It seems like just a few short years ago that home automation was a niche category. It was actually two niche categories. There was home automation for those living the lifestyles of the rich and famous and home automation for the do-it-yourself tweaker. Now, home automation and control is being targeted at the masses. In fact, there are several products currently available on the market that are both easy to install and extremely affordable. One of them is the Belkin WeMo.
WeMo isn’t really one product; it’s an entire line of home automation devices. It currently includes the WeMo Baby Monitor, the WeMo Light Switch, the WeMo Switch appliance module, and the WeMo Switch+Motion sensor. The devices are easy to install and work in conjunction with iOS and Android portables. Even better, you can choose to install one WeMo product or sprinkle them all over the house and control an endless number of devices under one app.
Belkin sent me a pair of WeMo Switches to test out. Actually, one is the WeMo Switch ($49.99), with the other product being the Switch+Motion ($79.99). The big difference between the two is that one box also includes a motion sensor — and costs an extra $30.
The WeMo Switch is basically an appliance module that allows you to control one device at a time. It’s perfect for someone looking to control lights remotely or say the EH writer that never seems to remember whether or not she unplugged the curling iron (ahem). It also could not be any simpler, as evidenced by the lack of contents inside the box. It’s basically the Switch device and a quick install guide — and that’s it. The Switch has a three-prong plug on the back, a power button on the front, and a restore button on the top. Plug the Switch into an available outlet, download and install the free WeMo app, connect the WeMo to your home network, and follow the app to complete the setup process. There are no glitches or weirdness. It’s really that simple.
Here We Go, WeMo
As mentioned, you’ll want to start by downloading the free WeMo app. This will walk you through the entire installation process. That process includes plugging in the Switch and connecting to it through your smartphone or tablet. During this portion, the Switch acts like a little hotspot, but you won’t stay connected to it for too long. On my iPhone 4, I opened up the Settings, tapped the Wi-Fi option, and connected to the WeMo. Then, when you go back to the app, it will prompt you to enter your network’s password (you have one of those, right?). It will also offer the option to remember your Wi-Fi password, which will make adding other devices much easier. That’s it. Congratulations — you now have a WeMo device on your wireless network.
It takes about a minute to connect the Switch to your home network, if that. Once the Switch is on your network, you can plug things into it. See how that works? Unfortunately, each WeMo Switch can only control one device at a time. For this review, I used a large oscillating fan.
Double Your Pleasure
Adding in the second Switch is basically as easy as adding the first. Plug in the Switch, go to the WeMo app, and follow the on-screen setup process. Just know that every time you add something, you’ll have to connect to it first like it’s a high-tech hotspot. My second Switch is currently connected to a light in my living room.
Also know that you can add as many Switches as you like, without confusing them. The app allows you to name each Switch, if needed. Currently, I have the “WeMo Switch Upstairs” and the “WeMo Switch Downstairs” active in my house.
I was able to turn both Switches on and off using the app, with ease. WeMo also allows you to set “Rules.” For instance, I can have the light go off at 3:00 a.m. and the fan go on at 7:00 a.m. If you allow the WeMo to tap into your local area (through the app), you can even set devices to go on and off based on your local sunrise and sunset. There are also options to have the devices to go on and off based on specific times of day. Only want the light to go on every Thursday and Saturday? That’s an option, too.
It should be noted that each Switch is easy to move, so you aren’t married to the upstairs bathroom or the kitchen. Just unplug it and plug it in again; you don’t have to repeat the setup process or recreate your specific Rules. Give it a second to reconnect to your network, and you’ll be good to go.
Who Goes There?
The nice thing about the Switch+Motion package is that it adds another automated element into this setup. There’s a motion detector in that package!
Just like the Switches, this device needs to be added to the app. Also like those devices, the setup process is insanely easy. Once the Motion detector is added to the app, you can set up Rules based on motion in the room. For instance, when motion is detected, you can have a light go on using the Switch. You can also just have a “Hey, there’s motion!” message sent to your phone. These options can be set up for specific days or times of the day. However, you can also make rules run all day, every day.
One Motion detector won’t cover your entire house, but it can certainly handle one large room at a time. It’s also pretty sensitive. For instance, typing on my laptop set off the Motion detector. That means it can handle just about any cat burglar. It also means it can be set off by light, which was definitely the case. This isn’t out of the ordinary, but it’s something to consider — and certainly a reason to add in a camera, so you can check out the action as it’s happening.
If you’re looking for WeMo-related gripes, I have two minor ones. First of all, the Switch needs a three-prong outlet, which makes it impossible to add to the random extension cord that’s connected to my living room light. The Motion Sensor can go there though, since it’s only a two-prong device. Also, the cord that connects to that Motion Sensor is just sort of ugly. If you look up “rat’s nest” in the dictionary, this thing would be next to it. It would be nice if the company could cut the cord and make that completely wireless as well.
Of course, Belkin WeMo products aren’t super advanced, but they’re certainly putting advanced features into more homes. After all, WeMo is inexpensive and easy to set up. Both the WeMo Switch and the Switch+Motion also deliver as advertised. Installing one of these options could be a great way to introduce automation into the home or even add on to an existing system.
Starts at $49.99