Last week we took a look at the Tado smart thermostat and this week we continue to explore the home automation category with an offering from Belkin.
Belkin have a growing range of home automation products available under the Wemo brand but a large portion of these are only available in the U.S. market. This is mainly due to differing operating voltages or the fact that we use a different system for wiring items like light switches. It remains to be seen how many of these devices are rejigged to work here but we’re hopeful it will be quite a few in due course.
What is available here is a selection of ‘screw in’ or ‘bayonet cap’ bulbs, a couple of wireless networked cameras, a baby monitor and a couple of smart switches that go between a plug and a socket which then allows you control the plugged item via the Wemo App.
We’re taking a look at the bulbs in this article and more specifically the 2 bulb starter kit which includes a Wemo Link.
The bulbs are 13W dimmable LEDs which are 60W equivalent. They produce a warm white light and Belkin claim they will last up to 23 years, based on 3 hours usage per day. The link device needs to be plugged into a spare socket in your home and will communicate with up to 50 Wemo devices that you may have in place.
Everything is controlled via the free Wemo app, which is available for Android and iOS. When you install the app and open it for the first time, it asks which equipment you are trying to set up and then starts a step by step guide for the installation.
In our case this required us to plug in the Wemo Link, fit the 2 bulbs and turn them on and then return to the app to complete the set up. During the set up the Wemo Link generates its own wifi network which you have to connect to from your phone. Once you are connected to it, the Link searches for Wemo equipment to communicate with and then lists them in the app. Once this is complete you then need to log back into your normal wifi network via the Wemo app and the set up is pretty much complete.
Not everything went smoothly at first and the app kept reporting that it could not set up remote access, which allows you control devices such as the bulbs when you are not connected to your home network. After a couple of restarts of all the equipment, the app reported that there was a firmware update available and once this completed after about 5 minutes, everything including the remote access was now working.
From within the app there is two ways of controlling the bulbs. You can manually turn the lights on or off, adjust the dim level and adjust the fade on or fade off duration.
In addition to the manual settings there is a ‘Rules’ section which allows you to create a number of different scheduling options for turning on and off the bulbs. You can select different days of the week and times of the day for the lights to either come on or off and you can also set it to coincide with sunrise or sunset. The app pulls the sunrise and sunset times for your location from the web.
To test this out I set my location and created a rule which would turn both lights on to different dim levels on sunset and then fade them off over 15 minutes, an hour later. The app informed me that sunset time for the day was 17:42. Exactly on time both lights came on and then turned off as instructed later.
Manual control of the lights via the app is pretty much instant and while remotely controlling them introduces a slight delay, I can’t see this being an issue as I imagine most people will only be using this to turn the lights on in the house while they are away or to switch them off if they forgot to before they left.
The main thing that is missing with these bulbs at present is some sort of presence or motion detection. Belkin has recently announced plans to expand the range of sensors available, which includes a passive infrared motion detector, but they are not available to purchase as of yet. When you add another input such as a sensor, the rules can become more complex and cater from a broader set of scenarios rather than just time or sun position.
One of the other things that is missing for now with these bulbs, but is available with other Wemo products, is support for If This Then That (ifttt.com) but the app states that they are working on this. Possibly when we see the motion sensor come on the market we will see support for IFTTT recipes too.
There is a lot to like about these bulbs and once you are aware of what they can and can’t do before purchasing, you should be happy. Being able to switch based on motion or presence will add extra functionality and hopefully open up more complex rules. At €99.99 for this starter kit it’s not cheap but it is in line with the pricing of competing devices such as Philips Hue. Additional bulbs are priced at €29.99 but you shouldn’t have to buy another Link as it can manage up to 50 devices.
Belkin deserve credit for what they have achieved so far and hopefully we’ll see more and more Wemo devices become available here but we would love to see that price being driven down to a point where these devices become a no brainer.
The Wemo range can be purchased in multiple locations online and are also available from Harvey Norman stores nationwide.