The Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion system brings home automation within reach of everyone. With it, you can control any home electronics device that plugs into a power outlet. Even better, you can do this from anywhere you have an Internet connection or a cell phone signal. However, they have yet to bring this part of the functionality to those of us with Android devices — it’s only available for iOS users. Let’s take a look at the possibilities this system makes real.
What is the Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion System?
The WeMo system consists of small devices that plug into electrical outlets and a wireless control unit. There are two types of devices that come with the basic $100 WeMo Switch + Motion system. One of these has a small wired motion detector unit that has a 10-foot cable. This motion detector can detect movement from up to 10 feet away and activate the separate controlled three-prong outlet, turning on a light, TV, or any other electrical device(s) plugged into the device’s outlet.
The WeMo product line also consists of $49 standalone switches, without a motion detection feature. These are controlled through the iOS app. They can be programmed to turn on and off at set intervals, or turned on and off manually using the iOS app. As stated above, there is currently no Android app.
How It Works
Control is originally achieved by connecting to the Belkin WeMo device on the WeMo’s own wireless network that will show up on the iOS device’s wireless settings menu. Once the connection is achieved, the app can be launched and the device(s) programmed. Once programmed, the devices all connect to your home WiFi network, letting you control them remotely, even if you’re on a different network.
When you’re setting your WeMo system up, you give each WeMo device its own unique name, which allows you to set up unique rule sets for each device. The rule set is what controls the device, turning it on and off according to the schedule you program into the rule set. Even better, you can match up a picture of the device that’s plugged into the individual Belkin WeMo units, making it easier to remember what each device controls. Units with motion control can have the motion detection sensitivity increased or decreased, so that cats and dogs don’t cause the switches to turn on, while people will.
You can even program the dwell time for each switch that is controlled by motion. This is an excellent way to conserve energy since you’ll never have to remember to turn the lights off in a room you vacate. We’ve all wondered if we’ve remembered to turn an electrical device off before leaving the house, after we’ve left the house. The WeMo system allows you to check to see if you did or didn’t, using the WeMo Apple app. If you’ve forgotten to turn something off, doing so from pretty much anywhere in the world is a snap with the Apple app.
The WeMo Baby
There is also a third type of unit that is named the WeMo Baby. It turns your iOS device into a baby monitor. Place the WeMo Baby into the nursery, configure it using your iOS device, and you’ll have a baby monitor everywhere you go with the Apple device. The WeMo Baby lists for $70.
What the Reviewers Have to Say
PCMag recently reviewed the Belkin WeMo system. They were quite happy with it, with their major complaints being that the devices are pretty expensive (I agree), the iOS app crashes more than most other iOS apps, and there is no Android support for the system. What they really liked about the system is how easy it is to set up and control. They also mentioned the ability to turn devices on and off remotely, as well as by setting an on and off time for each device. Lastly, PC Mag’s reviewer stated they appreciated the fact that the system is completely modular and extra devices can be added easily, both switches and motion devices.
Wired Magazine also recently reviewed the Belkin WeMo system. Their overall rating for the system was a 7 out of 10. Their likes were similar to those mentioned for the PC Mag review: ease of setup and configuration, ease of use, and the modular system design, as well as the wireless network connection and the ability to control everything over the wireless network.
One thing the Wired review mentioned that the PC Mag review missed is that there was, at the time of writing (early 2013) a Beta version of an Android app available. This app requires Android 4.0 or higher and is optimized for Samsung’s Galaxy SIII. The Wired review also mentioned that the system can connect to the If This Then That website for further programmability that the apps don’t give.
Overall, the Belkin Wemo looks to be an excellent system that allows anyone to almost automate their home completely. There are a few kinks, but these should be ironed out fairly quickly and don’t really affect the overall usability of the system.