Setup and Usage Impressions

The UFO Power Center caught our fancy because power consumption measurement is something we do for almost all products that we review. Using a Kill-a-Watt is not very accurate, while the Watts Up? meters are very costly for our particular purpose. The UFO Power Center is continuing to serve us well. However, with more devices being tested simultaneously, and lab space at a premium, we started looking for something more down to earth in terms of industrial design. The mPower Pro fit our needs perfectly, but Ubiquiti was having some supply issues when we were looking for a unit to test out. In the end, we landed up with the mPower 3-outlet version.

Hardware

The mPower unit comes with a wall mounting plate, screws, a CD with the mFi software and a quick start guide along with the main unit. From the outside, it looks every bit like a conventional power strip. In addition to the circuit breaker reset button on the side, it also has a factory reset button. A flashing LED on the front panel provides status information.

Setup Process

The setup process for the mPower is quite similar to that of the UFO Power Center. When powered up, the device creates an ad-hoc wireless network. Upon connecting a PC to the ad-hoc network, the unit's web UI is accessible. The browser interface allows for selecting and entering credentials for the Wi-Fi network to which the unit is supposed to connect. Our mPower unit was originally running firmware version 1.2.3 , but upgrading to 2.0.7 brought a lot of interesting features.

Gallery: mPower Setup

The firmware update could be processed only after linking up the mPower unit with a mFi controller instance. The mFi is a Java-based software which proved very difficult to install on my Windows 8 machine. It also got complicated a bit because I had mFi installed on multiple computers on the same network (not the usual scenario for most end-users). I eventually got it working on a Windows 7 setup. The default credentials for the unit are printed on the box (ubnt/ubnt). However, linking the unit to a mFi instance overrides these credentials with those used for the mFi.

Using the mPower

The controller software is a full-fledged automation suite with support for rules and other features. It will not be covered in detail because this review is about the mPower unit specifically. Suffice to say that all the parameters of the mPower unit (names and status of the outlets, power consumption recording etc.) can be viewed, recorded, used for rules and altered as applicable through the mFi interface.

The browser interface for the mPower in the firmware version 1.2.3 was minimal and only provided statistics related to the network connection and some logs related to it. In 2.0.7, the Controls tab was introduced and this provides a way for users to control outlet status and check up on the instantaneous values of the electrical parameters (as shown in the gallery above).

Introduction Inside the mPower
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  • daar - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the review, introduction could use some work when it comes to chunking info about the product, though. Reply
  • darwinosx - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    Yeah it's not clear what this product does. Reply
  • ydeer - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    Glad I’m not the only one who is confused. At first I thought it is a 802.11 <-> powerline <-> CAT5 access point, but apparently it is a "X10-like" powerstrip with WiFi. I think? Reply
  • eli2k - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    can you access the power outlets with the device connected only to the wifi network and host w/the mFi software turned off? or do I always have to have a host computer running? Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    Yes, this is possible. In fact, you can use the unit without even linking it to a mFi host. (Though you do need the mFi host to upgrade the firmware on the mPower, you can always uninstall the mFi from the host computer afterwards) Reply
  • simpsond - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    I wrote a little library which will SSH into the mPower and run the appropriate commands to enable read/write, toggle the acutators, and sample the ports. It can be found here: https://github.com/dansimpson/mfi Reply
  • Phelerox - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    This product is really interesting because it's very similar to my Bachelor of Science thesis where we, between January and May of this year, made a working prototype of a smart power strip that (over WiFi) reports power consumption for its outlets to a Web server, and of course allows for remote controlling the state of the outlets on the website. The hardware has an 8-bit AVR microcontroller, WiFi, solid-state relays and measurement hardware on a custom PCB. The website uses Django and supports multiple users and multiple power strips per user (unfortunately we've only made one final prototype so far), and some basic automation functionality (though we didn't have time to implement most of our automation ideas, for example a location-aware smartphone app or IFTTT integration). I don't know if it interests anyone, but I'll provide a link to the report we wrote: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7zal1ajnhs0nnad/A_Smart_... Reply
  • Duodecim - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    I've been checking a lot of these home automation devices recently. Some years ago I had simple and cheap remote controlled power sockets, and I've been waiting for some progress and a standard to emerge. I remembered checking these specific Ubiquity devices, read about the Java software, but somehow missed the SSH functionality.

    I'm very interested in the openness of these devices, as I could write my own open-source software to run on an ARM mini-server or even a Meego/Sailfish phone application instead of being stuck with some closed and highly proprietary platform. It would also make it easier to check if some basic security has been implemented so hijacking these gadgets won't be too easy.

    I hope some sort of standard emerges for these kind of devices and the sort of "intelligent" light bulbs like LIFX and Phillips Hue though, as a zillion different protocols, remotes and apps would ruin the experience and make life harder rather than easier.

    I like the geek angle in this review, thanks!
    Reply
  • Verdant - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    To me, the app glut is the part the ubiquity environment that needs to be solved first... Reply
  • zeebo - Thursday, November 21, 2013 - link

    You're delaying the Macbook Pro review for stuff like a power strip? Come the hell on. Reply

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