This new startup uses the iPhone’s UWB feature for controlling your smart home – The Verge
The smart home has an interface problem, and six undergrads from Duke think they’ve solved it with a Raspberry Pi and Apple’s U1 chip. They believe most of today’s methods for controlling smart devices — voice control, fiddly apps with multiple menus, motion sensors — are cumbersome and sometimes frustrating. What the smart home needs, they say, is an intuitive control interface and automations that fire off based on where you are in your home. Basically, one app to rule it all. And they’re not wrong.
Fluid One is their solution. A smart home app that leverages ultra-wideband technology in Apple’s iPhones, Fluid can control connected lighting, locks, cameras, thermostats, and more in two ways: a point-and-click control interface and location-based automations.
Just point your iPhone at a smart light bulb, and the correct controls automatically appear to brighten, dim, change color or turn the light on or off. Or, flick your phone up or down to control a device, no touch required. “It’s like the HomePod Mini / iPhone handoff but for any compatible device,” Tim Ho, one of the six co-founders of Fluid, tells The Verge.
The app can also work in the background to trigger smart home automations based on the location of your phone as you move around. For example, set the lights in a hallway to turn on as you walk through, and off as you leave. Or, have the TV turn on, the thermostat adjust, and the lights dim when you sit on your couch after 6PM.
“It’s like a HomePod Mini handoff but for any compatible device.”
If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because iOS developer Bastian Andelefski developed a prototype app to do exactly this last year. At the time, he said he needed someone to develop the hardware to make it work in your home. And that’s what the team behind Fluid is attempting to do, with Andelefksi on board as a technical advisor.
The system combines hardware — UWB enabled smart beacons and an optional smart hub — with an augmented-reality-powered app that leverages Apple’s ARKit framework to generate an AR map of your home and detect where your phone is and which smart device it’s likely pointing at. The system can make those guesses because those ultra-wideband beacons are mounted on your walls, and the phone can measure its distance to each. It’s essentially GPS for indoors, but with UWB beacons instead of satellites.
When you first set up the system you go to each device you want to add, log its location in the app, and connect it to a beacon. Each beacon has an 18- to 20-foot range to encompass any devices in that space.
Fluid says this creates a context-aware space that uses your iPhone to control the devices, either automatically or on demand. As you enter or exit each range, different automations trigger based on time of day and other conditions, and different device controls appear on your iPhone based on what you are closest to. You can also use the app to control devices in other rooms, not just those nearby.