July 12, 2017
Alexa, Google Home, Siri, Samsung Bixby, Watson, these are among the first widely accepted consumer driven artificial intelligence platforms and they each have something in common: Internet of Things (IoT). Over the past five years the world around us has become more connected by way of shoving wifi and Bluetooth in it, yet at the same time even more disconnected than ever before.
The primary culprit of course being that these AIs are tied to companies that tend not to play well with others in their space. Thus, we get a terribly segmented market filled with great technology, but limited communication between hubs. Want a smart home? Plan on having at least two hubs. That or you could use Oomi, a new smart home system that launches today to the public.
Unlike the other platforms or hardware with them built in, Oomi is an all encompassing system with sensors, cameras, lights, and also connects with existing systems like Alexa, Philips Hue, or devices that use Z-Wave technology. At its best it acts like a physical version of IFTTT, but at its core Oomi is a simplified system to connect your home.
Although Oomi is just now officially launching to the public, it was first made available earlier in the year to those who backed it on Indiegogo and funded it to nearly $2 million. In that time the packaging and software has varied a bit, and they have plans for new devices on the way. We put Oomi through an expedited review period, seeing if their base system can in fact connect your home. As a slight caveat working with advanced automation systems is sort of my thing, so I’ll try to be nice with this budding platform.
After unboxing the Oomi, there is one thing you’ll notice missing from the box, a quick start guide. For whatever reason, may it be global warming or saving trees, there is no paper instructions included with Oomi’s base kit, but it is built into the system and some of it is on their website. As a consumer driven platform, I felt this was a bit odd, especially since it’s more advanced than most other systems. But who really reads the instructions anyways, so no harm no foul?
Out of the box Oomi is both simple and complex to setup. Like most devices it starts with plugging them in, turning them on, easy peasy. Within the box you’ll get the Cube (a camera and IR blaster), the control tablet, charging base for the tablet, two lights bulbs, and the smart plug. How these work are ingrained into humanity, so no instructions needed. Once you boot up the control tablet you’ll be greeted with a custom Oomi loading screen and then pushed to the easiest setup process I’ve seen in awhile.
You pick the language, agree to some legal mumbo jumbo, connect to WiFi, and you’re up and running. From there, each included device will need to be paired with the system, and to do this they have built in NFC chips. Rather than fussing with some scanning, manual inputs, or messy settings, you simply touch the control tablet to the device, it registers it, and you’re good to go.
Once all of the devices are connected though, you’re left with a blank slate and your imagination. For someone who works with marketing automation, this is super fun. Even if you enjoy using IFTTT’s advanced automation settings, this should be familiar. However, for even general tech savvy consumers, this will seem like a daunting task and requires experimentation and actually reading through the tutorials.
Overall the setup process is quite simple, but to get the system to start doing what you want, you’ll need some patience or general knowledge of how automation works. If you're completely unsure how to do all this, then call a pro to install the system.
What You Can Do With Oomi
When it comes to automation, you should have high expectations. These platforms are designed around a simple concept of… if X does Y, then A should do B. It’s pretty simple overall, and the more conditions and options available, the more you can customize the system to your needs.
As a budding platform, the options are still relatively simple, meaning, you can do the basics like turn lights on at a specific time, tell the Cube when to start or stop monitoring for motion, and have the devices speak to one another based on requests.
However, what you really should want this platform to do is a lot more complex than what is currently offered, and it’s not outside the realm of reality to think they are working towards this advancement. For example, I tried to setup an automation that recognizes if my dogs set off the Cube’s motion sensor then the lights in the same room would flash on and off as red. It can’t do that, but it can turn the lights red. It’ll also stay red until another automation takes place. While this isn’t an issue in itself, there is also no log that shows when an automation occurred. They have an area for it, but it’s not compiling yet.
Controls and Scenes
Beyond automation there are two other areas of focus: controls and scenes.
Controls are just as it sounds, you map the buttons on the control tablet to either do certain actions. You can even register your TV or entertainment remotes that use IR and map those buttons to the control pad to turn it into a universal remote. This can be done through either the physical buttons or various widget control pads on the screen. In addition, for each Oomi device or supported device, you can place a widget for it on the homescreen, allowing you to access it at just a touch of the button. With a long press you can dig deeper into its settings, and some allow for more customizations than what is available through automations and scenes for now.
While controls are important, scenes are what you’ll likely setup first and are pretty neat. Depending on what you have connected, you can create a custom scene that activates with nothing more than pressing the button. We’ll dig into this more in the bulb section as the standard kit will surround those, though you can also have something turn off if using the smart plug too.
Plus and Minus
For downsides, this system is young and has a lot of potential, but advanced automations need to be a priority for the team. Even Alexa and other platforms have integrations with IFTTT and in turn allow them to trigger strings of actions, so if they want to compete, Oomi needs at a minimum to have this.
The alerts are lacking as well, and there should be customizable options for them in automations. You’d figure a motion action would kick out an alert, but that only occurs when you set the alarm system to away or stay. It does list when motion was detected on the Cube’s timeline, but that requires manual review.
If you love glossy, shiny objects, Oomi is filled with it. If you’re everyone else, expect a lot of finger prints to be on display. Jokes aside, Oomi has a sleek look that should fit in with most of your home except for the addition of a few more cords and wires. Fortunately the Cube and Control Tablet, the ones with cables, will most likely be near your entertainment or living room, so it won’t detract from those with more modern decor elsewhere in the house.
Oomi also has a free app available, though it’s quite a bit more limited than what you can do through the Control Tablet. Fortunately I see this as both a plus and a minus, as having an existing tablet or smartphone could more or less render the control tablet useless if they had the same functionality. I’d see that more as another way to get a secondary control pad though rather than just a limited solution.
Beyond their current base system, Oomi will soon release a separate camera, siren, and water sensor. They also currently have an air sensor, door and window sensor, colorstrip, and multisensor available as well.
Overall I see a lot of potential for Oomi, but unfortunately our review is based on the current offering. While it’s likely that this can be a true hub that connects all or many of our favorite IoT devices, right now it’s a bit young and simplified.
Cube (Camera and IR Blaster)
Oh Oomi Cube, you have so much potential. This little block acts as sort of the heart of Oomi. It’s got a camera with nightvision, IR blasters on each side, and a few sensors to detect things like temperature and humidity.
While setting up the automations and controls for the Cube, you’ll get a few basic options such as being able to watch what it sees, to press a button and it sends out an IR signal to do things like turn on your TV, or trigger an action when motion occurs.
For controlling things like the TV, it works pretty well. However, there was a bit of a lag between pressing buttons and it pushing out the signal. What this means is that you may press the volume up button twice, and for some reason go up more than expected. And if you're concerned about privacy, hey, I've got tape over my laptop camera, Oomi also comes with a magnetic cover for the camera lens.
For security, the Cube does the basics, but needs more. If you want to see a timeline of when motion was detected, to trigger an action when this occurs, or to watch the camera, the Cube rocks. But if you want to record video or play it back, this doesn’t exist. It’s hard to recommend a security offering with no recording or playback.
Overall the Cube is pretty neat, has a lot of potential, but needs that recording and playback to really shine.
The Oomi Control Tablet does just as the name implies, it controls the system. This device is an custom Android powered touchscreen tablet that features customizable buttons. From here you’ll do everything from creating an account, setting up automations, controlling your devices, and monitoring everything. Either stationary or portable, this allows you to take it around wherever you need it or display it in an accessible location. Because this is the brains of the operation, most of what we have dug into so far is managed through this, so we won’t rehash it. For ease of use, setting things up is pretty easy to do.
Overall the Control Tablet is really well thought out, albeit limited automations right now, and the only downside that I found was that you can’t adjust its brightness. I found that to be a bit odd, but I assume that’s an easy fix for a future update.
Out of the box, Oomi’s light bulbs are likely the first things you’ll start to customize. Each bulb (the kit comes with two) is a 9w energy efficient bulb that produces 750 lumens (60w). Like the Philips Hue lights, these bulbs can produce up to 16 million different colors, which is customized on the control tablet. Through automations lights can be triggered based on something simple like the time of day, or if you add in sensors they can change a certain color if motion is detected.
Beyond automations, scenes are probably one of the more interesting and easy to setup customizations. Scenes are totally customizable to allow you to set the mood. If it’s movie time, you can have bulbs up front dim to a cool blue, with a red light behind you. For dinner? Perhaps a simple dim white. Gaming? How about some hot pink to spice things up. You get the idea.
The only downside is that through automations and scenes, it appears that you can only select basic colors. If you want to create a rainbow or patterned flashing light effect, you have to manually do that in the bulb settings on the control tablet widget for it. While the kit comes with two bulbs, the are also sold separately for $50. The platform also connects with Philips Hue as well.
Want to monitor the energy output of a device or devices, how about be able to turn things on or off from anywhere that you have access to the Control Tablet or app? That’s exactly what the plug does. It’s not a new concept, and Wemo does this relatively well with their IoT connected world, and Oomi follows right in their footsteps. The only difference is that Oomi does not support IFTTT, so you’ll have limited automations tied to the smart plug, for now. Technically I could see the way around not having direct IFTTT access would be through its integration with Amazon Alexa, but at the time of writing it was not playing nice. While the starter kit comes with one plug, extras can be purchased for $52.
Pros and Cons
- Priced well for the offering
- Connects most popular IoT devices
- Expanding product line will make Oomi a force to reckon with
- Lacks IFTTT integration
- Needs recording and playback for video
- Automations still simple, needs to be advanced
Should you buy Oomi? If you don’t have a smart home hub, have a collection of IoT devices, or want to create a smart home, yes; however, there are caveats. For a young system, especially one that was launched through Indiegogo, it’s understandable that the offering would be considered an early release stage.
However, as Oomi is now publicly available, I feel like there needs to be some basic polish such as adding video recording, adjusting the control tablets brightness, and having better user onboarding. With that said, this system has a great deal of potential, it’s priced well for what it currently offers, but you’re going to be left wanting more.
Ommi/Fantem team, add that advanced automation offering like IFTTT has and better security recording, and you’re going to have one monstrous success on your hands in the future. Also, get that Alexa skill working.
Where to buy: Oomi
Read more reviews on Gear and Gadgets for your home by Elliot at TechCo
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