There's no shortage of connected-home systems on the market, but most of them have two things in common: They over-rely on your smartphone to be the master controller, and pairing all the devices you wish to control is usually a painfully tedious process. The folks at Fantem think they have a better idea, and they've turned to Indiegogo to raise funds to bring their Oomi connected-home system to market.
The heart of the Oomi system is the Oomi Cube and the Oomi Touch. The Cube is a combination hub, night-vision IP camera, environmental sensor (motion, vibration, sound, temperature, humidity, glass break, and ambient light), and infrared emitter (for controlling a home-theater system). The Touch is a dedicated 7.0-inch touchscreen tablet for controlling the system. There's no need to rely on your smartphone's too-small display, and the Touch has purpose-built hardware buttons that don't exist on more generic tablets. Fantem plans to introduce a wall-mount option for the tablet later this year.
In addition to its plethora of sensors, the Oomi Cube also has radios for Wi-Fi networking, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Z-Wave. The system relies on NFC (near-field communication) for pairing, and the company boasts that the entire system can be set up in less than five minutes by simply touching the Oomi Touch to each device that you want to add to the system.
In addition to Oomi Cube, Fantem has developed a smart plug (with an LED band that glows to indicate its power consumption), a smart RGB LED light bulb, an air-quality monitor that piggybacks on the camera, a stand-alone multi-sensor (which monitors ambient light, motion, temperature, humidity, UV, and vibration), and an audio/video streamer stick with HDMI that can be controlled by the Oomi Touch.
The streamer can play content from online services such as Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify. Fantem spokesperson Colin Marshall told me in a briefing earlier this month that the company is "working on integrating third-party systems, such as the Sonos [multi-room audio system] and Nest thermostat--anything that has an API."
Why this matters: Oomi Touch is the component that sets Fantem's system apart from so many other connected-home systems. Purpose-built hardware is almost always more powerful and easier to use than software running on a device originally built for some other purpose. There are exceptions, of course--the Sonos controller works great on a smartphone or tablet--but the list of things that app needs to do is relatively limited. Unlike Oomi touch, it doesn't need to manage your lights, control your HVAC system, monitor your environment, and stream media at the same time.
What I like most about what I've seen of the Oomi system so far (I haven't had it in my hands for a critical evaluation) is that it enables you to manage so much of the system without the need to drill down into multiple layers of user interface to expose additional controls. I'm also happy to hear that it's based on proven technologies such as Z-Wave, so you won't be limited to using only the devices that Fantem decides to develop on its own (the Oomi Multisensor, Oomi Plug, and Oomi Bulb are all Z-Wave accessories).
The Oomi system doesn't offer central-office security monitoring at this point, but Marshall said that service might become an option down the road, describing it as "...a personal monitoring service that will be able to call you and alert you as to things that are happening in the home. It will be able to patch you through to your local 911 right from within the call. And you'll be able to call the cube and monitor what's going on." Marshall also said Fantem has stand-alone cameras on its roadmap, but that you'll be able to deploy multiple Ooomi Cubes and configure one as the master and the other as slaves."
Should you back this campaign?
I can't give a definitive thumbs-up or -down on any crowd-funding campaign, but this one looks pretty solid. Fantem CEO Winston Cheng was formerly a VP at Aeon Labs, a company that's been designing and building Z-Wave products for many years, so these guys aren't babes in the woods. They're looking to raise what seems like a modest amount of cash for this level of ambition--$50,000 over a 60-day campaign--and they anticipate shipping product to backers in October (as usual, take delivery promises with a large grain of salt).
Fantem will be offering several product bundles at significant discounts on a pre-order basis. All three include the Ooomi Cube and Oomi touch. You can add one Oomi Z-Wave accessory for $279; three Z-Wave accessories and either the Oomi Streamer or Oomi Air for $439; or the Oomi Streamer and the Oomi Air, plus your choice of nine Oomi Z-Wave accessories, for $699.