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The Belkin WeMo system is a great first step in building a home automation system — it’s affordable, it’s much simpler than automating your home with a Raspberry Pi Home Automation with Raspberry Pi and Arduino Home Automation with Raspberry Pi and Arduino The home automation market is flooded with expensive consumer systems, incompatible with one another and costly to install. If you have a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino, you can basically achieve the same thing at... Read More or Arduino, and it’ll help you start the process of “smartening” your house with minimal disruption of your daily life. But what can you actually do with the WeMo? We took the time to look at the possibilities for turning your regular household lamps into smart lamps.

What Is WeMo?

WeMo is a series of smart home products made by Belkin that make it easier to automate home tasks and run your house from your phone. The particular item we’re discussing here is the WeMo Switch, a device that enables you to turn power on and off at any outlet in your home. Just plug the WeMo Switch into the outlet, plug something into the WeMo, and you’re set to go! The WeMo is controlled by the free WeMo app from Belkin.

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While the WeMo products are pretty simple, they’re also quite affordable — the WeMo Switch is under $49 on Amazon. And because they’re simple, they’re easy to set up, which might make them more appealing than something like an Arduino for people new to home automation Control Appliances From An Arduino: The Start Of Home Automation Control Appliances From An Arduino: The Start Of Home Automation Last time, I showed you a few ways of making your Arduino projects speech controlled via SiriProxy, OS X's built-in speakable items, and some Automator scripting, or even a dedicated voice recognition hardware chip. I... Read More .

Remote Operation

The most obvious use for the WeMo is to operate your lamps when you’re away. Whether you’re just in the other room or across the country, you can use the WeMo app to power your switches on and off, letting you flip your lamps on and off with a single tap. Waking up in the morning and want to have the lights on in the kitchen by the time you get there? No problem. Forget to turn the lamps off when you left for work? Just tap them off from your iPhone or Android.

Many people like to put their lights on a timer so that their house is lit up for a while at night, even when they’re out of town, to keep people from noticing that they’ve been away for a while. The WeMo app makes this super easy — just tap the power button when you want your lamps to turn on, then tap again to turn them off. Simple!

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And, of course, you can use the built-in rules to put your lamps on a schedule so they’ll turn on and off at the same time every day. WeMo also provides an Away Mode, which randomly switches your lamps on an off, to give the illusion that your home is occupied.

Motion Sensing

With the available motion sensor, you can turn the WeMo into an even smarter solution. Why not set the lights to turn on when you walk into the room, and then off again when you leave? This is a great way to save some energy if you or your kids often forget to turn the lights off (or to move one step closer to having your house do absolutely everything for you).

The motion sensor doesn’t need to be placed in the same room as the switch, though; it’s just as easy to turn on the hall lamp when there’s motion in the bedroom, preventing you from stubbing your toe without waking up your spouse in the middle of the night.

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You can also set up rules for the motion sensor, making it even smarter. For example, you could set a rule saying that a lamp should turn on if it detects motion between 9:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. so the room is lit when you go into it without getting triggered by the cat in the middle of the night.

IFTTT Triggers

Remote operation and motion sensing are most basic things you can do with WeMo devices and, while they’re useful, they’re pretty mundane. The introduction of If This, Then That (IFTTT) integration skyrocketed the WeMo’s potential usefulness, letting you get creative with how your lamps work.

For example, you can link up your Jawbone UP Jawbone UP Now Integrates With Third-Party Apps Such As IFTTT, RunKeeper & Withings [Updates] Jawbone UP Now Integrates With Third-Party Apps Such As IFTTT, RunKeeper & Withings [Updates] Jawbone, a company that develops human-centered wearable technology and audio devices, announced on Tuesday its new UP Platform for iOS. The new platform adds integration between the UP wristband and app system, which keeps track... Read More so that the lights turn on as soon as it detects that you’re awake. Then, whether you wake up at 6:00 a.m. to go to work or sleep in until 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday, your lights will be on when you get up, and you won’t waste power by turning them on super early. Not only is it more efficient than setting up a time-based switch, but it’s a whole lot cooler! There are also recipes to turn on your lights after getting 8 hours of sleep.

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With a GPS recipe, you can have your lights turn on as soon as you get home from work, whether you’ve come home early on a Friday or have to stay late during the week. The Automatic car accessory can do this for you, too — wouldn’t it be cool to see your lights go on as soon as you turn off your ignition?

IFTTT even lets you use your home lamps as a notification system. By setting up a “blink” action (quickly on followed by quickly off, or vice versa) and linking it to a trigger, you’ll get a visual cue even if your phone is in another room. Want your lights to blink whenever you get an e-mail from your boss? Or when you get a text message? It’s easy to set up with the Wemo Switch actions.

You can get pretty creative with your IFTTT recipes, too — I noticed that one user linked up ESPN with WeMo so that his Warriors lamp would turn on whenever a Warriors game started. I thought that was a pretty cool idea!

What Do You Use WeMo For?

WeMo can be used for a lot more beyond just your lamps, but smart lighting is a great place to start on your quest to automate and “smarten” your home. You can use IFTTT to turn on an air conditioner when the temperature reaches a certain point. Or to fire up your all-important coffee maker Buy This: The Greatest Gear For Making Awesome Coffee Buy This: The Greatest Gear For Making Awesome Coffee If your coffee tastes like crap, you're doing it wrong. Great coffee doesn't have to be expensive. Read More  in the morning as soon as your Jawbone UP detects that you’re awake.

There’s no limit to the fun stuff you can do with a WeMo and a bit of creative thinking! A lot of fun ideas are featured on the WeMo Tumblr, so be sure to check it out for some inspiration. You can also do a number of other things with the WeMo Motion Sensor, like making an automated motion sensor security system Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Of the many projects that you can build with the Raspberry Pi, one of the most interesting and permanently useful is the motion capture security system. Read More . And if you want to control your household lighting in addition to your now-smart lamps, you can use the WeMo Light Switch.

What would you use the WeMo Switch for? Share your coolest ideas below!

Image credits: Casey Fleser, Matt MacGillivray via Flickr

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