WeMo – Switch

Introduction

In a previous blogpost I had mentioned how we were starting to see more commercial products hit the building automation space geared towards the home user.

One example of this was the WeMo product line by Belkin. Belkin has released a number of devices that can be hooked up with your mobile phone and controlled on your home network.

Currently the WeMo line consists of:

WeMo switch – a plug socket that runs over WiFi, can be programmed to switch on/off and can be manually controlled vi a mobile app

WeMo Motion – a motion sensing device that can be used to control a WeMo switch

WeMo Baby – a baby monitoring device

(Coming soon) WeMo light switch – a light switch that can also be controlled over WiFi.

WeMo switch

I was recently in the Verizon store and saw they had the WeMo switch product for sale. I picked up one of the switch devices and decided to give it a try.

The WeMo switch can be plugged into any standard plug socket and then electrical devices can be plugged in and switched on and off remotely. This is a similar concept to the fan example I gave in my book, where you can use a relay to switch a fan on and off – although in that instance a thermistor was being used to say when to toggle between on/off.

Setting it up was incredibly simple. You plug it into the wall and follow the instruction card in the box. This essentially consisted of connecting to the device directly (it is configured by default as a type of access point that allows you to connect to it for configuration), downloading the app for your phone, setting it up to run on your home WiFi network and then changing the settings as needed.

You can name each WeMo device and take a photo to assign to it as an icon, which I thought was a nice touch.

I have a small heater in one of our rooms and this device could be perfect for being able to switch it on in winter remotely before getting home from work – however you may want to consider using a VPN rather than the  “Remote Access” option in the app which allows you to control the device when not connected to your home network.  There are certain security implications with all of this I will touch on in a moment.

At $49.99 it has a fairly hefty price tag for a single plug socket. Equipping your whole house with these devices could potentially be pretty expensive, so having one of two is more likely to be the case for most users. Although as for devices hit the market I would expect to see prices fall – I wonder if Ikea will get in on the game at some point.

Security

You are probably thinking already of a ton of devices you could plugin to the the WeMo switch and I had mentioned above the idea of plugging a heater in. However I would approach this with caution.

Hack A Day published an article back in January on the potential security flaws in the WeMo switch product and how root access could be gained by hacking the switch. You can read the article here:

http://hackaday.com/2013/01/31/turning-the-belkin-wemo-into-a-deathtrap/

I’m sure Belkin will address these issues (and may have already with Firmware updates) however it is worth remembering that we live in an ever more connected world and having certain devices online that could get owned could have some nasty consequences.

If you wish to control the WeMo device from ‘off-site’ you will need to enable the remote access option (and potentially open ports on your fire wall) or setup some sort of VPN configuration for your home which will allow you to access your home network remotely. That is out of scope of this article as it deserves a whole number of posts covering the topic.

The VPN option you should consider if you want to do the above, check out OpenVPN for example. I need to do some more digging into how the remote access option works and any security implications, so check back for further updates.

The WeMo site states the following though:

Remote access is automatically enabled when you set up WeMo, as long as the network you are using has an Internet connection. With remote access enabled, you can control your WeMos from anywhere your iOS device has an Internet connection. This includes other Wi-Fi networks or your 3G/4G mobile connection. When the WeMo App is launched outside your home, the App contacts the Belkin cloud, the cloud redirects the phone’s request to the appropriate WeMo unit(s), and then you can see and control all of your WeMo devices.

Source: http://www.belkin.com/us/support-article?rnId=7358

 

Conclusion

This is a great device although a little on the pricey side. I would recommend though if you purchase using it for something like a lamp and avoid anything that has the potential to burst into flames (for example a heater!).

In later posts we will look at how this device can be controlled from your Home Dashboard software.

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