Belkin WeMo Switch+Motion
Belkin's switch and motion detector kit can add a bit of automation to your home
- Allows you to switch appliances and lamps on and off using your smartphone
- Works with motion and time-based rules
- Supports ifTTT
- Motion detection was a little sluggish
- App wasn't always responsive when creating rules
- Physical size can impede adjoining outlets
The Belkin WeMo Switch+Motion is a basic home automation kit comprised of a switch and a motion detector. It allows you to control the on and off state of anything you plug into it directly from your phone, via motion, and even remotely over the Internet.
Price$ 119.00 (AUD)
At the most basic level, consumer-based home automation devices allow you to switch things on and off through a variety of means. Belkin’s WeMo Switch+Motion is such a device (and a modular system). Appliances that are plugged into it can be controlled through an app, via motion detection, or even over social media and email.
The Belkin WeMo Switch+Motion kit comes with two parts: one part is the switch itself into which you plug in your electrical device, and the other is a motion detector that can control the switch when it senses you have walked into the room. The kit has to be set up and configured using an app on your smartphone, and it supports both iOS and Android. It’s not an overly complicated process to get it all up and running, but you’ll need to have a wireless network set up in your home.
Setting it up
Both the switch and the motion detector need to be configured separately so that they can communicate through your wireless network. To do this, you need to make sure that Belkin’s WeMo app is installed on your smartphone (get it from the app store for your particular phone). This is the app that will allow you to send the credentials of your wireless network to the plug and the detector.
The next step is to plug in the switch and look for it in the list of wireless networks in your phone. It will have ‘WeMo’ as part of its name. Connect to it, then launch the WeMo app and follow the instructions for entering your wireless network name and password. Once this is done, the WeMo switch will be controllable over your wireless network using the WeMo app. To set up the motion detector, you have to go through the setup process again, this time logging into the detector’s wireless network. Physical buttons on the Switch and the Motion allow you to restore default network settings if you ever run into any problems.
If you’re a tinkerer who loves technology — and you should be if you’re considering this kit — then this whole process will be somewhat exciting as all the pieces start to fit and you see the devices show up as active in the WeMo app. The only downer is that you will have to go through some extensive firmware upgrades the first time you set up the products, but they are necessary in order for the products to work properly. We went through two firmware upgrades during our test period, in which the second update fixed a problem that we had with the switch turning on in the middle of the night, perhaps because it remembered an old rule that we’d since deleted.
Rules and motion detection
Which bring us to the way the Switch+Motion actually works. The app allows you to control the switch by setting up a list of rules. These rules consist of ‘if’ and ‘when’ statements, which are not too difficult to set up. Our only quibble is that sometimes the app was not responsive and we had to tap on settings multiple times to bring them up (such as the time settings). The basic gist of it all is this: the WeMo switch turns on ‘if’ the WeMo Motion is activated ‘when’ it’s within a certain time frame. You can specify when the rule should work according to the day of the week and the time of day, giving the motion detector a specific window for it to be enabled, and you can specify how long the switch should stay on after motion is detected.
If you’re using this kit, then it’s assumed that you want the switch to be turned on when it senses motion, but you can also use rules that turn on the WeMo Switch according to the time the sun sets each day, which is determined by the suburb information you give the app, and this is handy when you just want to control a lamp, for example. You can even bypass all rules and motion and just manually turn the switch on and off at will through the app.
As for the performance of the kit, we tested it by hooking it up to a lamp with an 80W globe. The WeMo Motion detector turned on the lamp whenever it sensed us in the room. However, we feel as though it was a little slow in its detection process as we sometimes had to make an extra movement or two in order for it to ‘see’ us. A soft blue light comes on whenever motion is detected.
You need to put the WeMo Motion in an area that’s near a power outlet, and its size means that it can render the socket next to it unusable. Furthermore, if you plug it into a power board with two rows of sockets, it’s tall enough to impede the socket above it. The same goes for the WeMo Switch; both are big units.
The Switch has a rating of 2400W (240 volts at 10 amps), which means you can use it to control air conditioning units and heaters, in addition to simpler devices such as lamps and TVs. It has a physical power switch on it so that you can override the rules you’ve set up at any time without having to first fire up your phone. In terms of power consumption, our measurements using a Belkin Conserve Insight electricity monitor showed that it uses up to 1.6W when idle, and also when it has a load from the device that you’ve plugged into it. The motion detector used up to 1.4W.
Support for iFTTT
Making the WeMo Swich+Motion even more interesting is its support for the iFTTT service (if this then that). Through the Web site (iFTTT.com), you are able to set up ‘if-then’ statements that use a wide array of supported applications. The site calls those statements ‘recipes’ and you are able to create various types that use communication and social networking apps. For example, you can set up a recipe that uploads photos to your Flickr account every time you upload something to Instagram.
For the WeMo Switch+Motiion, you can use the iFTTT site to come up with different ways to turn your switch on and off remotely by using all sorts of online apps. In order to do so, you need to create an account on iFTTT and then select iFTTT from the settings menu in the WeMo app. It will generate a PIN that you can then use to authorise your WeMo app to be listed in your iFTTT dashboard (you’ll need to authorise any online services you want to use, too).
You can create all sorts of funny little recipes, and we did one where we could switch our lamp on and off by tweeting specific hashtags from our Twitter account. It took about 15min for the commands to actually work after we sent the tweets. You’ll probably look weird tweeting hashtags that you’ve made up to switch lights on and off, but there are other recipes to make, too. For example, you can make the WeMo app switch on your lamp when an email from a specific recipient arrives in your Gmail inbox. This means you could send yourself an email from your work account to your personal account to switch on your lamp. We did this. It took only four minutes for the lamp to switch on.
But those examples are just a bit of fun that we had with the WeMo Switch+Motion, and we think that there’s potential for the iFTTT service to be used more seriously, too, such as allowing the switch to be turned on by detecting your location using Foursquare or the location settings of your iPhone.
The WeMo Switch+Motion is one of the simpler home automation kits on the market and we think it would make a great introduction to home automation for those of you who have been longing to control certain appliances and lighting from your smartphone. The best part is that it doesn’t require a professional to set it up; simply plug everything in, configure it, and you’re good to go. Plus, you can add more switches if you want to control multiple devices.
There are other home automation switches in Belkin’s arsenal that do require certified electricians to install them, such as the WeMo Light Switch, which can allow you to control ceiling lights with your smartphone app.
The WeMo Switch+Motion retails for $119 in Australia and $148 in New Zealand.
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