November 1, 2015

Automate Your Home with WeMo

I have heard about the terms "Internet of Things" and Home Automation, but never expected to try them out myself so soon. What if all the gadgets in your home can connect to the Internet and be controlled by you with the help of your smartphone or tablet? Sounds a bit scary but with the popularity of the Internet, smartphones, and in home Wi-Fi the future is headed in that direction. I have been wanting to find out how home automation can benefit us with the simple things that we use day-to-day and improve our lifestyle.
I have been testing and using a range of Belkin’s WeMo Home automation products to see how it fits our family lifestyle and it is very exciting. I used the following products:
WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set
WeMo Insight Switch
WeMo Light Switch
WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set is a great product to start our home automation journey. The WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set lets us control, schedule, and dim our wireless LED lighting from anywhere, while at home and out. The starter kit includes a link bridge and two bulbs, which can produce up to 800 lumens or equivalent to 60W. The bridge is the size of a power pack that can connect to any outlet and it communicates with the LED bulbs using the Zigbee Protocol. ZigBee is the wireless language that everyday devices use to communicate with each other. 
Setup is very easy. First we plug in the link into an outlet and wait for it to initialize. Using our smartphone we connect to the temporary WeMo wireless network created by the bridge. This completes the setup via the WeMo mobile app. After we set the home Wi-Fi password into the app, the magic starts to happen. The bulbs blink a few times to confirm a successful setup and we are good to go.
The WeMo Mobile app has been updated to include a lot of new features. It is the central app to control all our WeMo devices at home. The lightbulbs are numerically listed in the app and they can be renamed to fit the location they are installed in our home. We can also snap a photo of our lighting fixture where the bulb is in use and have it show in the app for easier recognition. A single WeMo link bridge could control up to 50 LED bulbs! 
Each bulb could be controlled individually or as a group. For example, if we have a number of bulbs fitted in our basement we can add them to a group via the app and turn them all at once. We can also control our WeMo devices by creating our own set of custom rules such as setting up the lights to turn on and off at selected times. For example, I have setup the hallway lights to turn on at sunset and turn off at bedtime. 
As these bulbs are dimmable by default without a need for a dimmer switch, we can make the light gradually increase in brightness or decrease in brightness until it turns off at a specific time. The dimmer control via the mobile app is very smooth and does not cause the bulb to flicker as we drag our finger along the slider. The lights can also be turned off the "old-fashioned way" by the press of a switch. The Belkin WeMo LED started kit includes everything we need to bring smart lighting to our home and I am looking forward to taking advantage of its benefits.
WeMo Insight Switch - I found this to be the easiest and effortless way to dive into home automation. The WeMo Insight Switch is a simple, elegant little device that connects our household electronics and appliances to our Wi-Fi network, allowing us to turn devices on and off, create different use scenarios from anywhere. Since the WeMo collection of products are completely modular they are designed to work together and controlled by the WeMo Mobile app. Installation is simple as plugging the switch to an outlet, and completing the setup via the mobile app. With the portability of plugging into any outlet and any device, the uses of the WeMo Insight Switch are endless. 
Like all WeMo home automation products we can setup different rules and schedules on the switch. The Insight Switch also has a home energy use calculator. Cost per kWh can be set in the app and the switch will calculate the energy usage of the appliance plugged into the switch, which can be read on our mobile device or be sent to us by email. This is great feature that gives us an insight into our home electronics energy usage and find out which devices cost more to use. The WeMo Insight Switch is compatible with any device and if we can plug it in then we can WeMo that!
If you want to take it a step further the WeMo Light Switch is a more traditional light switch that is hard wired. This replaces our regular wall switch and must be connected to our wall wiring and as such needs someone who is comfortable playing with wires to install. Belkin provides an installation video to install this switch although not all installations are the same. 
The WeMo Light switch is not compatible with lights controlled by more than one switch and also needs a neutral or white wire. I had to try installing the switch in a couple of locations as some lights had 2-way switches and the switch wouldn’t fit into one box. After finally getting it installed we snapped on the included faceplate. 
Once installed the switch looks very modern and neat. Since everything is controlled via the app the WeMo mobile app is the one stop shop for turning devices on and off and creating rules. Since the switch can be manually turned on or off like a regular switch, it has a backlight making it easy to be found in the dark.
My experience with Belkin’s WeMo Home automation products has been great so far. The easiest way to get started on home automation is with smart lighting systems. It is easier to install, generally cheaper compared to other home automation products, and can easily be added, moved or adapted to our lifestyle. So the obvious benefits of the WeMo include Energy savings, home security, ease of use, one app to control through Android and iOS, and subscription free use. I found setting the lights and other electronics to turn on and off automatically according to the time we want, becomes part of our daily life. 
You can even get more creative with WeMo as it officially supports IFTTT. IFTTT stands for: If This Then That. It is a web based service that allows us to create actions based on conditions called "recipes" that works with supported products and apps. Some IFTTT recipes include adding an entry automatically to a spreadsheet when your lights turn on, flipping off lights with a text message, and make your phone ring when you press down on the WeMo light switch! Since WeMo is a modular system you have the option to add additional WeMo devices anytime. WeMo has a range of home automation products that include gadgets such as a slow cooker and even a coffee maker.

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  1. Interesting review :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. This looks and sounds like a wonderful product. It sure can do a lot of things.

  3. Love the WeMo system. I am hoping to upgrade our home sooner than later! Thanks for the review.

  4. Interesting but not for us, working from home it is not something we would need

  5. Looks very useful. Great for when away on vacation.

  6. This would be so fantastic. Thanks for the info.

  7. I'd never heard of the WEMO System prior to reading your review. It sounds great, so we're going to look into getting one. Thanks very much for the the helpful tip.

  8. Love the WeMo system but it is something I don't really need. Would be fun to have though.

  9. This look like a great product. Something we could definitely use in our house.
    Florence C


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