Review – Belkin WEMO Ecosystem

Anthony Caruana
15 January, 2016
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Belkin WeMo Ecosystem

Belkin, www.wemo.com

Pros 

Easy to set up, potential power savings

Cons 

Occasionally can’t find devices, performance lags

from $69.95

Reviews

Belkin has been a long-time player in the computer accessory business. So it’s no surprise that it has become a significant player in the home automation game already with its WEMO line of products. We’ve installed several around our home. Rather than reviewing each one separately, we’re going to look at life in a home that’s been given the WEMO treatment.

The WEMO product ecosystem is very extensive. There are light bulbs, that come with both screw and bayonet fittings, smart switches that replace your existing switches or work off existing power points, security cameras and motion sensors, as well as appliances from third parties that integrate WEMO’s automation smarts.

We set up our place with a WEMO LED Lighting Starter Kit, a WEMO Insight Switch and a WEMO Switch.

It starts with the app

The thing about home automation is that it’s easy to get drawn into thinking purely about the hardware. But real automation needs an intuitive software system that makes it all hang together. The WEMO app – a free download from the App Store, or Google Play Store if you’re an Android user – makes it easy to carry out most activities.

The app is critical, as it’s needed whenever you add a new device, as well as when you want to control something. For the most part, the app worked perfectly, but we did encounter a few hiccups.

We started our setup by installing one Smart LED Bulb to a light fitting. That went smoothly. A day or two later, we added a second bulb. The ‘Add a new device’ option took a couple of goes before it worked and the second lamp was online.  Similarly, we hit some glitches when added the two switches we set up.

Like any connected device, there are firmware updates that were needed. Although the process was automatic, we found there was a day or so when we were informed that new firmware was available. This occurred a couple of times, but we had no easy way of knowing if different devices were being updated or whether previous updates hadn’t worked correctly.

The app also makes it possible to create rules and even work with IFTTT (If This Then That) so your lights and other devices can interact with non-WEMO systems. For example, we used a recipe (an IFTTT set of instructions that’s been saved) that automatically turned the lights on when we get home by using location services on the iPhone and switched them off when we leave.

All of those functions can be controlled either while you’re at home or remotely if you allow remote access to the WEMO ecosystem.

WEMO LED Lighting Starter Kit

Price: $179.95 (additional bulbs $59.95)

The Light Starter Kit includes two Smart LED Bulbs and a WEMO Link.

The WEMO Link is the hub of the lighting network. It can connect up to 50 bulbs to your WEMO setup. We plugged it into a power outlet in the centre of our home – a medium-sized three-bedroom unit. It can be used with the supplied bulbs as well as many other options from WEMO’s range, including spots, garden lights and the Osram LIGHTIFY Flex strip lights.

The Smart LED Bulbs we tested came with screw fittings. In order to use one with an existing light fitting, we used a bayonet to screw adapter. These cost about $5 each from many lighting retailers. It’s worth noting these adapters add a few centimetres to the distance the bulb protrudes from a light fitting. In our case, this meant the class cover no longer fitted over the bulb.

WEMO does offer bayonet fittings for both single bulbs and the Starter Kit – just make sure you buy the right fittings for your home.

Once we plugged the Link and bulbs in, we set them up using the WEMO app on our iPhone 6 running iOS 8.4.1.

Turning the lights on and off and controlling their brightness was easy. We also set up timer rules so the light in our lounge turned on automatically at sunrise each day and powered down just after midnight. This rule worked alongside the IFTTT recipes we had in place.

The app allowed us to dim the lights and quickly set a power-off timer. This was useful as a signal for when we ought to get to bed – setting the lounge room light to power off after a couple of hours was a good prompt to get to bed.

The bottom line. The WEMO Light Starter Kit is a good first foray into the world of automation.

WEMO Switch

Price: $69.95

The WEMO Switch plugs straight into a power point and then allows you to connect other devices through it. It connects to your network over Wi-Fi and doesn’t need a WEMO Link to be used.

Not every device has been designed to have its power turned on and off remotely. We connected the WEMO Switch to the power point in our bedroom and then piggybacked a power board that delivered power to a TV, speaker unit and Google Chromecast.

The challenge in most homes is that those power outlets aren’t always easy to access or we lack the motivation to squeeze into limited spaces to turn the power off manually. The WEMO Switch makes that task easy.

Once the WEMO Switch was added to the WEMO app – again, this took a couple of goes to work, but we got there in the end – we could press a button or set a rule to turn the power on to that outlet. There’s button on the Switch, so it can also be powered off.

Given we only watch the TV in bed at night, we set a rule that turned the power on at bedtime and powered off after an hour – so that we didn’t stay awake until the wee hours channel surfing through infomercials.

The bottom line. The WEMO Switch can deliver some power savings through automation, making it easy to turn off hard-to-reach power outlets.

WEMO Insight Switch

Price: $99.95

The WEMO Insight Switch is similar to the WEMO Switch, but adds some power monitoring smarts to the mix.

We connected the WEMO Insight Switch to the power outlet running our home entertainment setup with an Xbox, Smart TV, Blu-ray player, Apple TV and a few other bits and pieces. All of those are connected to a single power board that is then plugged into the power outlet via the WEMO Insight Switch.

Typically, all those devices would be sitting on standby, slowly leaching a few kilowatts of power every day. We track power consumption pretty closely so we’re acutely aware of day-to-day power use. For example, on the weekends when the kids all have their laptops connected to the network, pulling down lots of content, leaving lights on all day (because they haven’t yet understood how switches work – or is that just our place?) and watching TV or playing console games – there’s a noticeable increase in the amount of power used.

With the WEMO Insight Switch, we’ve been able to stem that slow bleed by turning the power off when we’re not watching the TV or using the other gear.

In addition, we can see how much power the entertainment rig is using and even allocate costs to it. If you check your power bill, you can determine the cost per kilowatt per hour and set it in the app.

The bottom line. The WEMO Insight Switch makes it easy to control devices and track costs.

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