Zuli | November 13th, 2015
In order to effectively operate your Zuli Smartplugs, you will need to enable Location Services on your iPhone — even if you aren’t using Presence.
We understand the confusion behind this concept so we wanted to take a few minutes to break it down.
First and foremost, it’s important to note we are very proud of the technology we have chosen to use and think it helps us create a high quality product that people are proud to have in their homes.
How Zuli uses Location Services
We use location services in three specific ways:
1. When you’re first setting up a Smartplug, we grab your zip code to make sure our energy reporting data is accurate and relevant to pricing in your area. That’s the only time we actually use the real location.
2. When you are using Zuli Presence, we use GPS briefly so when you come back into your home and in range of your Smartplugs, our app is still running (while your phone is standby mode) to turn your Smartplugs on when you come into your space.
3. Lastly, we also use iBeacon technology. iBeacon is an Apple-defined, Bluetooth-based geofencing technology. iBeacons are used alongside Zuli Smartplugs to enable Presence and other features. Apple puts this geofencing technology under the “Location Services” umbrella even though we aren’t using your actual (GPS) location. More on iBeacons below.
Why do you need Location Services enabled if I’m not using Zuli Presence?
Think of iBeacons as small bursts of information that are sent from the Zuli Smartplugs to the Zuli app. This information helps the Zuli app understand a few things — what Zuli account the Smartplug is associated with, what room it’s in, whether the Smartplug is on or off, what is plugged in, whether schedules are functioning properly, any error conditions, and of course distance information (this distance information powers Zuli Presence). All of this information is vital to the daily operation of Zuli Smartplugs, even if you have Presence disabled.
So unfortunately, even if you’re not using Presence, you still need to have Location Services enabled. Our app cannot function without the iBeacon Bluetooth technology that is lumped under the ‘Location Services’ umbrella. We don’t have a way to say we only want the iBeacon part of the Location Services technology, so we have to ask for ‘Location Services’ to be enabled, even if you aren’t using Presence.
Privacy and Security
We understand the sensitivity around using a user’s location, especially in the home. We do not share your location information with anyone. When we created the Zuli Smartplug we were very conscious of every decision we were making. We knew security and privacy were going to be big issues for people who own connected devices. For this reason we chose to go the route of implementing iBeacon, Bluetooth-based technology — since all of this information is contained locally within your home.
When you’re moving from room to room and Presence is turning on and off your devices, none of that information is exposed out of the security in your home. Our backend service does not know you’re moving from room to room, just where your phone is in range to your Smartplugs.
But you communicate with Nest via WiFi?
We use SSL and secure token communication to Nest. If you are using your Smartplugs with Nest, the Nest Thermostat is not aware of what room you are in. The Zuli Presence engine senses what room you are in and then communicates your desired temperature to the Nest Thermostat. Zuli does not directly inform the Nest Thermostat of your location at any given time.
More on Zuli Presence and battery life
Some users have told us they prefer not to have Location Services enabled when using the Zuli app because they think this is the culprit for draining their smartphone battery. However, that’s not entirely true.The Zuli Presence algorithm has an impact on overall battery life — irrespective of Location Services.
Although not ideal, if you’re looking to optimize battery life, we suggest turning off Zuli Presence. This will disable all GPS usage, even if it is only a minimal amount, and will help maximize the battery life on your iPhone.
We realize that Presence is a very valuable feature and understand that people would like to use it without impacting their battery life. This is of our utmost concern and is something we are constantly improving upon. Every app update has improvements in battery life. We urge all users to always update to the latest version of the app.
We know explaining this technology can get complicated, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any further questions. Please be assured that we are constantly making improvements to the Zuli Smartplug technology and always have our end users in mind.