With the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution underway, consumers want the ability to control devices in an automated and easy manner. The home automation market has also received a fillip recently, thanks to efforts from some high-profile vendors. Ubiquiti Networks is tackling the IoT market from the enterprise / SMB side. Due to the nature of that market segment, Ubiquiti's building automation product line (mFi) is loaded with features, and is quite flexible too. We had reviewed the mFi mPower and found it to actually present great value for the money despite being targeted towards business users.

Today, Ubiquiti is launching a couple of additions to the mFi family. The mFi-MPW is similar to the mFi mPower in terms of providing electrical outlets with remote switching (over Wi-Fi) and energy monitoring capabilities. The only difference is its in-wall design which allows users to replace the existing wall outlets while gaining automation aspects. The industrial design allows for blending of the device into the current setting (no odd protruding contraptions out of the wall / loose power strip hanging off the outlet). The mFi-MPW comes in black, with a white colored option (mFi-MPW-W) also in the mix.

The second device provides new functionality by acting as a switch / dimmer.  Unlike traditional switches, the mFi-LD and mFi-LD-W come with touch panels. Toggling the lights is achieved by tapping while dimming control is provided by sliding the fingers on it (similar to a mouse pad). Obviously, the device can be controlled via Wi-Fi and energy monitoring is available. More details about the switch / dimmer can be found here.

While basic control and monitoring can be achieved via the web-interface, the usage of the mFi Controller Software allows for setting up scenes and other home automation aspects. SSH access is available (similar to what power users have enjoyed with the other mFi devices), opening up a host of possibilites for developers of home automation integration systems. In terms of hardware installation, many home users might prefer the services of a licensed electrician for installation (but, this is quite similar to what one had to do for the Belkin WeMo Light Switch, a play aimed purely at the residential market). The other issue is that all the Wi-Fi circuitry takes up some space, and the outlet is actually 1.6" deep (which might be too big for some gang boxes).

Retail availability is still a bit of a hit-and-miss, as Ubiquiti tends to operate through a distributor network. However, on the basis of my previous experience, I believe we should be able to grab these on Amazon pretty soon.

Source: Ubiquiti Networks

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  • Beany2013 - Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - link

    What was wrong with just having a switch on the wall?

    I look forward to the first exploits that allow remote execution of these devices - that'll be fun.

    Well, not for whomever installed them, anyway.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - link

    The usefulness of these types of devices become apparent when the 'need' comes.

    In the early 90s, many people brushed off e-mail / Internet / e-commerce similarly. 'What is the need for putting up shops online' and that type of thing?

    Let me give you an example of when remote switching is useful: Suppose I go on a vacation, but want the lights in my house to go on and off / activate the lights from a remote location ? (Quite useful deterrent against robbers who target 'vacant' houses by observation over a period of time).

    Another angle: Have you ever wondered how much power is consumed by a particular appliance in your home? These devices help you with real-time monitoring of that aspect.

    As for exploits and remote execution, this one is as secure as your own network is. While other 'consumer-oriented' devices have to pander to the lowest common denominator by providing cloud access / ease of use etc., Ubiquiti is actually doing things great by making you run the 'cloud control server' in your own premises. As long as you can secure your network, this device should be secure.

    To be clear, this is not the type of device targeting the market that needs to be spoon-fed. Rather, the target is businesses / installers / power users [ basically, the typical AnandTech readership :) ]. For the former market, we have the Belkin WeMo lineup, D-Link Smart Plug etc. They try to make more 'consumer-friendly gear'.
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - link

    Let's ignore all the advanced and complex stuff you can do with home automation and just pick a super basic example. Say you've got a switch on the wall, as you say, and you want it to control a floor lamp on the other side of the room. If that power socket is already wired through the lightswitch, great. But what if it's not?

    You've got two options. Either you have an electrician reroute the electrical wiring in your walls, punching lots of holes in your drywall, and costing you a small fortune, or you can just buy a wifi lightswitch and wifi power socket and replace the switch/socket with those without redoing any of the wiring.

    Heck, you don't even need to rewire the electrical socket, you can get the wallwart or power bar type instead.

    The biggest problem with all this mFi stuff seems to be that it's almost impossible to buy it as a consumer.
    Reply
  • Beany2013 - Thursday, July 03, 2014 - link

    I think the bigger problem is that this tech has appeared now that I am over 30, and as such, it is against the laws of nature and I fear it.

    Had it turned up a few years ago, it'd have been something exciting and new that I could get a career in the design/support it.

    See Douglas Adams for details ;-)
    Reply
  • isa - Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - link

    I feel old in not knowing the answer, but is Ubiquiti's "mFi" the same as Apple's "MFi" program? I feel like I'm in Steve Martin's movie "L.A. Story" discussing SanDeE. Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - link

    Nope :) A quick perusal of the first link in the article : http://www.anandtech.com/show/7530/ubiquiti-networ... : shows that mFi is Ubiquiti's building automation platform. Reply
  • isa - Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - link

    ThanKs for the quick response! I did in fact PerUse that link, but nothing in it explicitly stated it was part of.or separate from its alphabetically identical references in Apple materials. WeiRd that the marKetinG godS allowed such simiLaR trademarks to coeXiSt. Reply
  • JeffFlanagan - Thursday, July 03, 2014 - link

    This looks somewhat interesting, but it's not a revolution. We've had this capability with X10 devices for years, and already have WiFi light-bulbs. The light switch is a nice addition.

    I currently use an old Android phone set to always-on running the MiLight app that I stuck to the wall. It looks decent, but not as good as a switch built into the wall. Of course MiLight has much more functionality than the device in this article, being able to change the light to any color.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 03, 2014 - link

    Yes, these are not 'revolutionary', but there is quite a bit of market demand for easily accessible 'automation' enablers. X10 has been around for a long time, but, frankly, what is the adoption rate compared to availability of Wi-Fi? Problem with Wi-Fi light bulbs is that they carry quite a premium.

    If you want to identify how much market demand there is for this product, take a look at the Kickstarter campaign of Ube / Plum : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/702772580/ube... : They met their goal pretty easily, but the units have been 'shipping soon' for quite some time. I had originally wanted to purchase the Ube as soon as it became available (despite the hefty premium over an oridinary dimmer switch), but it was disappointing to see it being continually delayed. With Ubiquiti, I am more confident - they are a proven bunch, their gear is priced quite fairly (surprising for an enterprise-targeted company) and I simply love how much flexibility is available for power users to take advantage of.
    Reply
  • cbf - Thursday, July 03, 2014 - link

    X10 was never very reliable. Original protocol only supported "toggle" commands with no acknowledgement. So maybe your light would turn on, maybe it'd turn off.. Reply

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