Today we’re reviewing the Belkin Wemo Smart switch, which plugs into a normal power socket, immediately transforming regular appliances into smart appliances. It does this by using a companion application, available on both Android and iOS, which you use in order to control the appliances and devices that you leave plugged into it. We find it to be a great introduction to the world of smart home automation, and coming in at just under £25, it is an affordable way to have a play with the whole concept of smart homes – which are the big trend of 2016 so far.
Belkin WeMo Smart Switch – What to do with it?
To put it in simply, the way we like to explain the whole concept of smart homes here at HomeTechStar.com, the device sits as a bridge between your appliance and your power socket. So lets take a simple example – a floor light. In the regular world, we would plug this directly into the power socket, and to turn the light on or off, we would either turn the light on at the power socket (thus leaving it switched ‘on’ on the lamp itself) or we would control it by turning it off or on from the lamp itself. Two methods, same end result.
When we use the Belkin Wemo switch, we change this dynamic. Much like with a timer socket, we would leave both the lamp and the power socket perpetually tuned on. What the Wemo does is sit as a connector and controller of the electricity current. The WeMo then talks with your smartphone via the companion app, meaning you have full control of the lamp via your smartphone. So unlike a timer, where the lamp would turn on or off dependent on a pre-set and planned time plan, the Wemo adds an element of dynamism. So if you’re out and about, or even away on holiday (this works anywhere in the world where you can get online, either via 3G/4G or wifi) you can whimsically flick any device on or off.
I’ll use an example, which whilst a little niche, will hopefully explain a use case. We keep birds as pets at home, and they don’t like it when it goes dark. It sends them to sleep. So in the past we would use a timer switch, which would be set-up to turn the light on when we guessed it would start to get dark. It wasn’t the mist elegant solution but it worked. The downsides were that in the UK, where there is a huge disparity between winter and summer daylight hours; sunset times change markedly and quickly. We were always tinkering with the dammed timer, which was a pain in the backside. So instead we now use the Belkin socket, and I sit facing a window i can make an on the spot judgement call as to when to illuminate the room for the birds. For us its a real winner.
To use a better example, lets consider home security. Its common in a lot of households to leave a light on when you’re out, especially on a winter evening. This is seen as a way of reducing the threat of break ins, as it simulates somebody being at home. Its reassuring but likely far from foolproof as the timer switches used leave traces and patterns. Using a solution like the Belkin smart switch would let you flip it on and off more sporadically, and would likely act as a better deterrent.
Even forgetting using the smartswitch as a deterrent, lets consider returning home to a lit house. Its never nice to return to a cold and dark home, and the Belkin gives us a genuine solution which means we do not need to. When you get towards your house, you simply switch the lights on, making it easier to unlock your home and get inside quickly and safely.
You can also ensure that you never accidentally leave a light on all day too, which is easily done before the coffee kicks in first thing in the morning. If in doubt, check the Belkin app and make the change from there.
Or you could connect up a kitchen device, such as a slow cooker. Why invest an extra £100 in a smart one when the only smart function you need is the ability to turn it on when you need it? So if you’re unsure how long you’ll be out and about during the day, you can control the device to turn on when you have more certainty around when you’ll get home – meaning that if you get it right, you’ll get the perfectly cooked dinner sat in the pot and ready to be eaten the minute you get through your perfectly lit front door.
How to set-up the Belkin smart switch
Belkin have a whole catalogue of support articles, such as this one which helps you to fix and issues that may arise.
We found that getting up and running was actually very simple, all you need is;
- The device that you would like to control with the Belkin – such as a lamp or slow cooker
- The Belkin WeMo Smart Switch itself and a power socket
- A WiFi router and password credentials
- A smartphone or tablet, which you’ll use to control it
Then you follow the below process to get it up and running:
- Download the iOS or Android app, depending on which OS your smartphone or tablet runs on. Search for ‘WeMo’ in your chosen app store
- Plug your WeMo into the wall socket
- Open the WeMo app on your phone and run through the set-up process, which is basically getting it talking with your WiFi network – as this is the mechanism that connects the wall socket to your phone
- You will have to enter your wifi password, and once done the device will be controllable
- You can then configure it within the app, allowing you to have as many Welkin power sockets as you like. Its recommended that you name each one as you go, and you can even add different icons so that you easily know which device you are controlling.
And there you have it – you are up and running.
However, one major downside is the size of the plug socket itself. It is a fairly chunky device, and on the back of that it can block other sockets from being fully accessible. This is annoying, and leads to using additional power socket adapters, which can in turn overload your homes power system and make it fuse.
Belkin Smart Switch price – at the time of writing each power socket costs £24.99