Reviews
WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set
Belkin

By Sharad Hirjee - December 18th, 2014

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Belkin has continued toward the lofty goal of full home automation with the WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set. With a solid modular portfolio that includes wall switches, heaters, a humidifier, cameras and even a coffee maker, the Starter Set seems like a natural progression. I really like the concept of this product as it allows the IP-enablement and remote control of hard-wired electrical light fixtures in your home, without the trouble of rewiring the physical wall switches.

In the box you will find two WeMo Smart LED light bulbs (standard A19 form factor), a WeMo Link (the bridge unit) and the quick install guide. For those who might be wondering if the Link communicates with the bulbs via Wi-Fi, you can put your mind at rest (and you don’t have to extend your existing IP assignment range). The Link uses another protocol called Zigbee, which is a wireless mesh network standard that is used to communicate with the bulbs. This low-power protocol is efficient and allows for near-instant communication between the Link and the set of bulbs contained within its domain. How many bulbs are we talking? Well, a single WeMo Link is capable of supporting up to 50 WeMo light bulbs.

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Where the magic happens.

Installation is straightforward and is performed in two different phases. First, there are the physical steps: plug the WeMo link into an electrical socket located in a central location (ie: make sure that you have good Wi-Fi coverage); put the bulbs into fixtures (non-dimmable); switch on each fixture. Following the physical phase is the software phase: install the WeMo app onto your smart device (iOS or Android); launch the app and follow the instructions to connect to the WeMo Link; connect the Link to your Wi-Fi and presto – the product is configured.

I found the app to be very user friendly and intuitive. What I noticed right away is that not only can you turn the devices on and off remotely, but each bulb also has a built-in dimmer. It is possible to control each device individually, or you can set up groups to control multiple devices simultaneously. Thus, if you like, you are able to link all of the bulbs in a single room so that they can be all controlled as a single unit. The WeMo Lighting system is also capable of automatic scheduling, eliminating the need for any human interaction whatsoever. There is even a vacation mode which will randomly turn lights on and off to give the appearance that someone is at home.

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Two bulbs in the starter kit? Nice.

There is also upcoming integration with IFTTT (IF This Then That – a web service that allows you to link multiple internet-enabled devices together using conditional statements). Other WeMo devices already have this capability (and we have written about them before), but that feature is still being tweaked for these light bulbs as per the WeMo website. IFTTT is relatively new and really lets the user leverage the power of the internet to affect various devices under their control. These different groups of conditional statements are called recipes; the most basic recipe could be something as simple as this: if you make a post to Facebook, the repost that to Twitter.

With WeMo you could have the lights respond to sunset or sunrise. Use the IFTTT Weather channel to learn when the sun goes down, and place a trigger on the bulbs to light up. Imagine never having to reset all of your programmable timers every year at daylight savings time! How about having the lights go off when I turn the Wi-Fi off on my cell phone; or even when the sun comes up, wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee thanks to an IFTTT-compatible coffee maker (handy what Belkin makes these). There are currently 153 channels (and growing) on the IFTTT website, so the possibilities continue to expand exponentially. I think that this capability will soon be the standard for any home automation products as it is flexible and easy to use.

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The Link is unobtrusive – and will fit in practically any standard electrical outlet without getting in the way.

WeMo hardware can be controlled from multiple smart devices, which is very useful. I had two iPads, a Samsung S4 and an iPhone 4 – all set up to control the bulbs. This is really handy when more than one person lives in the home (although I do have to say that I enjoyed playing with the lights and confusing my wife a little before I let her in on the joke). I did learn of a feature that is not advertised, but quite handy: under normal circumstances, the power is left on the bulb and the control is managed via the smart device. If you go to the switch and turn it off and then back on, the bulb will light up. This is especially useful if you don’t have your smart device within reach.

In conclusion, with a simple set up, a very intuitive app, and a modular methodology for expansion, this is a great first step towards automating some of the features in your home. With no requirement for electrical wiring (other than what’s existing in your home) and a reasonable price of around $100 (with extra bulbs priced at around $30 each), this product is an easy entry into the world of automation, and will open your eyes to many of the new possibilities and options available with this now widely available and reasonably priced technology.

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