Getting started with WeMo

By Robert J Nelson on 7 Jul 2014 12:14 pm
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Automating your home sounds exciting, but it may also sound daunting for those unsure of how — or where — to get started. A fully automated home sounds (and likely is) wonderful, but if we are speaking freely, we would have to recognize there are many reasons why that isn't possible for everyone. There is the sheer cost of undertaking a project of that scale, not to mention the variety of hardware and software available. This leaves some users not knowing where to start, and some needing solutions that are more temporary, say for a rental property.

But similar to many other things in life — you can get going with home automation on a step-by-step basis. Start small, and grow as you find a need. One way to easily get started is to go with the WeMo line. Belkin offers a variety of products, and perhaps more important for some — they are easy to setup and relatively inexpensive for those just getting started. Another perk of the Belkin WeMo products is how they integrate with other services. If you are looking to learn more about getting started in home automation with the WeMo line — make sure to keep reading.

About WeMo

The WeMo line is from Belkin who tell the story about how this line of products will put your "your home at your fingertips." Or maybe a bit more accurate here, the WeMo line gives you your home at your smartphone. You see, while the WeMo products control your home -- the initial setup, continued maintenance and use is all done through the smartphone app. Belkin has a WeMo app available for iOS and Android and the apps can be found in the iOS App Store, Google Play Store and the Amazon Appstore. And along with the actual WeMo branded products, Belkin has partnered with other hardware companies such as Crock-Pot and other software companies such as IFTTT.

What Can WeMo Do & Where Should You Start

The short answer here is how the WeMo products can automate your home. But while that short answer is an accurate one -- there is actually quite a bit you can make happen with the WeMo line. And similar to not knowing where to get started with home automation as a whole, given the range of products in the WeMo line -- the same can be said here.

Our initial advice would be to try and decide what you want to do, and then buy a product that can make that happen. For example, I was looking to control a few lights in the house so I looked toward the WeMo Switch. I wanted a timer that could turn the light on and off at a given time of day, similar to a basic timer, but I also wanted a bit more control. I also wanted the light turn on each day at sunset, which is ever changing, and cannot be done with your basic light timer. Having said that, how about we take a look at the current products in the WeMo line.

Different Products

While there is a variety of WeMo products that can do a variety of different things, there are some similarities across the line. These items all live in your home, connect to your home network, and allow for automation and remote control. And nicely, that remote control is done using the available smartphone apps and through just about any internet connection to include WiFi, 4G or 3G. Belkin has four WeMo items that are currently available and three that are still listed as coming soon. Beginning first with the currently available items, here is a brief summary and price for each;

  • WeMo Switch: Plugs into any standard 120v wall outlet and allows you to control the item that is plugged in. The Switch will allow you to turn the device on or off, and also set that item on a schedule. The WeMo Switch is currently selling for $49.99.
  • WeMo Switch with Motion: This adds motion control to the Switch we just mentioned. Belkin sells the Wemo Switch + Motion for $79.99 and this one allows you to do everything the Switch allows for, but also adds the ability to trigger the control with motion. The WeMo Motion sensor plugs into a standard wall outlet and has a 6 foot power cord with a 10 foot motion sensitivity range.
  • WeMo Insight Switch: This item is similar to the WeMo Switch in that it will allow you to remotely control the item plugged in, and also set that item on a timed schedule. The 'insight' aspect comes in with monitoring your home energy usage. The WeMo Insight Switch offers details such as how long that item has been on for, and estimated monthly costs for usage. Belkin currently sells the WeMo Insight Switch for $59.99.
  • WeMo Light Switch: Switching (obvious pun intended) up a bit and we go from items that plug into the wall to one that requires a bit more installation. The WeMo Light Switch installation is still on the simpler side, but as it replaces an existing wall switch, there is a bit more work involved in the setup process. This item controls the device attached to that switch and currently sells for $49.99.

These next three are the coming soon items.

  • WeMo Smart LED Bulb: A single LED light bulb that replaces any current traditional light bulb. Similar to the other WeMo products, the Smart LED Bulb connects your home network which allows for remote control and automation. This item is currently listed at $39.99.
  • WeMo LED Lighting Starter Kit: Stepping up from the single Smart LED Bulb, this starter kit is listed at $99.99 and includes a pair of lightbulbs and a WeMo Link. The Link allows you to pair the bulbs so they can be turned on, or off, as a group.
  • WeMo Maker: Most of the previous WeMo products have been plug and play, however the Maker steps things up a bit. Aimed at the 'maker' crowd, the Maker can be paired with a variety of devices that are controlled with a DC switch. The WeMo Maker is listed at $79.99.

Get Going

The nice part about the WeMo products is the ease of use. Aside from the still-listed-as-coming-soon WeMo Maker -- most of these items are simply plug and play. Coming from personal experience, you can get up and running in less than a few minutes time. Setting up a WeMo Switch was a matter of plugging the switch into the wall outlet, and then plugging the light into the WeMo Switch. After that you download the WeMo app (available for Android and iOS), and from that point the app walks you through the setup process. And to clarify, the setup process includes getting connected to your home network, and setting the rules for that particular device.

Next Steps

The basic use cases are easy enough, but there is quite a bit more that can be done. For example, WeMo integrates nicely with IFTTT, which really opens things up quite a bit. For those unfamiliar, IFTTT is a web service that automates the internet. It is based on a principle of If This, Then That. Basically, you can make it so a specific action will trigger another action.

Using WeMo with IFTTT can be quick and simple, however once you get to playing the potential use cases may seem a bit overwhelming. For this you will need an active WeMo device, and also an active IFTTT account. Using your IFTTT account you will also need to activate the WeMo channel. Just make sure to activate the channel that goes with your specific WeMo product.

Again using the WeMo Switch as the example device, one potential use case involves using Siri (to send a text message) to turn your light on or off. You can also combine this with Foursquare check-ins, and have your light turn on when you check in at home. Getting a bit fancier with the IFTTT mobile app (available for Android and iOS) and you can use device location to have a light turn on or off when you enter or exit a specific location.

Next Steps…Taken Further

While Belkin has these (mostly) plug and play WeMo products, they have also started partnering with other companies. At present the partner list includes Crock-Pot, Mr.Coffee, Holmes and Sunbeam. One example here is the one from Crock-Pot, which is touted as being the a WeMo enabled "Smart Slow Cooker." And just in case these partnership items aren't of interest, Belkin also has several NetCam cameras that tie in nicely with the WeMo line. There are three cameras in total ranging in price from $99.99 to $129.99.

Wrap-Up

If you are looking to make an entry into the world of home automation -- the WeMo line is certainly a good place to get started. These products are easy to setup and easy to begin using, but they are not what we would consider simple overall. While you can use them with basic functionality, you can just as easily take things to the next level. The other plus here is the plug and play, which means they are good not only for someone looking to get started, but also for those who aren't able to, or cannot permanently install any special hardware.

If you are planning to pick up any of the WeMo products -- make sure to leave a comment below with details about how you plan to use it.

1 comment

johnarobb

I was looking at light switches and decided to go with Insteon instead. They have far more options available and they will work with X10 technologies. This makes the Insteon backward compatible with X10 home automation deployments.

I run the Insteon Android app on my BB10.