Wemo Switch

The WeMo Switch from Belkin gives you internet/wifi/IF access to any mains powered device. Well, when you get it working.

What is the WeMo Switch?

I demand an example of what this WeMo Switch can do!

One quick example of the way I’m using the one I have at the moment is to turn the fan on and off in my bedroom, I have an incredibly hot head you see!. I was getting the fan to turn on using the web service If This Then That but that seemed really flaky for some reason with this device and would randomly stop working. I’ve now set up a schedule which runs on the switch itself, which to be fair has been absolutely reliable. Setting up schedules like this is done on your phone app and run on the switch itself instead of through the internet, so works much better.

Should I buy one?

If you’re on a limited budget, have a lot of patience and a person who is able bodied and willing to work through the problems with you then yes I would say get one. If you can afford to buy the more expensive gear, go for that.

This device works really well as long as you don’t change your Wi-Fi password, lose Internet connectivity, unplug it for too long, look at it funny or call its mum names. Other than that, it does everything it’s supposed to do.

When I first bought one I sent it back because I thought it was broken. However, because of my limited budget it was the only one I could afford so I thought I would try again and work around the problems. And to be fair, it has fewer problems than it did. When I first got the Wemo, the on/off button failed ALL the time - just got an amber cycling light on the app and nothing doing. This problem seems to have been resolved in the last few point releases. The point of perservering with Wemo, for me, is that I don’t want to get locked in to any one eco system of home automation. I want modular systems that I can add to when I want, and I want equipment from lots of different companies, so that if one goes bust, my entire house doesn’t break down. I also wanted Wemo over things like Lightwave-RF plugs being wired in, because I can easily swap out a plug-in product. Something that needs wiring in makes me dependent on getting someone to wire it; something that needs its own hub means I have to talk someone through setting the hub up, and it’s just more stuff to manage. So in general I’m more inclined to try out things like Wemo, which just plugs in and works. When it works, anyway!

Hmmm, tell me more about this scheduling?

The scheduling part actually does work brilliantly and the setup process seems frighteningly simple when you look at the instructions on the app. However, let me paint you a picture of what the setup process has looked like for me on multiple switches on multiple occasions when it suddenly stopped working:

  1. The switch stops working
  2. Do a factory reset after running through the setup process fails
  3. Open up the app on my iPhone and run through the setup process
  4. Setup process failed
  5. Do a factory reset after running through the setup process fails
  6. Open up the app on my iPhone and run through the setup process
  7. Setup process failed
  8. Delete the app from my iPhone and re-download it and then run through the setup process
  9. That failed so we try another factory reset more in hope than expectation.
  10. Rinse and repeat
  11. Then my Designated Pair of Hands™ and I have an exchange that starts with me saying: “Wait, it’s working! what did you do?”
  12. To which they answer “I have no idea, it just started working for no discernible reason. Can we please go and do something that doesn’t make me want to kill people now, boss?”

This sounds unduly harsh but we must have been through this process more than a dozen times on a couple of switches and it always goes the same way: we eventually get it working and when it’s working it works really well but the setup process is an absolute nightmare.

So we have two possibilities, either I am a terrible roboticist and cannot follow simple instructions and neither can my Designated Pair of Hands or Belkin need to do some work on the setup process. You have the answer!