Wouldn't it be awesome if your coffee maker turned itself on at the same time every morning, brewing up a fresh pot for you? Wouldn't it be cool if you could turn the lights on and off in your home via an app on your smartphone? Wouldn't it be great if you could have this kind of functionality without having to go through expensive and complex configurations with a licensed technician?
That's the fundamental idea behind the WeMo family of products from Belkin, providing you with a modular way to have a smarter home. Today, we're taking a look at the Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion, a bundle that grants you wireless control over yoru home appliances and electronics, as well as activation when movement is detected.
Motion-Activated Home Automation
You might remember when I mentioned the WeMo Switch as part of our holiday gift guide late last year. This bundle builds upon that kind of idea, except it also tosses in the WeMo Motion. This is a separate component that plugs into the wall. Tethered to this via a six-foot cable is the very small motion detector itself, which is able to sense motion up ot 10 feet away, even in the dark. The bundle comes with the WeMo Switch too, but you can buy the WeMo Motion on its own if you prefer.
As a quick refresher, the WeMo line makes wireless home automation easy. With the switch, for example, you can turn power on and off through the power outlet via a smartphone app. If you'd like, you can also set schedules, so that the power comes on at a certain time of the day and comes back off at another time of the day. This could be useful for the coffee maker scenario I described above, for example, as well as the remote ability to turn on a lamp or whatever else you want. Watch our video from CES for a little more on what WeMo has and where it is headed.
The Wireless Setup Process
The part that plugs into the wall is definitely on the chunkier side of things. It's not so bad when you plug it into the top outlet in a two outlet configuration, but it becomes a real space hog if you plan on plugging it into a splitter or surge protector power bar. I suppose they could have put more of the components in the motion detector itself, but then it would be quite the bulky motion detector.
The setup process for the WeMo Motion is the same as the Switch, so you will need to go through it twice to add both products to your system. First, you plug in the Motion. Then, on your smartphone, you connect to the resulting "WeMo" Wi-Fi network and boot up the app. It'll then go through the setup process with you via the smartphone app, connecting the Motion to your home's Wi-Fi network. You do the same with the Switch and your basic functionality is up and running.
It is important to note that the Switch and Motion do not come "paired" out of the box. While they communicate with one another wirelessly, the Motion can just as easily communicate with another WeMo product in your home.
The Android App
The apps available for Android and iOS are fundamentally identical, though the iOS app currently sports a few features lacking in the Android version. For example, you cannot replace the default icons indicating each WeMo component in the Android app, but you can in iOS. You're supposed to be able to rename any of the components for easy reference, but I even found this feature to be finicky. I could rename one Switch pretty well instantaneously, but another Switch refused to "save" its new name.
From the main interface, you get the icon and name for each component. You also see a big power button next to the Switch components. You press this to turn the power on and off, as you can imagine. Flipping to the "Rules" tab, you can create as many rules as you'd like. These can be schedule based, but you can also set motion rules. For example, I currently have a light (connected to one of the Switches) turn on when motion from the WeMo Motion (placed in the hallway) is detected. It's like an automatic night light. You can then set the duration for how long the Switch should stay on, as well as when the rule should be active.
If you already use IFTTT (If This Then That), the WeMo system can be integrated into that too. When you're away traveling, you might want to receive a notification when motion is detected in your home. This opens up a whole world of flexibility and possiblities.
Aside from that, I also found that the app could be quite slow or almost unreponsive at times. This was difficult to replicate, because it worked flawlessly other times. Unlike the accompanying app for the Sonos wireless speakers, however, the WeMo app will work over a 3G/4G connection and your phone does not need to be on the same Wi-Fi network for the app to work. This is true remote access and control.
MEGATechie Motion Magic or MEGATechie Dumb Gimmick?
It's entirely up to you whether something like this would be useful in your home or office. During the holidays, I thought it was great connecting my Christmas lights to a WeMo Switch, because I could easily turn those lights on and off, no matter where I was. The WeMo Motion is similarly great for lights, automatically illuminating dark hallways... or however else you'd want to use it.
The WeMo Motion on its own has an MSRP of $59.99. That said, you can get a better deal by picking up the the WeMo Switch + Motion bundle for $79.99. My hope is that future iterations can get progressively more compact and that Belkin continues working on improving the mobile app. It's currently functional, but there is definitely room for improvement.