up of electrical and firmware engineers working out of the San Francisco area, and that team includes people who’ve successfully put out consumer product in the past, so they stand a good chance of getting this done. If you’re at all into connected home devices, this definitely looks like a useful addition to a collection of things like the Philips Hue set of connected bulbs or Nest’s smart thermostat.
Production is set to kick off in January, should Zuli meet its $150,000 funding goal (it’s nearly to $100,000 already, so it likely will) and the team anticipates shipping in June 2014. There will be a beta program launched first to make sure everything goes right, and that’s also accessible to Kickstarter backers at certain levels.