Introduction

The Internet of Things (IoT) concept has gained a lot of traction over the last couple of years. One of the main applications of IoT lies in the home automation space. Consumers have many options in this space, but none of them have the right combination of comprehensiveness, economy, extensibility and ease of use. Earlier this month, we discussed these aspects in detail and arrived at a set based on which different home automation systems / devices could be compared. Today, we look at two different solution families - WeMo from Belkin and mFi from Ubiquiti Networks - and compare them using the aspects that we arrived at earlier.

Most consumers are very familiar with Belkin's WeMo product line - it has wide retail availability and a great marketing push. On the other hand, the mFi platform from Ubiquiti Networks is probably not known to the average consumer. The primary reason is that it is a M2M (machine-to-machine) communication platform, intended for building automation. In addition, Ubiquiti's marketing push for the product line amongst the general consumers has been non-existent. Their distribution model makes it difficult for consumers to experience the products in a brick and mortar store.

Today's review will begin with a look at the members of the WeMo and mFi families and a brief introduction to the usage model for both. For the Ubiquiti Networks mFi, we cover how to setup a home automation controller, and link to the documentation of the APIs. We will also look at the user control interfaces in detail for both the WeMo and the mFi devices. For this piece, we only look at a subset of the devices available in both the product lines. We will also talk about the power consumption aspects in the concluding section. A summary table will simplify the comparison of the two product families across various home automation aspects.

mFi and WeMo Product Lines
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  • bznotins - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    Yup, I can remotely reboot my home media server which locks-up from time to time. I can also use it to monitor power consumption of said server to see if there are any processes using up power unnecessarily. Reply
  • CynicalPhred - Monday, April 27, 2015 - link

    I use one on my wife and my electric blankets. As the blankets come on at full setting when power is "restored" (not what I'd call a safety feature but hey, useful in my circumstances) it's great to be able to turn on the blankets 10 minutes before bed time using my phone. Reply
  • olafgarten - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    Your wife needs an electrical power source? Reply
  • MobiusPizza - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    No offense to OP, but can't resist :)
    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/12/16/ja...
    Reply
  • Lord of the Bored - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    I've wondered that since I was a child in a house full of X10 modules. I never saw that a remote-control outlet was particularly useful. Maybe before electronics had standby modes and wireless remote controls, where the device plugged in would just turn on when you fired the outlet, but... that would be a long time ago Reply
  • CoryS - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    I use one at my wifes bathroom outlet which turns off after 15 minutes of inactivity in the room. She always forgets to turn off the curling iron. I also use one to control the compressor on a chest freezer with beer kegs in it (zigbee temp sensor inside) Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    I THINK the value is in things like
    - did I leave the iron plugged in?
    - did I switch off the space heater when I left the house?
    - did I leave that lamp on, so my burglar camera can see the living room?

    All of these are nice to have, but the existing offerings are all crazy expensive and kinda lousy in how they actually work. For example, with the space heater or lamp the usage model kinda sucks. The normal way to operate these is to use the switch on the heater or lamp, which is conveniently placed at usage level. But to get the benefit of remote control, you have to ALWAYS ignore that convenient switch and grope around on the floor to switch the power socket on or off.

    I don't know how to do better. But that doesn't change the fact that these existing usage models generally suck, and that doesn't look like it will change until the integration moves higher up stack (ie the LAMP has the internet knowledge, not the socket). Of course that's not going to work out well until the prices fall SUBSTANTIALLY and the specs unify to a single spec...
    Reply
  • sluflyer06 - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    Easy. My 90lb espresso machine takes 30-40 minutes to stabilize and I needed a way to both set schedules to have it turn on before I wake up and to be able to turn it on remotely if I'm out and about and want to have it hot and ready when I get home. These units do not have any kind of smart interface or computerization and nor will they ever, they are very mechanical in nature so solutions like the Insight switch are amazing. Reply
  • Craig69 - Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - link

    I don't consider this a solution for general home users. It takes some tech savvy just to get this thing to work correctly. (It will not work with the latest Java version for example. I have had issues with Firefox so use Chrome.) I implemented at home to fully understand its functionality and limitations but deploy it at commercial sites. It allows me to control equipment remotely and avoid a truck roll. One customer site visit will pay for four of these devices. The outlet being installed in the wall eliminates someone from easily unplugging the device. I turn off the indicator light so it looks like a normal outlet. Someone unplugs or turns off the computer and I know it immediately. I don't need to call someone to turn off the computer to force a reset if all else fails. I have never used the light controller so I can't comment on its functionality. Great device in a commercial environment. Reply
  • V900 - Monday, April 27, 2015 - link

    Well ok, I guess lamps and light switches could be controlled through a "smart" outlet...

    But since an led light usually uses around 5 watt an hour, how many decades do you need to keep the light on before a 50$ light switch and 2-300$ total solution pays for itself?
    Reply

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