Technology Tuesday: WeMo Switch from Belkin

I use my smartphone as a remote control for a slew of things. I have a Boxee app to control my media server, a Tivo app to control my TV, a Nest app to control my thermostat, a Sonos app to control my audio system throughout the house, a Subsonic app to control the tunes on my computer and a few more. However, what if you want to turn on or off anything that you can plug into the wall? While home automation systems have been around for years, they always required professional installation and/or exorbitantly priced components and control systems.

Belkin has recently released the WeMo switch which allows home automation for the masses. It allows power control of any electronic device from anywhere and can be setup quickly and easily. Simply plug in the WeMo switch to a power outlet, plug your device into it (anything with an AC cord) and you can now control it with your smartphone!* In addition to simple on/off commands, a bunch of other cool features are currently possible with the WeMo system.

The Basics The WeMo switch comes in two “flavors.” The basic power switch for $49 or power plus motion for $99. It is roughly 4.25” tall by 3” wide by 2”. It has WiFi built in and allows for simple control of on/off from anywhere you have internet access. Once you connect your device, you can name it anything you want and assign an icon to match the device. So if you have several – or many – devices, you can easily find which one you want. More than just flipping a device on or off, you can create schedules to automate things that you want to happen at particular times. Similarly, you can create macros which string together several devices and actions.

Conveniently, all the schedules live in the cloud and commands are pushed to the switch so your smartphone doesn’t need to be on or even nearby. The switch can handle appliances up to 15 amps which is enough for such things as small-medium sized window air conditioners.

The Good

  • Actions work instantly. Just as quick as flipping a switch on the wall. Zero lag.
  • Easy to setup. Very intuitive and quick to pair. You’ll be out of the box and flipping switches from your phone in minutes.
  • Belkin plans on adding many components to this line which can all be inter-connected including door locks and light bulbs.
  • Switches automatically and quickly rejoin your network if they are unplugged.
  • “It just works!” is the simplest way that I can describe this system.

The Bad

  • Remember the asterisk from the second paragraph? That you could control it from your smartphone?* Well, this is true if you happen to be an iPhone user. Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry users are left out at this point. Idiotically, when I read the Belkin website and checked out the materials, I failed to account for the fact that in Belkin’s language “Smartphone = iPhone.” Hopefully other mobile platforms are added soon.
  • While much less expensive than existing home automation systems, $49 is still pretty steep if you’d like to control many devices. Having a switch or two can certainly be convenient and helpful. However, it is not until a slew of devices are set up that the dream of “home automation” is realized. Belkin will need 6-pack or 12-pack pricing bringing each device closer to the $15-$20 mark to really get me interested in adding many lamps, fans, TV’s, appliances and other things around the house.
  • Some routers are not automatically configured to work properly with WeMo which necessitates going into the router and making manual changes. This is not only a major hassle but potentially a deal killer for those that are not comfortable or familiar with making router changes and bought the device for the simplicity.
  • No Dimmer. I’d love to be able to swipe my finger across a slider and dim lights to any brightness I wanted. Currently, that is not possible as it is only an on/off switch.

Cool Bonus! 

  • Remember that cool service called If This, Then That (ifttt) that we told you about earlier? Since WeMo is all web based, you can easily integrate WeMo actions into ifttt commands. For example, set up a WeMo with motion and have ifttt text your phone anytime motion is sensed.

Bottom Line

The WeMo switch by Belkin works great, is easy to set up and allows you to control devices or set schedules quickly and easily from an iPhone. It will be fascinating to watch as the system adds components, features and flexibility in the coming years to truly enable you to automate your home. In the meantime, a switch or two may be helpful and convenient, especially when paired with ifttt, but at a $50 price-point, many people probably will not be tricking out their entire house…especially if they don’t have an iPhone!

Belkin WeMo Website

ifttt action page

Amazon link basic switch

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Hidden Track Technology Tuesday

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2 Responses

  1. Parker, you kick my ass. The ifttt integration truly underscores your true geek. You’ve been absolutely crushing it the past few weeks.

    Now, we just need to get you to drop the Android bias… 🙂

  2. Ha! Thanks Mike!

    Though to be fair, I have featured quite a few gadgets, apps and other things specifically for iOS. And there will definitely be more. Just easier for me to reference Android as that is what I use.

    Thanks again for reading!

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