Connected lighting is the first thing that usually draws people into smart home, it is also what most typical consumers thing of when you talk about smart home. We all know that the smart home goes far beyond just lighting control but today we are going to talk about lighting control. There are a lot of connected lighting products available and today we will talk about controlling lighting with the WeMo Light Switch.
The WeMo Light Switch is a Wi-Fi connected light switch made by Belkin. You might be a little hesitant about this because Belkin may not be the first name you think of when you think lighting control (I know I didn’t) but most people do know the WeMo brand that Belkin has built. Over the years I am sure many of you like me have used plenty of Belkin products, be it cell phone accessories or computer peripheral and they have always been of decent quality so I expected the same from the WeMo Light Switch and I must say the build quality on it seems very good, using premium materials for a quality feel. This was a nice change because too often I feel products in the smart home do not have this quality feel to them and it is something that is necessary to gain mass market appeal.
The WeMo Light Switch installs pretty much like any other connected light switch, it has needs to be connected to Line, Load Ground and Neutral. It should be noted that not all homes will have Neutral wiring available at your switch location and if you have any questions about wiring it is probably best to hire a professional to install them for you. Also, like most other connected light switches the WeMo Light Switch is considerably larger than your standard light switch so it will take up considerable more space inside your wall box. Be prepared for this ahead of time by looking at your wiring and how crowded your wall box is before making a purchase as this may save you the headache of having to return the WeMo Light Switch or hire a professional after you have started the project. Trust me there having an unfinished lighting project span any amount of time outside the norm is a quick way to lose the acceptance of others living in your house and it will only make your struggle to connect your house more difficult.
Having been doing this for a while now I typically take app set up for granted, instinctively thinking it will be straight forward and painless. The WeMo Light Switch is Wi-Fi and therefore sets up like a lot of Wi-Fi connected devices by broadcasting an SSID which you must connect to and give the WeMo device your network credentials. This should not have been a problem for me but there were a few things I did not like about the app that made it a bit confusing. The first thing when I first opened the app I am greeted with a popup saying that there are some compatibility issues with Android and the “Always Scanning Wi-Fi” setting. While it is good to let people know that there might be issues, I am sure there is a better way to tell people this than in a popup as soon as they open the app as this just seemed messy to me and not very user friendly. The next thing was in the actual setup process, you start by selecting what kind of device you want to add, and you are brought into a series of screen guiding you though that process. Well these screens you can swipe back and forth between with no issues and it appears more like a tutorial than the actual setup process, I thought I was in the wrong place a first as there should be steps that the app is prompting you to do and you should not be able to progress until each of those steps are done. Once I connected to the SSID of my WeMo Light Switch the app went into what I would call a proper setup sequence from there on out prompting me to enter my Wi-Fi credentials and teaching those to the WeMo Light Switch. This setup process needs some refinement and really needs to take the guesswork out of the process.
With setup complete I could now control my WeMo Light Switch from inside the WeMo Android App and this app is pretty and functions as I would expect. The WeMo Android App is packed with all of the features you would expect like scheduling and automation setup and all of it is within a few clicks of the screen which is nice. While I do not normally use any apps for controlling my home, when I need to I like to be able to do so quickly and too many apps out there are far to cumbersome. Now these are light switches and not everyone is going to control them from an app or third-party service every time, so we must talk about the design and function of the physical switch a bit. The WeMo Light Switch is a décora style light switch that will work with any décora style wall plate although included is a very nice snap on screw-less style plate for a single gang installation. Again, this switch plate seems to be made of high quality materials, but you should know that if your switch sits inside of your wall even a little bit this wall plate will most likely not work out great for you unless you loosen up the mounting of your switch which is not ideal. Switch plate aside, the WeMo Light Switch functions much like any light switch, push the button and your light turns on, push it again and it turns off. Now Belkin claims that you can push the WeMo Light Switch anywhere to toggle it and that is simply not the case. The top of it does not move all that much and does not reliably register a push forcing you to restrict your presses to the bottom two-thirds. Now a lot of connected switches have an on-off indicator and for the most part they are small and inconspicuous, why then does the WeMo Light Switch have this ugly black circle in the middle of it that illuminates a power icon when the switch is in the on position? Clearly, I can tell if a light is on simply by seeing light coming from it. In my opinion this is a major design issue that almost makes the WeMo Light Switch to “futuristic” looking to fit into most home décor but maybe that is just me. It almost feels like to get the WeMo Light Switch to fit in you need to change all of your switches so that they match, which I am all for connecting all of your lights but you simply can not do that with the WeMo Light Switch as it does not support multi-way lighting circuits. A multi-way solution needs to come if Belkin wants to seriously compete in the lighting control market.
The WeMo Light Switch also integrates with SmartThings via SmartThings Labs. I tested this out and while I did not have any issues and noticed the same performance inside of the SmartThings as I did in the WeMo Android App it does come with the disclaimer that you may have instability and issues with control. I would say that the WeMo integration with SmartThings is solid and you should use it without fear of issues. If you are a SmartThings user you certainly do not want to use a separate app to control any WeMo Light Switches you may have.
Ultimately I am pretty happy with the way the WeMo Light Switch performs with the physical switch, the WeMo Android App and SmartThings. I would probably not recommended the WeMo Light Switch to people looking to get into lighting control as lighting control is a gateway drug into home automation and I do not know many people who stick with just a few connected switches for very long. People want to control everything and not having support for multi-way lighting circuits means people will quickly end up mixing and matching brands and may not end up with the most integrated system in the end.
Anyone out there using a WeMo Light Switch? Let me know in the comments below.
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I am passionate about the IoT and connected devices. Using connectivity to automate our lives will empower civilization to achieve greatness.