Smartplug

Client: Zuli
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering

A consumer IoT device that plugs into a standard wall socket and enables lights and appliances to passively adapt based on a user's presence in a room.

Zuli had developed a beautiful, functional prototype for its first product: a connected “smart plug” with sensors to monitor energy usage and detect the proximity of a user’s mobile device. Consumers already wanted it, as evidenced by a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The Smartplug needed to be designed for volume production and meet UL and FCC regulatory compliance guidelines before it could be offered commercially to the public. As it was Zuli’s first time navigating the regulatory process, they engaged with Cooper Perkins for our expertise in developing certified product designs and providing manufacturing guidance.

Using a pair of Bluetooth radios in each device and triangulating with three devices, the Smartplug detects the presence of a user’s smartphone in a room, and then smoothly brightens lights to the specified setting.

In order to provide this dimmer functionality, the Smartplug employs a triac, which releases energy as heat. This required a thermal management system to dissipate heat harmlessly and prevent it from gathering within the compact enclosure.

We introduced a heat sink to pull heat away from the main board and release it through vents in the side of the Smartplug enclosure, a solution that was critical to the design for safety and reliability.

The system uses a triac, which is a bidirectional thyristor, as a dimming system. Triacs get hot so that heat had to be managed safely and effectively.

Proximity sensing allows the device to wirelessly sense changing signal strength with a phone’s wifi via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

The logo lights up on the translucent cover when the device senses the user’s phone nearby.

With the production engineering solutions we developed, Zuli was able to meet regulatory guidelines and achieve the design and functionality intended. The company received certification and released their Smartplug to the public in 2014.