OORT Review – Bluetooth Wireless IOT with SmartLED, SmartFinder, and SmartSocket

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Here it is, our first OORT review! We’ve been tracking this company since we first took notice of them on Kickstarter last June. We’ve even had a chance to talk to the CEO, Radek Tadajewski, at the 2015 International in January. (Check out what we learned from that fascinating conversation here.) Now we finally own a few of their components and wanted to share our experiences with you.

First, a little backstory so you know why we are so intrigued by what OORT is bringing to the market. Unlike many other IOT systems (Internet of Things) out there that use proprietary or uncommon wireless protocols, OORT takes advantage of Bluetooth, something that pretty much all of us already own and use in the form of our smartphones and tablets. There may have been a time when using another form of wireless would’ve had its benefits. But now when it comes to low power consumption, longer battery life, the number of devices that can be on a single network, range, and a host of other attributes, Bluetooth, especially BluetoothSmart or Bluetooth BLE, either meet or exceed those other formats. The only way that these other wireless formats can be used is if:

  • The smartphone and tablet manufacturers start building their products with additional chips to handle the new wireless format
  • They use a hub that acts as a translator between devices and any networks

Neither of these are ideal, adding cost, compatibility issues, and unnecessary complexity. Luckily, we have companies like OORT that are choosing to use existing technologies that are already in place and keeping things open source so that anyone can add their own devices and apps to the ecosystem, keeping costs down and virtually eliminating compatibility issues.

In this OORT review, we’ll show you how easy they’ve made it to begin your own SmartHome network. OORT has an ever-expanding line of products in the pipeline which may soon be joined by other manufacturers’ offerings. For now, we’ll focus on what’s already available and what we ourselves own and use: the SmartLED Bulb, the SmartFinder tracking beacon, and the SmartSocket power outlet.

OORT SmartLED BLE Enabled Smart Bulbs

The OORT SmartLED BLE Enabled Smart Bulbs are already available on Amazon in the US. One of the great advantages of their bulb over the competition, like the Philips Hue Bulb, is that OORT’s bulb does not require a hub or a bridge to work. It can communicate directly with any device like a smartphone or tablet using their native Bluetooth capabilities. Sure, using the hub will expand functionality and allow remote control over the internet but it is not required.  We think that’s pretty cool! Best of all, because it’s an energy-efficient LED light, it will last up to 40,000 hours.

OORT SmartLED Review - Bluetooth IOT

We were going to make our own videos showing how easy these things are to use, but the following videos are so short and to the point it seemed redundant to make videos that basically looked the same. Here is the OORT SmartLED Bulb in use and how to set it up right out of the box:

We’ve had a lot of fun with the OORT bulbs. They are capable of displaying millions of colors and have a variety of presets settings that make the bulbs perform a variety of tricks, from the useful to the fanciful. Here’s a list of what those modes are and what they do:

  • Sleep – Sets a timer so the lamp will automatically shut off at a set interval (5s – 8m)
  • Reading – The perfect light for reading
  • Love – We were a bit confused by this one at first. It’s effect is initially very subtle. It has a timer that can be set from 50 seconds to 5 hours. The light starts with a kind of rose color (perhaps to give your partner an attractive, healthy skin tone?) and slowly turns purple and eventually emits an ever deepening blue… and then snaps off! You know, it just might work. At least it removes the excuse for cuddle time by someone saying, “Sorry honey, I’ve gotta shut the light off!”
  • Dance – Party Mode! The light cycles through every color option. How long it displays each color is set by a timer that can range from 1 to 20 seconds
  • Snore – Allows you to pick a color, set an interval of 2 – 20 seconds, and then start the light to snoring, similar in effect to the sleep mode indicator lights on most devices like a laptop. Soothing. Might be even better if we could match it with the Sleep mode so it would shut off after we drift off to sleep.
  • Flash – Warning? Or Party Mode Part Deux? You decide! Pick the color and get it to flash at intervals between .25 – 2 seconds.

OORT - SmartLED Review, App Light Controls

Two things that we feel people should know:

  1. The color picker can be difficult to master. It works, but sometimes getting an exact shade can be difficult. It’s also helpful to know a little bit about color theory so that we know how the controls of the color wheel (hue or color), saturation (the amount of color vs. white) and brightness (overall level of light) interact. Knowing how to get it to display a true red, for instance, can take some time, at least initially. We did notice that the color wheel (hue) seems to jump a bit when it goes between colors instead of a seamless transition. Not a big deal and it seems that the other controls of saturation and brightness help achieve those in-between colors. A feature we would love to see? It might be impossible to calibrate precisely, but it would be cool if we could enter a color’s hex or RGB value to achieve the color that we want. For our example of true red, that would mean values like #FF0000 or (255, 0, 0). No one is doing this though, so we are not taking OORT to task for this. Just a wishlist-type of thing. However, it would be great to have shortcuts that brought us straight to the primary and secondary colors (red, blue, yellow, violet, green and orange).
  2. These lights are not super powerful. They are rated at 9.5 watts, which is roughly equivalent to 35 watts in a traditional bulb. Unless you use a few bulbs in a single fixture or in some type of lighting array, we feel that they are mostly for accent lighting, ambience, or illuminating a specific area, like a table or work surface. However, there is one setting that is not featured in the above video that we particularly enjoy: the Reading mode. If you use it as a reading or desk lamp, the OORT SmartLED gives off a particularly soothing light that manages to keep things crisp and clear on the written page… that is, for those old timers who still read things from the medium of paper!

 OORT SmartFinder

Also currently available is the OORT SmartFinder, a smart tracking device that can help you locate any item to which it is attached, even if that “item” is a person or pet! Of course, the range of the tracking feature is limited to the current Bluetooth spec of 30 meters (approx. 100 feet). Here’s a video showing setup and some use-case scenarios:

The version that we have is same as what you saw in the above video. It looks like this:

oort-finder-beacon-iot-bluetooth-wireless-qtoothWe’ve been told by OORT that they have a new version coming out that is quite a bit smaller, about one third the size, and should be easier to mount on a variety of different objects, including the classic keyring. The current version would require something like a carabiner clip to attach it to smaller objects.

OORT SmartFinder Review - App Controls

So, how does it work in the real world? We did have some occasional issues where we had to be almost right on top of it before it started to register strongly on the finder window in the app, but overall it worked quite well. For us, the fastest way to find it was to press the speaker icon in the middle of the app’s screen. This triggers a little alarm tone on the SmartFinder beacon that we could easily hear in most environments. After all, as long as they are working, two of the fastest, most powerful location devices that we have at our disposal are the human ears!

OORT SmartSocket

The OORT SmartSocket BLE Enabled Smart Plug Energy Meter is one of our favorite things. It is the fastest way to add other devices in your life into the Internet of Things. Plug it into any standard power outlet, find it and connect it on the OORT app, and you can immediately start to schedule all kinds of tasks from your formerly “dumb” appliances. Check out the video:

Not only is it simple to use but it can save you significantly on your utility bills by scheduling automated on and off times for appliances throughout your home or office… or both. There is also a screen on the app that allows you to track power consumption so you know exactly what devices are drawing the most power. It even allows you to attach a dollar amount to that devices power consumption. Just check your utility bill’s cost per kilowatt hour and enter it into the appropriate space on the app and voila! You now know exactly how much it costs to run that extra space heater in the spare bedroom!

OORT SmartSocket - App Controls

One thing people should know about the OORT SmartSocket:

The OORT SmartSocket is pretty much a perfect product. The one thing it doesn’t necessarily do is instantly turn on or off. It is very fast, but it is not the same as flicking a switch on the wall. There can be a slight, variable, delay between when you tap the button on the app and when the SmartSocket actually responds. For almost all applications this will never be an issue. We just thought we’d warn you if you are trying to turn on or off a device where the timing is critical or involves any health or safety issues.

The OORT APP

The power of OORT’s system is that you have incredible control over these devices before ever needing to invest in a hub or any other type of “bridge”. They can all communicate directly with your smartphone or tablet using its built-in Bluetooth capability. It is also possible to create an unlimited number of virtual networks using the app’s “Group” function. Assign devices to a group and in one touch of a button you can either turn on or off each device in that group, depending on what you have assigned each device to do.

OORT Review - Assigning Devices to a Group Using the OORT App

Examples? Press a button and the outside lights of your house go off and all of the interior lights come on. Press a button and the stereo goes off and the TV comes on. Getting the idea? All of these functions can be programmed to happen at specific times up to a week in advance… without a hub! Without sending information to the cloud! Without being connected to the internet! How awesome is that?

OORT Review - Customizing Groups using the OORT App

 

And did we mention the app is free? You can find it for both iOS and Android devices on their respective stores:

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Coming Soon: The OORT SmartHub

Ok, so it’s cool that we can have all of this control without a hub, without the internet or the cloud… but what if we want to control it all from a remote location? Have no fear, the OORT SmartHub will soon be here!

OORT Review - IOT Hub

The hub that OORT is releasing, and most likely shipping by March 2015, provides the link between your home or office devices and the internet. Using OORT’s cloud system, you can have complete access and control of everything on your network from anywhere in the world with internet access. With a SmartHub connection, users can create custom actions, such as triggering a blue light to flash when you receive a Facebook message, or red when your child comes home. Here is a video that shows some of those expanded capabilities:

Still Not Enough? Add Your Own Custom Devices to the Network!

OORT Developer Kit

OORT is set to make available a developer kit that allows you to convert just about any device to work with your SmartHome network. It will come with the Hub and a chipset on a PC board that will allow you to customize your way into the Internet of Things. Here’s a fun example:

And for the true developer and inventor in all of us, OORT is also making their API and SDK available too (Application Program Interface and Software Development Kit, respectively). Got a cool idea for something that you want to control via your smartphone or the internet? Get in there already, make it happen!

Conclusion

I’m sure this won’t be our only OORT Review. This company is on the move and we are pretty sure there are going to be many more products and developments to come.