Belkin Expands WeMo Home Automation Initiative

Dave Zatz —  January 7, 2013

belkin-wemo-light-switch

Haven given up on the Gypsy lifestyle and once again returned to home ownership, I’ve been on the lookout for ways to geekify our new pad. And while CES is inundated with health gadgets, I’m more interested in home automation… perhaps sleeker and simpler than existing Insteon or Zigee solutions. Of course, that’s how I ended up with the Nest wireless thermostat (review to come). Yet, it’s something of a luxury item at $250 and remains a walled garden. By comparison, Belkin is attempting to bring home automation to the masses but the WeMo lineup has been pretty limited to wireless outlets, thus far, controlled via smartphone. However, in 2013 they’re promising to expand with a wireless wall light switch (shown above) and by licensing their platform to others – including the maker of Mr. Coffee and Sunbean products. The WeMo lightswitch is expected this summer in the $50 range. If I haven’t already tricked out my home by then, I’ll surely be keeping an eye on Belkin’s progress in this arena… despite some questionable, combustible propositions.

6 responses to Belkin Expands WeMo Home Automation Initiative

  1. Yuuummmm….wireless morning coffee… :-)

  2. After your mention of Insteon I have become very interested in this myself. I was looking at a honeywell solution as a thermostat replacement that connected it to the internet but also provided an additional remote thermostat in my house (we only have one zone that stays warm while the rest of the house is freezing) but I want something more.

    Insteon looks like it might be my leading option. Also considering Iris from Lowes

  3. since all of these plug into existing wiring, any reason they dont use powerline tech?
    how many devices are we going to have to have to change our passwords on our wifi when i change my wifi passphrase?
    i want fewer radio waves in my house, not more.

  4. @gt, Many modern WAPs have multiple SSID configurations. Having a dedicated private SSID would be useful for these alternative devices in the home.

    The problem with these solutions is that the time from announce to launch is too long. I don’t want to over-simplify it; but this is pretty simple electronics at the end of the day. And I’m not a fan of the branding on the switch. Is that for real?

  5. While I agree with other commenters that a) the name is uninspired and b) that powerline networking if available would be a better choice for internet access, my experience with a WeMo power control has been quite positive. I’ve only really got one application for it–remotely powering on/off my desktop computer when away from home. Given all the junk I pile on it (Tivo Desktop, iTunes server, AirPlay server, etc etc) and how long I’ve let it age since a fresh Windows install, the thing locks up every so often, and I rely on remote access using LogMeIn. So the ability to hit the power switch remotely and force it to reboot (its set to automatically start if the power comes on again) lets me get at it in those cases.

    I’ve had the WeMo CAUSE some power outages itself but those were fixable and hey, compared to most other (corporate targetted) remote power solutions, these things are CHEAP. And I must say, dead-simple to set up and use.

    And btw Dave, I think the If This Then That integration is a great idea, and the obvious application with a curling iron or hair dryer circuit would be to turn it off if say it drew current longer than X to AVOID a possible fire rather than causing one. But yes, with great power comes great responsibility or something like that…

  6. I tried x10 for controlling lights and automating my pool functions. But x10, and from my understand the other powerline based systems are sensitive to powerline noise from CFSs, LEDs and other inductive loads in your home. For me it made the X10 unreliable at best. There are some hybrid home automation systems, inst-eon etc but after my experience with x10 I was a bit gun-shy about trying anything that resembles x10.

    I already have a wi-fi network in the house and thought the WEMO light switch would be a good solution without buying a separate network hub/controller I bought 2 of them and installed them in place of the x10 switches in my pool pump house. They control a couple of 240 volt relays that provide power to my pool equipment. It has been working well for a couple of weeks. Next step is to install a couple for the outside lights and xmas light outlets in the soffits.

    A WORD OF CAUTION!!!!. If you are going to control anything other than a light bulb with these things (or any automation device) be sure there is an external timed relay in the circuit so if the controller goes wonky (or is hacked) the switch cannot oscillate. This could cause a fire or explosion. e.g. I blew up a $600 pool pump control module by turning the pump circuit off/on multiple times in succession. That is why when you turn off/on your thermostat you there is a minute or two delay before the ac/heat will come back on; a protection timed relay prevents you from damaging your compressor. I do not know if Belkin implemented this in their WEMO switches. My bet is not.