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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.

belkin-wemo-switch

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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house-lit-night

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.

yellow-lamp

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.

gps-belkin-wemo

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

  1. Jeff G
    August 12, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    I'm using a WEMO switch and a large relay to add a WIFI enabled switch/timer to my water heater. I can schedule on/off times that reduce my power usage during expensive peak times. By using IFTTT I can further extend the possibilities to include turning off the water heater when my calendar has me listed as "out of town". I'm estimating a yearly savings of over $300. The savings is even more then you consider the reduced wear on the water heater.

  2. Phill
    February 23, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Hi, can anyone tell me if I can turn my lights on in my house in Spain if I am in England .

    • Dann Albright
      February 28, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      Yeah, if you have something like the WeMo, or any other smart plug, you should have no problem with that. The Hue system and things like it will work, too.

  3. Brandon
    July 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Unfortunately, at least as I understand it, IFTTT only activates "recipes" once every 10 minutes. So it could be a full 10 minutes between the time my Jawbone UP or Automatic send the command that I'm awake or that I'm home and the time my lights actually come on. Which, by then, I could have just turned the lights on myself.

    Is this a correct understanding or is there a way to get a near instantaneous response from IFTTT?

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      According to the IFTTT site, "Most Personal Recipes check for new Trigger data every 15 minutes, some are even faster." Not very helpful. I'm not sure if there's a way to check for the polling interval on an individual recipe . . . if anyone knows and could share that information, that'd be great!

      Because the location channel is so popular on IFTTT, I have to think that it does polling on a more regular basis . . . it wouldn't really be much use otherwise. Not sure about the Jawbone or the Automatic, though.

      Sorry that I don't have a good answer for you—I'll do some looking around and share what I find!

  4. JM
    July 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Would the WeMo be able to stop my projector from getting fried by lightning? We just had a big storm and something has stopped working in our projector, I'm sending it in to be repaired. It had a surge protector installed, but still got zapped. I'm assuming even if the projector was running through a WeMo it could still be zapped due to the connection?

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      I haven't seen anything that makes me think that it would protect your projector. I'd say just get the bigget, baddest surge protector you can find!

  5. girarda
    July 10, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    "the WeMo Switch is under $49 on Amazon". It is $48.63 & free shipping on Amazon. You save $1.36.
    It might have been more useful to specify if the WeMo can be used as a dimmer. I believe it can not.

    • Dann A
      July 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      The WeMo isn't specifically manufactured for use with lights, so no, it can't be used as a dimmer. It's really an outlet controller, letting you pass current through an outlet or stop it. While this article was about lighting, you can use it for a lot of other stuff, too, like fans, automation devices, and security systems.

      WeMo does make a dimmer switch, though. I haven't looked into it much, but if you're looking for a dimmer, that might be a good way to go!

  6. dragonmouth
    July 10, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Does it use WiFi? If so, how easily can it be hacked?

    • Aibek E
      July 11, 2014 at 10:01 am

      I am pretty sure it requires WiFi as there are no other sockets in the device. Hacking it would require more or less same amount of effort as hacking the actual physical router. It's secure enough for most of the folks.

    • dragonmouth
      July 11, 2014 at 11:22 am

      "It’s secure enough for most of the folks."
      Like their computers are "secure enough?" :-)

      I think I'll stick to dumb, ol' X10. It may be a bit old fashioned and a little bit more work to maintain but at least there is no danger of someone hacking in and causing all kinds of havoc.

    • Dann A
      July 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Yeah, I suppose it could be hacked via wi-fi . . . so there could potentially be a security issue there, but if someone can get through your router to your WeMo, you have bigger things to worry about. :-)

      I don't know much about X10. How do you find it? Do you control it from your phone, or do you use the dedicated controllers?

    • dragonmouth
      July 11, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      I use dedicated controllers.

    • Chinmay S
      November 8, 2014 at 9:23 am

      @dragonmouth
      In this digital age, everything can be hacked but that doesn't means that people shouldn't use it.

      If you try to control everything, you end up controlling nothing.

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