The market is just swimming in simple home control systems this year. The latest announcement is for a product called WeBee, a system that uses Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Z-Wave to coordinate various devices around the house.
The WeBee system starts with a hub called The Boss. You use The Boss (and a smartphone/tablet app) to identify and control other Wi-Fi, Z-Wave or Zigbee devices such as light switches, security cameras, sensors, thermostats… whatever. If you don’t have any existing devices, WeBee overs several, including electrical outlets, motion sensors and more.
A couple interesting devices from WeBee are the lamp holder and the Skipper.
The lamp holder turns any light into a smart light by letting you screw a standard bulb into the attachment, which then gets screwed into your lamp. It appears to be a slightly smarter approach to smart lights in that you’re not stuck buying very expensive smart light bulbs (but it’s bulky).
The Skipper is an infrared device for controlling your home audio/video gear. While that in itself doesn’t seem mind-boggling (professionally-installed control systems have been doing this for years), this product is fairly unique among the newer DIY home control devices. Neither the Staples Connect nor the Revolv have much in the way of audio/video device communication (Revolv will work with Sonos). The Skipper’s ability to take the Wi-Fi signal from The Boss and convert it to IR for your TV, DVR and Blu-ray player means that this system could bridge home automation with home theater control.
Like with other control systems, the user programs scenes and preferences to allow devices to operate the way the owner wants them to. WeBee also uses a “learning cloud” system in which the user’s activities are stored online on a cloud server (and on The Boss itself) and used to suggest scenes and activities based on the user’s habits.
Does the fact that an internet-connected cloud device is recording and learning your daily habits make you uncomfortable?
WeeBee is still in the very early stages. The company just launched a fund-raising campaign on Indiegogo (check it out here). You can get started with WeBee for a $99 contribution that gets you the hub and one smart plug. Delivery of the first products will be around April 2014.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.