What will happen with Wink and a review of Zuli’s presence-promoting smart outlets

In episode 25 companies are spending billions trying to figuring out how to use wearables to help seniors age in place so we asked Philips Digital Health solutions’ Liat Ben-Zur on the show to discuss some of the things the health giant is doing to rethink medicine for a connected era. She discussed how the venerable Lifeline program must adapt and why today’s wearables aren’t providing enough context for doctors to use them in healthcare settings. We also talked about medical clouds, data analytics and a bit about the looming healthcare crisis. Good times.

The Zuli smart plugs in action.
The Zuli smart plugs in action.

Meanwhile Kevin Tofel and I discuss the not-so-shocking bankruptcy of Quirky and what it means for Wink. So far Quirky has a $15 million bid for Wink from Flextronics, the company that built the actual hub, but there’s still too much uncertainty for me. And after more than 18 months I have gotten my hands on the $160 Zuli smart plugs that offer Bluetooth-based presence in the home. Listen up to learn what I thought about them.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Liat Ben-Zur, Philips

  • Why Flextronics isn’t going to try to destroy Wink
  • What are the best hub options if Wink does go down
  • Zuli smart plugs are a good way to bring presence into your home. But they could do more.
  • What’s next for Lifeline in an era of ubiquitous wearables and DIY
  • Why your wearable isn’t good enough for a doctor’s eyes just yet.

Published by

Stacey Higginbotham

I am a journalist who has covered technology for over a decade at publications such as Fortune, PCMag, Gigaom, The Deal and BusinessWeek.

8 thoughts on “What will happen with Wink and a review of Zuli’s presence-promoting smart outlets”

  1. This week the discussion briefly asked the question of every new IOT newbie, “What hub do I choose?”. I am asking the question again, and I appreciate the balanced discussion. I personally have a small installation of Insteon that I would ready like to use. Why do I not hear much about the Vera hubs from Vera Controls, or The ISY from Universal Devices?

    1. You don’t hear much about Vera or Nexia or some of the others because I haven’t tried those myself. Kevin has used Insteon before so we talk about that a bit, but I don’t think he’s used the ISY. As for the which hub do I use, it’s such a loaded question because it really depends on what you want to do and what you already have. But Kevin and I will try to address this in an upcoming show. Maybe not the specific hub because there isn’t one, but the questions you should ask yourself.

      1. Actually, I have used the ISY-99; I built my entire smart home around it in 2010. I loved having total control and no reliance on cloud services; and still do to a point.

        But I don’t see the approach as a mainstream solution because it can (for some people) be a too-complicated DIY solution. Heck, even SmartHome must think so since they’re pushing that Insteon hub so much over the ISY these days.

        All in all, it’s a great solution for those that have the smarts to get it up and running IMO.

  2. Hello,

    It was very interesting to hear about Zuli’s presence detection, but I was hoping you guys would compare it to the Smartthings solution. I haven’t bought their hub yet, but when I do I hope to be able to pair it with some GE light switches and some sensors to automatically turn on/off the lights in certain areas of my house when I enter/leave. I wonder what is the difference. They don’t actually have presence sensors, they have motion sensors and something called “arrival sensor”. The arrival sensor sounds like a presence sensor to me. I guess maybe it doesn’t allow granularity to the level of which room you are in. Probably is just a range thing – when it gets in range it assumes you are in the area, when it loses connection it assumes you have left. Have you played with that sensor?

    Thanks for the great show guys,

    1. The SmartThings presence is a bit different because it’s done via a tag that you can pop on a keychain, a backpack or a dog collar and tracks when the person enters the ZigBee network. You can also use your phone, which uses Wi-Fi. Neither is as a granular as offering room level location however, like the Zuli plugs, so it’s a bit if a different animal. I used the ST Presence tag for a while to track when my husband came home so i could run downstairs and get the dishes washed in the sink (I work from home and am a bit lazy). I also tried it on my dog to have it alert me when she escaped. It worked well, but I replaced the batteries in those every 6 months or so. I like them for having the house notify me if my child came home from school but I never found a great use case (my dog chewed hers off).

  3. Regarding the Zuli app power drain due to its pinging of the smart plugs to determine presence, I wondered if they switched it to where the plugs themselves do the pinging leaving your phone as the listening device wouldn’t this drop the battery usage as well as introduce an inbuilt geofencing option that would solve the “I’m out of range so maybe it turned off and maybe it didn’t issue”?

    I understand leveraging the processing power of the phone for the triangulation, but couldn’t creative code solve this with the phone being the receiver?

    Just a thought I had as I listened.

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