Belkin’s WeMo home automation products offer the ability to control your home electronics from anywhere, and the WeMo Switch + Motion might be the most attractive package of the bunch. If it has a plug, you can plug it into the WeMo -- a lamp, a coffeemaker, you name it. Once you do, you’ll be able to turn that device on and off from your phone.
Not to be confused with the WeMo Light Switch and its DIY-intensive installation, the WeMo Switch and its optional motion detector accessory are designed around plug-and-play simplicity, making them especially appealing to consumers who’d like to avoid breaking out their toolboxes. It only takes a few minutes out of the box to have your WeMo up and running, and once you do, automating devices around your home is as easy as tapping a button on your phone. You can even use IFTTT (If This, Then That) to find creative ways for your devices to interact with online services like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Drive.
The WeMo’s best feature of all might be its price. At just $49 for the WeMo Switch, or $79 for the added motion-detecting functionality of the WeMo Switch + Motion, with no subscription fees for any of it, this is a home automation system that'll fit most any budget. It’s also a great starter unit, especially considering that you can add additional WeMo Switches, Light Switches, and motion detectors to your network if needed. If you're looking to dip your feet into the world of home automation, or if you're a devoted IFTTTer, then you shouldn’t hesitate to give the WeMo a shot.
Construction and design
The WeMo Switch’s technology is encased in an unassuming white plastic shell that will blend in neatly with most home decor. It’s a bit large, but if the WeMo is plugged into the top socket of a standard two-socket outlet, I found that the bottom socket was still accessible, at least to a normal-size plug. There are no guarantees that the WeMo will play nice on a power strip, though.
Aside from the physical on/off switch (which you can toggle remotely), there’s just one other button on the WeMo itself: a small restore button stashed away on the top of the device that you can hold down for a few seconds to initiate a manual reset. Aside from that, every control you need is located within the WeMo’s easy-to-use app. The same is true for the motion detector; simply plug it in, pull up the app, and you’ll be on your way.
Speaking of the motion detector, it’s small and unobtrusive, illuminating with a pale blue light whenever it detects movement. It’s a nifty little gizmo that works well, with a design that looks a bit like a chess piece from an abstract, futuristic chessboard. And again, aside from the Restore button on the top of the plug, there are no physical controls to fiddle with. You can customize the detector’s sensitivity, but -- you guessed it -- you’ll do that from within the app.
The WeMo’s secret weapon is the WeMo app, a free download for both Android and iOS devices. From the moment you plug the device in, the app will do 95 percent of the work, first guiding you through every step of the setup process. All you’ll need to do is connect your phone to the WeMo, the same way you connect your phone to a WiFi network. Once you do, the app will ask for the password to your home network; type it in, and you’ll be ready to automate.
The WeMo app lets you create rules to dictate when the switch should power on and off, or what should happen when something triggers the motion detector. For simple functions, like setting an appliance to power on at a certain time every day, or programming a lamp to turn on when the motion detector catches you walking into the room, these WeMo-specific rules will suffice, and the app makes them easy and intuitive to set up.
If you really want to unlock the WeMo’s true potential, you’ll need to take advantage of its other secret weapon: full IFTTT integration. IFTTT is a popular, useful, and absolutely free online tool that links your favorite apps, social networks, and Web services in order to create recipes -- ultra-customizable cousins to the WeMo’s rules. Basically, IFTTT allows you to set up automatic triggers based on causality. If “x” happens, then “y” happens. To create a recipe, you just define what “x” and “y” are, then let IFTTT work its magic.
Here’s an example: let's say I was looking to buy a used air hockey table. With IFTTT, I could set up a recipe that would automatically send me a text alert whenever someone local lists an air hockey table for sale on Craigslist. The Craigslist post is the “this,” and the text alert is the “that.”
What’s really cool here is that IFTTT allows you to set the WeMo as either the “this” or the “that,” thereby linking it up with each and every service with which IFTTT boasts compatibility. Imagine the possibilities. Instead of simply having the motion detector trigger the WeMo switch to turn a light on, you could have the motion detector trigger IFTTT to send you a text alert -- a useful way of letting you know when the kids are home from school every day. Or, if you’re compulsive about sharing, you could have IFTTT automatically tweet “Good morning!” on your behalf as soon as the motion detector sees you step out of bed. Or maybe you want the WeMo to flash the lights when your favorite football team kicks off each week. Almost whatever you can think up, from the practical to the preposterous, WeMo and IFTTT can make possible if it involves some kind of online notification.