Belkin WeMo: Everything you need to know
Belkin's smart home solution saves you time and money by doing away with expensive hubs.
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Belkin was a name once synonymous with routers but it has since shifted its networking talents to the smart home under the WeMo moniker. Belkin’s WeMo line of products is designed to bring remote home automation to the masses without the hefty bill and complexity of a whole home system upgrade.
Belkin has spent the past five years steadily fleshing out its smart home ecosystem with products ranging from smart electrical plugs, motion sensors, light switches and cameras to light bulbs. Its competitors include the likes of TP-Link, iDevices and Elgato in addition to smart lighting players such as Philips Hue and LiFX.
How is Belkin WeMo different from other smart home products?
WeMo piggybacks on standard Wi-Fi which removes the need for a hub or controller (unless you’re buying WeMo smart bulbs), making it relatively inexpensive to get started. WeMo devices send signals through a Wi-Fi router to each other and to the Internet so that you can control things remotely. Because the user's smartphone is already on Wi-Fi, he or she can install the WeMo app to interface directly with WeMo devices.
WeMo also offers quite a bit of flexibility with its support for If This, Then That (IFTTT) free web-based service that expands the functionality of WeMo products. There is a large number of “recipes” developed by an active community of WeMo enthusiasts available for use. Some popular recipes for the WeMo Insight Switch include the ability to turn off whatever appliance might be plugged in once it has used a certain dollar figure in electricity per day or per month. Another is the ability to receive a text or email when the front door opens or simply turn the lights on when the sun sets.
Can I use my voice to control WeMo connected appliances and lights?
All WeMo products, including the appliances connected to the WeMo electrical plugs, can be controlled by the company’s WeMo app which is available on iPhone and Android smartphones. In addition, WeMo devices can be linked to either Google Home or Amazon Alexa-enabled smart speakers so you can control your lights and appliances with your voice.
Currently, WeMo products cannot be controlled by Apple’s Home app on iPhones and iPads or using Apple’s voice assistant – Siri – since Belkin declined to add in the necessary HomeKit chipset. Apple HomeKit is the set of smart home controls built into the software that powers iPhones, iPads and Apple TV.
However, Belkin plans to release a new WeMo Bridge product later this year that will provide HomeKit compatibility to millions of currently installed WeMo products on the market.
Apple also recently opened up HomeKit to allow smart home manufacturers to connect their products to HomeKit using just software which opens the door for smart home manufacturers to add HomeKit compatibility to their existing products via a software update. Belkin intends to release a software update that will enable native HomeKit support in newer WeMo products (including some of those that are already on the market) in the near future.
In the United States, WeMo has over 25 smart home products available and while the selection isn’t quite as broad in Australia, it does at least cover the essentials for anyone looking to create their own automated home.
If you’re new to home automation, a smart plug can be a good first step. And for those of us who’ve been all-in on home automation for quite some time, a smart plug is an easy way to add smarts to our pesky dumb devices. The WeMo Switch lets you turn connected electronic devices on or off from anywhere, providing wireless control of TVs, lamps, stereos, heaters, fans and anything else with a power plug.
Keep in mind that whatever you plug into the WeMo Switch will need to have a physical on/off switch (rather than just a toggle power button) or else it won’t work with the WeMo Switch. You’ll want to leave that switch on at all times to ensure you can turn it on and off with the WeMo app whenever you want.
With the Belkin WeMo app you can take things a bit further and set schedules for the connected appliances and electronics in your home so that you can, for instance, program a fan to turn on or off at a certain time of the day.
The WeMo Switch can also work in concert with any of the other WeMo products. For example, a WeMo Motion Sensor can be used as a trigger to automatically turn on connected appliances the moment you walk in through the door.
WeMo Insight Switch
The WeMo Insight Switch takes the WeMo Switch and adds energy monitoring capabilities to the mix. Plugging in any regular appliance or electronic device to the Insight Switch will tell you exactly how much energy the devices are consuming in real-time. The information is displayed on the WeMo app.
You can also turn off whatever appliance might be plugged in once it has used a certain dollar figure in electricity per day or per month via IFTTT recipes.
Installation is as simple as plugging it into a power outlet, plugging a device into the smart plug and pairing the device with the WeMo app using a smartphone or tablet.
WeMo Switch + Motion
As the name suggests, the WeMo Switch + Motion comes with the aforementioned smart plug in addition to a motion detector.
The motion detector plugs into an outlet in your home and once the sensor has been positioned, you can plug the included WeMo Switch into a separate outlet and plug a device that you would like to turn on when movement is detected. Multiple smart plugs can be linked to one sensor so you can, for example, have the coffee machine in the kitchen, stereo in the living room, fan in the hallway and lights throughout the house all turn on from the moment you walk in the front door.
NetCam HD Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision
The Belkin NetCam HD+ is geared towards the budget-minded DIY security enthusiast and enables you to see what’s going on in your household when you’re not at home. The camera is two-way so that you can talk to loved ones remotely and it also has a built-in motion detector so that you can have it send notifications to your smartphone whenever it detects movement in your house. It also has night vision so you’ll still be able to see what’s going on at night when all the lights are off.
The live video feed can be viewed from the free NetCam smartphone app and doesn’t require a PC to set up.
The WeMo Maker is designed for tinkerers who have wiring knowledge and enjoy taking electronics apart with the end goal of having WeMo control electrical devices throughout the home that mightn’t have a power plug. With a bit of elbow grease, the WeMo Maker can be set up to control any low-voltage electronics devices such as a sprinkler system or electric garage door.
WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set
One of the easiest ways to start with smart home automation is by setting up smart lighting. The three main smart lighting solutions on the market are Philips Hue, LiFX and WeMo from Belkin.
WeMo is closer to Philips Hue in that they both require a bridge accessory (sold separately) to work. If you’re just starting out, you’re better off buying the starter kit as it comes with the bridge and some bulbs.
In the case of the WeMo Lighting Starter kit, you get two WeMo Smart LED Bulbs and the WeMo Link hub that basically acts as the translator between your home Wi-Fi network and the LED bulbs, enabling them to talk to each other. The Link also lets you control up to 50 WeMo Smart LED Bulbs either as a group or individually.
Using the WeMo smartphone app, you can dim the lights to suit your mood, turn them on/off or create a custom schedule that works for your household. You can also turn them off after you leave home, all from your smartphone.
WeMo Smart LED Bulb
WeMo Smart LED Bulbs are warm, bright light bulbs similar to traditional 60-watt incandescent bulbs, and they only consume 10 watts of energy and produce very little heat. If you’re making the switch from a traditional 60-watt incandescent, then you should notice a drop in your electric bill as you start to replace the bulbs in your house. You won’t have to swap them out as regularly either, with Belkin claiming a life expectancy of up to 23 years (based on three hours of daily usage).
The WeMo Smart LED bulbs are sold with either a bayonet or Edison base so be sure to pick the base that is compatible with your home. Note that the Smart LED Bulb requires the WeMo Link (sold separately) in order for it to work. Furthermore, unlike Philips Hue and LiFX, WeMo only offers light bulbs with an adjustable soft white colour as opposed to the coloured variety offered by competitors.
WeMo WiFi Smart Light Switch
Smart bulbs are great, but can become pricey if you want to fit out an entire home with them. You might have areas in your home that don’t use A-shaped bulbs. Tubular-shaped bulbs, for instance, are typically found in chandeliers or ceiling fans. You might have spots in your home where multiple bulbs might be wired to a single switch. In each of those cases, automating your switch makes more sense than swapping out several bulbs.
This is where the WeMo WiFi Smart Light Switch comes in. Another benefit of the smart switch route is that automations and remote controls will continue to work even when things are turned off. That isn't the case with smart bulbs – you'll need to leave the physical switches in the "on" position in order to turn the bulbs on and off remotely.
The WeMo Light Switch allows you to turn room lights on and off from anywhere with your smartphone or set them up to a predefined schedule. For example, lights can be set up to go on and off at sunset and sunrise or set a schedule for lights in different rooms.
The WeMo Light Switch replaces a standard light switch in your home and, as such, requires some electrical wiring work to install. Belkin has an installation video that steps you through what’s involved if you’re considering installing one of these yourself.
There are a few smart switch caveats worth mentioning. First, the WeMo Light Switch isn't compatible with three-way switches so it won’t work in parts of the home where more than one light switch is controlling a single bulb or a single set of bulbs. Second, the WeMo Light Switch won't dim the lights. Belkin has recently released an updated Light Switch model in the United States with dimmable functionality so we would expect this one to make its way to Australia at some point in the near future.
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