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There was a time when home automation was a toy only for the wealthy (for whom it worked because they could afford the incredibly expensive hardware) or the extremely geeky (for whom it sometimes worked because the hardware they could afford was reasonably priced but buggy— we’re talking about you, X10). Belkin hopes to change that with its WeMo line.
iOS and Android 4.0 are currently the only smartphone options.
Instead of relying on a central controller and an independent wireless network, as more elaborate systems do, WeMo devices operate on your Wi-Fi network and you control them using an iOS or Android 4.0 smartphone or tablet (the Android software was in early beta as of this review, so we used an iPod Touch for our evaluation).
The WeMo line isn’t elaborate: It consists of a switch to control lamps and small appliances, a motion detector, and a baby monitor. The motion detector and the switch, reviewed here, work together. The WeMo Baby, which we didn’t check out, monitors sounds in your baby’s room and relays them to your mobile device.
Belkin’s WeMo is an inexpensive entrée to home automation, but its capabilities are somewhat limited.
The WeMo switch is a bulky plugin module with ground: Insert it into an electrical socket and then connect the device you want to control—a lamp or a small appliance, for instance—to the module. Install the WeMo software on your mobile device and you can turn the switch on and off and create simple rules to do the same. Add the WeMo Motion to the mix and it can turn the switch on and off when it detects movement (rules can apply here, too).
The rules are extremely basic: Turn the switch on and off at given times on given days of the week. The motion sensor can activate the switch in response to movement, to turn on the lamp in your foyer when you open your front door, for example. You can create a rule to ensure that this happens only when it’s dark.
WeMo gets more fun when you link it into your IFTTT (If This Then That) account. Now, you can create more rules based on WeMo events: If the motion sensor is triggered, send me a text message, for instance. Unfortunately, IFTTT currently supports only one WeMo device per channel, so if you use the motion sensor to trigger an SMS, you can’t use the switch to do the same thing (but you could have the switch send you an email).
The WeMo is certainly not the most sophisticated home-automation system we’ve tried, but it’s relatively inexpensive and it’s free from subscription fees. It’s also early in its life cycle and Belkin seems committed to expanding its capabilities.
Inexpensive; very easy to set up and manage; fun.
Unsophisticated; bulky plugin modules; limited to controlling lamps and small appliances.