I’m grown increasingly power mad over the last year. No, I’m not suggesting I’m drafted in to replace the coalition government but my need for electricity is growing at an alarming rate. I now have a home that is littered with cables, chargers, blinking WiFi lights and tech-things that whir and wink at me as I pass them. In a country where energy isn’t cheap, this is getting increasingly hard on the pocket, and of course, the planet. It’s time to get my energy usage under control and in a sort of hi-tech poacher-turned- gamekeeper manoeuver, I’ve turned to technology to help me manage my insatiable need for power.
The Belkin WeMo range of products comprises of products to help you automate your home. There’s a security camera, WiFi lightbulbs, a device to help open garage doors, and smart-plugs. The Wemo Insight Switch is the smartest plug I’ve come across and as well as promising to connect any device plugged in to it to the internet it also offers, via its app, the ability to monitor and analyse power usage and cost.
Unpacking the box reveals that the Insight looks similar to a traditional adapter-plug. It’s slightly larger and the only indication that it’s something out of the ordinary is the little LED panel on the top side of the plug. Weighing about 200g and with range of about 300 feet, it fits in to a regular power socket and once plugged in I turned it on and plugged in a lamp to get started.
Wemo provide a free app for Android and iOS, and once I downloaded that I had to go to my WiFi settings on my phone and select the WiFi network that the plug provides for set-up. Most new home automation products use this method for set-up, and after a few seconds the app asked me to re-connect to my home WiFi network and the set-up appeared to be complete.
I had to close and re-open the app to see the Insight Switch listed in the devices section. From this screen I was able to edit the name of the device. I changed the name to ‘Bedroom Lamp’ and found that a simple tap on a graphic power button next to the devices name on the app turned the Insight switch, and lamp, on and off.
This simple on/off wireless automation in itself is useful as it means, for instance, you can switch the bedroom lights off when children are asleep, via your phone from the sitting room. The fact that the app functions over 3G/4G adds so much more functionality though, meaning that if you’re late home from work or delayed on a trip away, you can turn on and off household lights from anywhere in the world where you have WiFi or a mobile signal.
The energy monitoring features are also easy to set-up and for this I just needed to look up the price I pay per kilowatt hour and enter it in to the app. Once I did that, I was able to look at the app and see how long the lamp plugged in to my Insight had been turned on for a specific day and the cost of that usage. The app also shows the average power usage when on and the estimated monthly cost and if you really want to do a deep analysis of the power usage for a home the entire monthly statistics can be downloaded to a file and examined in a spreadsheet.
The Wemo app also provides the ability to set schedules and rules. I was able to set the time on and off for the plug ensuring that the light came on every evening and automatically powered itself at night at a specific time. As well as scheduling, the rules facility allowed me to get notifications if the plug was turned on, meaning you would know, while out of the house if a TV or computer was being used, and of course you could review for how long and the cost of that usage.
Wemo have partnered with Nest, the smart thermostat maker add extra layers to home- automation. You can adjust your Nest thermostat from within the Wemo app, saving you thumb-tapping time, but it can be cleverly combined with the Nest’s sensor functions, so lights will be automatically turned off when Nest knows you’re away, and on when you come home.
The device is well priced and while I found the set-up process a little slow, requiring a few app restarts, it is relatively straightforward to set-up. Once operational though, it works brilliantly and it really does bring the futuristic promise of home-automation to consumers at a fair price.