Belkin WeMo Home Automation

Category: Gadgets

Belkin's WeMo is a family of switches and motion sensors that allow you to connect with and control home appliances via the Internet. In the near future, it promises to give you remote control of your lighting, kitchen appliances and other devices. But at what price? Let's take a look at this emerging technology...

A Connected Crock Pot?

Belkin Corp. is getting serious about the Internet of Things, forming partnerships with thing-makers to connect all sorts of things via their WeMo gadgets to the Internet, mobile devices, and ultimately to you. What is WeMo, and what can it do?

Mr. Coffee introduced a Belkin WeMo-controlled coffeemaker at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Now your coffee pot can remind you the night before to fill the grounds basket and water reservoir. You can adjust the start of brewing time and brew strength remotely, from your smartphone. This model also brews coffee 26% faster than ordinary coffeemakers, perhaps its most significant feature.

Osram Sylvania’s new line of ULTRA iQ LED Lamps allow users to control lighting via smartphones, tablets, wireless remote controls, even motion and photo sensors.
Belkin WeMo connected appliances

The Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker With Belkin WeMo® lets you “adjust cook time, temperature, and more” via a mobile device and Belkin’s free WeMo app. I’m not sure what “more” needs adjusting but it’s probably in the user manual.

Crock-Pot®, Holmes®, and other familiar household appliance brands are owned by Jarden Consumer Solutions. Belkin and Jarden are planning a big push of WeMo-integrated products. At the Consumer Electronics Show, Holmes® offered three products - a space heater, an air purifier, and a humidifier - remotely controlled by Belkin WeMo.

Some WeMo applications seem very cool, indeed; of course, they’re the ones that aren’t here yet. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, hungry for a snack, and having soft, red light come on as you stumble sleepily to the kitchen, then shut off when you leave. That’s one of the cooler future applications that Sylvania has in store.

What's the Cost of WeMo Wonders?

The Sylvania ULTRA iQ LED Lamp is not a standalone lightbulb that you can simply screw into a socket; it doesn’t even work with traditional on/off or dimmer switches. You also need a WeMo-based wireless controller hub; Lowe’s will sell you their Iris brand, starting at $179. The lamps themselves cost between $22 and $38 apiece on Amazon. The Sylvania lamp supposedly lasts 35,000 hours vs. 500 hours for an equivalent incandescent bulb, and uses only 11 watts instead of 65.

The Holmes® products each list for $200, so it takes $600 to get a “large” room warmed up with air that won’t trigger allergies or nosebleeds. The WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot® lists for $130; Amazon currently has some for $100; ominously, they are advertised as “used.” Mr. Coffee with WeMo has no MSRP as of this writing, but a Consumer Reports test-drive mentioned $150. That sounds about right, as coffee is more important than food.

These products automatically connect to a home WiFi network when plugged in; no Sylvania-style hub controller is required. But still, we’re talking $880 for five common household appliances!

You can buy a 12-cup programmable coffee maker for under $20 at many department stores. There's a Honeywell HEPA air purifier for $42 via Amazon. My Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier was $30 at Walmart. Total cost of the non-WeMo way: $92.

Some pundits (and companies that sell home automation appliances) marvel about the future of life with appliances that can be connected to and controlled by computers and smartphones. But it seems inevitable to me that the Internet of Things will be a hacker's playground. Will someone find a way to make your wifi-connected crock pot send spam, instead of cooking a roast? Will your web-connected Mr. Coffee will keep you up all night, instead of waking you up in the morning? And can you still turn off the lights if you lose your phone? We'll soon be finding out.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Belkin WeMo Home Automation"

(See all 25 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Butch
29 Sep 2014

Re the comments by intelligencia: I am 70+ bachelor who's been involved in various aspects of computers since the 1960s. While I do not have a cell (dumb or smart) phone, etc., I see no need in *my* life for remote-control much of anything. Nevertheless, I sure would like to come back to life for _one_ day about a 100 hundred years from now--just to see all the changes that technology has brought about. Brave new world indeed on us and yet to come....!


Posted by:

Butch
29 Sep 2014

Re the comments by intelligencia: I am 70+ bachelor who's been involved in various aspects of computers since the 1960s. While I do not have a cell (dumb or smart) phone, etc., I see no need in *my* life for remote-control much of anything. Nevertheless, I sure would like to come back to life for _one_ day about a 100 hundred years from now--just to see all the changes that technology has brought about. Brave new world indeed on us and yet to come....!


Posted by:

Jeremy
29 Sep 2014

I agree that the cost of these devices out weight the current needs. However, as we've seen with technology, it always gets cheaper. It's scary and intriguing to think what might happen in the future.

I work in a school, and sometimes it's hard to get people the type of ideas we have to at least expose students to.


Posted by:

Humbug7
29 Sep 2014

1. Making coffee faster doesn't make it better...all good things take some time. I speak from the experience of having a Bunn, which could make a full pot in under 3 minutes, but either you had to use a full large can of coffee or drink light brown water.
2. Space heaters are notorious for starting fires when left unattended; now we're supposed to feel happy about turning one on remotely when there's no one home? Better have some good fire insurance. :-)
3. I'm not anti-tech, but like any new thing, this one needs to have time to shake out a lot of bugs before it's ready for mass production. And unless and until there's some sort of regulation holding the makers responsible (read $$$) for the security of these devices, the makers won't do anything to protect against hacking.


Posted by:

Bengt Sjoberg
29 Sep 2014

I believe the trend with automated appliances are mostly suited for second homes (summer houses, beach condos etc). Here you really can have use the remote options. Turn on heater (or air condition), turn on hot water etc..
This is perfect for places you do not visit every day. Also you might already have the internet connection for surveillance cameras or alarms.


Posted by:

rickmcq
29 Sep 2014

While I am pleased with the digital thermostat I installed in my home some six years ago, I believe the WeMo technology being described here will go the way of the X10 Home Automation System, which works well but has never gained full traction.


Posted by:

Bob K
29 Sep 2014

Sorry, I still have a bad taste in my mouth from years of trying to make X10 systems work.

They had a mind of their own, turning on when they felt like it, and not turning on when they should, but wouldn't.

The failure rate of these things was unreal. Try to find replacements today to fill in some holes for units that died -- forget it.

No, a good old switch works just fine. Have we forgotten about the KISS approach?


Posted by:

Bill
29 Sep 2014

All of these completely unecessary devices will eventually become toys for hackers. What worries me more is if manufacturers, at the orders of a nefarious agency, put wifi into devices without our knowledge.


Posted by:

Bill
29 Sep 2014

All of these completely unecessary devices will eventually become toys for hackers. What worries me more is if manufacturers, at the orders of a nefarious agency, put wifi into devices without our knowledge.


Posted by:

Bill Boogaart
29 Sep 2014

I'll stick with my UPB (Universal Powerline Bus) devices as far as the automation goes. I can connect to them via an interface to the internet but don't want to. I really don't need the world to know what I'm doing on a day to day basis.


Posted by:

Jim M
29 Sep 2014

Looks like a good way to let somebody in China or Russia control when your coffee, or dinner gets done.


Posted by:

Jay
29 Sep 2014

WeMoWeh, WeMoWeh, WeMoWeh, WeMoWeh

In the good home, your mighty good home
Disaster lurks tonight
In the good home, your quiet good home
The new tech burns so bright.

The Boll Weevil and Dee Zaster are always looking for a home.

How do we know this isn't some ISIS plot?

Excuse me while I go try to figure out FaceBook.


Posted by:

Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries
29 Sep 2014

Before Belkin goes off all half-cocked and crazy, they need to improve the firmware and speed up the app.

I have exactly one Wemo outlet--purchased for my husband so he could turn off the bedroom light without getting out of bed--and it is the world's biggest nuisance. The last time I updated the firmware, it took three tries. The last time I tried to turn on the light, I had to wait and wait and wait and wait for the app to load. The only good thing about it, really, is that it's possible to turn the outlet on and off directly at the source.

In other words, WeMo in even the simplest possible design is definitely not ready for primetime.


Posted by:

Gyppo
29 Sep 2014

Strikes me that all this is totally unnecessary. I realise some people would would see this as a way to simplify their lives. To me it just represents a plethora of unnecessary things which could go wrong.

But perhaps some people want to become mindless slugs.

One final thought... Powercuts.

Gyppo


Posted by:

JI Means
29 Sep 2014

I'm one that uses what suits my needs and ignores the rest. I'd love to have a newer set of door locks that would operate with my phone, and that also are code managed so you can tell (usually) who was last to use it. I'd also like the newer thermostats that can be controlled by my phone. It would have been nicer for when I was working but it still has uses that interest me now. As for the crockpot, rarely does one have to change the setting if that's what the WeMo switches do. Most meals will comfortably cook all day long on low and not be ruined. My coffee pot has a timer, so no need of one there. One for lamps would be nice, but that too can be handled by a timer. I have been enjoying the ride though seeing all the news things developing. If there is a need, they will sell, if not...well...back to the drawing board.


Posted by:

Disguswted
30 Sep 2014

Sheer laziness! Good luck when the grid finally goes down or some bored hackers feel like messing with your house!


Posted by:

Glen C.
30 Sep 2014

I love tech, but someday,someway,someone is going to burn their house down.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
30 Sep 2014

WOW ... Just what will Belkin and the like, come up with next???

Nope ... Don't want it or any part of it!!!

I love my Keurig and I decide when to turn it on or off, by hand. I love my Crock-Pot and like another commenter said, I don't need a remote control or controller hub, to turn on my Crock-Pot !!! I just plug it in, set my small hand timer and I am good to go! Again, all of this done, by hand.

Bob, you had an earlier article about Nest Labs products, "Your Thermostat and the Internet" and that Google purchased this company. One comment by you ...

"So what's the real reason? Google’s business is collecting data about you and using it to sell advertising. The more data Google collects, the more effective it becomes as an advertising medium, and the more money it can make. Every single product that Google offers has a tie-in to this overarching business purpose."

Seems to me, Belkin may be trying to do the same thing, as Google. Get data, regarding your lifestyle and daily habits, for advertising purposes. Not good, in my book.


Posted by:

Peter Wall
30 Sep 2014

'I rush and rush until life's no fun, all
I've got to do is live and die but I'm in a rush and don't know why!' Alabama said it best. There is possibly some good uses for such technology, but much of this is simply self-indulgence. Brave New World indeed!


Posted by:

ikomrad
14 Feb 2016

So far I have WeMo switches controlling lights, humidifiers, and space heaters. They integrate will with the Amazon Echo, which lets me control them using my voice.
Come home at night with hands full carrying groceries? Alexa, lights on! Left home in a hurry and forgot to turn things off? Open the WeMo app, turn the devices off and lower the thermostat as well( Nest or Echobee3 ).

Traveling and want to have lights and noise simulate that you are home? Use WeMo scheduled rules to do that.


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