The futuristic promise of the connected home is slowly beginning to materialize, with learning thermostats like the Nest, as well as various solutions for monitoring and controlling your devices at home from afar. The Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion ($99.99 direct) helps bring that dream even closer, allowing remote access and automation for many household appliances. The WeMo system adds Wi-Fi connectivity to devices like lamps, fans, or, really anything else that plugs into a wall outlet. Then you can control them from your iOS device when you’re not at home. That control is limited to simple on and off commands, but the Switch + Motion also lets you set up rules and schedules for your connected devices. It’s a neat way to help save on energy costs or simply make life a little easier.
Design and Setup
The Switch + Motion includes a WeMo switch and the motion detector. They look nearly identical, like large plastic plug-in air fresheners, but the Switch features a standard three-prong socket while the Motion has a small cylindrical motion detector attached to a 10-foot cable. They’re too large to be plugged into the same standard two-socket outlet, so you’ll need to separate them or use a power strip. There are LED indicators and Reset buttons on both, while the switch also has a physical Power button. The motion detector lights up blue whenever it detects movement.
If you don’t need motion control, you can also buy standalone switches for $49.99 each. The WeMo system is modular, so additional switches will let you control additional devices, and you can set up unique rules or schedules for each.
For the most part, setup is easy and straightforward, but some issues with app stability can make the process a bit frustrating (more on that in a minute). First you must plug in both the switch and the motion detector, then download the free WeMo app from the Apple App store to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (currently, there’s no Android version). Next, you connect your iOS device directly to the WeMo using Wi-Fi (the WeMo will show up as its own wireless network in the Wi-Fi settings menu on your iOS device). Once connected, fire up the app and follow the on-screen prompts to get started. After initial setup, the WeMo system will be connected to your home network, so you can control your switches even if you’re not connected to the same Wi-Fi network. From there, you can set schedules or rules for motion detection. You can also control the WeMo over a cellular data connection, which is useful if you’re out and about.
Uses and Conclusions
The app allows you to label each switch and even assign pictures of devices plugged into the WeMo, so you can keep everything in order. You can also make rules for individual switches, which can be used to schedule on and off times or control motion-detection sensitivity and actions. For example, you can set your bedside lamp to turn on right before your alarm goes off, and turn off when you leave the room. Or set the motion detector to turn a switch on when someone walks by, and then turn off again after 15 minutes of inactivity.
In my tests, remote control was nearly instantaneous, while motion detection sometimes exhibited delays of a couple of seconds. Scheduled rules work independently of the devices and the apps, so your iPhone or iPad don’t need to be on or connected to your home network for rules to trigger switches. Also, if you manually turn off a switch, the corresponding rule is overridden. In my tests, I plugged a desk lamp into the WeMo and set schedules to have the lamp turn on shortly before my morning alarm.
The biggest issue I found with the WeMo system is the iOS app. Sometimes it was slow to respond and it frequently crashed during the test period. Rules would sometimes randomly disappear or show an “overridden” status, so I had to manually reset them. The app also crashed a few times during the initial setup, so I had to restart the process.
There are benefits when it comes to power savings and convenience, but at $100, the WeMo Switch + Motion is a bit pricey when you consider that it only automates a single device. Additional switches cost just $50 each, but the cost of entry means that it will take some time to recoup any real energy costs. So really, it’s about convenience and the undeniable cool factor that comes with automating your home. If you’re OK with that, then with the exception of the sometimes-buggy app, the WeMo system works well, and is easy to use.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc