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Oomi Smart Home debuts touch switches, lower upfront cost

In a welcome move, the crowdfunded smart home brand is rethinking its business model at CES 2018, and showing off new "TouchSwitches," too.

Chris Monroe/CNET

"Impressive but expensive." That was how I summed up Oomi's crowdfunded smart home kit back in August, when I tested and reviewed the system out of the CNET Smart Apartment. With easy NFC pairing, stable, reliable performance and strong versatility -- everything from automation and color-changing bulbs to DIY security and Alexa voice controls -- Oomi had an awful lot to offer budding smart home enthusiasts. But at $700, it was also awfully tough to afford.

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Once a mandatory starter kit centerpiece, the Oomi Touch tablet is now an optional add-on accessory.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Oomi soon lowered the price of that starter kit to $500, which was a big step in the right direction. Now, at CES 2018, Oomi's team is taking another big step and changing up that starter kit's offerings in order to make it even more affordable. Specifically, Oomi is cutting the once-mandatory Oomi Touch control tablet from the kit and offering it as an optional add-on instead. Oomi says that will bring the cost of a starter kit down below $300.

The change means that the camera and sensor-equipped Oomi Cube will now take the Oomi Touch tablet's place as the starter kit's centerpiece. Without the Oomi Touch, you won't be able to pair Oomi's accessories to your setup using tap-and-go NFC connections -- instead, you'll link things up using Oomi's app.

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New Oomi "TouchSwitches" will soon join the list of devices you can add to your setup.

Oomi

In addition, Oomi is introducing new, touch-capacitive light switches. The new accessories, simply called "TouchSwitches," can be added as an upgrade to Oomi's existing in-wall switch controllers, and they're designed to automatically detect the switch's function, whether it's dimming the lights, adjusting the curtains or controlling a ceiling fan. In addition to touch controls for all of those sorts of basic functions, you'll also be able to use touch gestures to trigger your Oomi scenes. No word on price yet, but they're expected to arrive in the coming months.

Oomi's last CES announcement of the year is a new partnership with SafeTrek, a smart security startup that lets users contact emergency services with a single panic button press on their smartphone. That functionality will essentially copy over into the Oomi app for any users that choose to purchase a paid SafeTrek account.

By this summer, users will also be able to link their Oomi setup to a paid monitoring service capable of dispatching emergency services automatically whenever the armed system detects a problem.

Colin Marshall, President of Oomi parent company Fantem acknowledges that this will require a slightly higher SafeTrek fee, but adds that it will be "still less than 90 percent of the monitored security options available today."

Outlook

Both the new TouchSwitches and the partnership with SafeTrek lean into Oomi's existing strength, and that's the system's versatility. Meanwhile, the updated business model addresses Oomi's key weakness by making the system more affordable to get started with. Both seem like smart moves as Oomi heads into 2018.

When I last updated the Oomi review to account for its first price drop, I gave the starter kit a 7.7 out of 10, which reflects its stability, its ease of use, and the sheer volume of different ways you can put it to use. The new kit loses that NFC selling point, but that seems like a fair trade given that it should cost at least $200 less than before. Another review update might be needed in the coming months as a result.

What to expect from the smart home at CES 2018: We take a look at the smart home and appliance trends we expect to see this year.

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.

Oomi Home Starter Kit