WeMo and Wifi, why?

One of the things that interests me greatly is home automation. I’m not particularly motivated to do this by laziness, it’s more that I like tinkering with things and making things happen seemingly by magic. Home automation may seem very complex and on larger scales integrating the whole house, it is very complex. But, in recent years, there have been many small companies popping up selling just a handful of products that are more stand alone and don’t require everything to be tied together all at once. One of these product lines is Belkin’s WeMo products and I recently purchased the Belkin WeMo Light Switch and the WeMo Switch.

 

Physical installation is relatively straight forward with the WeMo Switch, you just plug it into an electrical outlet and then plug whatever you want to control into the electrical outlet presented to you on the front of the switch. The WeMo Light Switch is a little more complicated and involves home electrical wiring. Don’t attempt this unless you’re completely comfortable doing this type of thing and have shut off the main power at the breaker and double checked that the power is off at the switch you’re working on. Videos on the installation process can be found here on Belkin’s webiste. Setting up the wifi connection is a little bit more problematic and required several attempts before it successfully connect to my wifi network. The process seems simple enough, go to your wifi settings connect to the WeMo unit, switch over to the WeMo app, select your wireless network and enter credentials and then the app will bounce you back over to your home network and your WeMos should be connected. This didn’t always happen though. Sometimes the WeMos wouldn’t show up in the wifi settings and sometimes they failed to connect to your home wifi. And sometimes you could see the default network the WeMo was broadcasting but you couldn’t connect to it to start the process. A couple of points on connecting the WeMos to you wifi.

 

  • Copy your wifi password to the clipboard of what ever device you’re using. This saves you the time of having to type in a password especially if you have a long complex and secure password.
  • Familiarize yourself with the reset procedure for each switch. In my experience I had to use it several times. Each line of WeMo devices has a different reset procedure and switch location.
  • It might also be worth mentioning this tip I heard recently. Security conscious people might be concerned with connecting so many relatively inexpensive and potentially insecure devices to their home network. Steve Gibson of GRC mention on a recent episode of the Security Now podcast that it might be a good idea to enable the Guest Network on your router, put a password on it, and connect all your home automation stuff to that network. I thought this was a great idea.
  • Another thing to watch out for when setting these up is to enable the remote access. Its not very useful to connect these to your network, leave the house, wonder if you left the light on and pull out your phone to check only to find that you forgot to enable remote access and the WeMo app can’t see the switches anymore. Remote access will allow the app to see and control the switches away from your home wifi network.
  • You are given the choice of naming the switch during setup and taking a picture of it. While this might seem a bit of a overkill if you only have one or two switches, I can see how this might come in handy if you had several switches.

 

Beyond controlling the switches manually, the app will allow you to set up some basic automations Belkin calls Rules. Rules you can set are based on time of day and sunrise or sunset. There are more complex rules you can make up but they require the WeMo Switch + Motion and the WeMo Insight Switch. With the Wemo Switch + Motion you can set up rules for things to come on or turn off when motion is detected and the Insight Switch will actually monitor the amount of electricity what ever is plugged in is using. With the Insight Switch you can set up rules to get notified based on the amount of power used.

 

Where the WeMo products really become useful is with their integration with IFTTT. Each WeMo switch has an IFTTT channel and activation can be done starting in the WeMo app. The WeMo app will provide you with a PIN to IFTTT and a link to take you right into the IFTTT website. Of course, it will be helpful if you had your IFTTT password handy here because you will need to sign in. Once signed in, the PIN will be automatically entered for you and you can activate all the channels that apply to your devices. One last note regarding the IFTTT integrations, the WeMo Light Switch has a feature called Long Press (press and hold the button down for several seconds in case that wasn’t readily apparent). This feature doesn’t do anything for the switch right out of the box but provides another avenue to create some complex IFTTT recipes. I plan to explore this further in future posts.

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