Zuli smartplug could herald new age in home automation

Got an iPhone? You may never need to worry about turning on (or off) the lights ever again.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

A few months ago I wrote about the AIRcable SmartDimmer, a home automation product that tried unsucessfully to secure financing on Indiegogo. However, I still haven't given up hope that Bluetooth Low-Energy could still be used in other smartphone and tablet-controlled home automation products in the future.

The Zuli Smartplug, which is only 4 days away from ending its campaign in Kickstarter, is similar in concept to the AIRcable SmartDimmer, but instead of replacing a wall switch, it's a small device that plugs into your existing outlet and allows you to control your plug-in lighting and other appliances in a similar fashion using an iOS application.

The Smartplug has some features that the SmartDimmer lacked, such as a more mature smartphone application and also location and user-aware preferences that utilizes the new "iBeacon" Bluetooth Low Energy features of iOS 7. This includes the ability to automatically turn lights on and off and at specific dim levels depending on who walks into the room, in addition to scheduling, energy monitoring and away detection.

However, unlike the SmartDimmer, Zuli doesn't yet have a companion device which would permit the plug to be controlled from an external remote switch that could be mounted anywhere (and would not require a smartphone).

Additionally, the Smartplug lacks the ability to control internally wired porch/patio lights and master circuits, and it also lacks an integrated night light as well as room temperature sensors that the SmartDimmer had.

However, because it does not have to be installed and is simply plugged into a wall outlet, the implementation is much simpler.

Zuli's target funding is $150,000. At the time of this writing, it had managed to secure just over $114,000 which is only $36,000 shy of their target. With 4 days remaining, it's certainly possible they could meet that goal, but there would have to be a last-minute groundswell of interest in the product, not including any funding outside of Kickstarter, which the company is apparently securing to go ahead with production.

Zuli is currently offering 3-packs of smartplugs for a $135 funding pledge, as well as 10-packs for $400.

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