To further Operation Automation I picked up a Belkin WeMo switch and sensor. The idea was to tie it to the LED strip I’ve been using to light the top of my kitchen cupboards. The LED strip itself is a cheap effort from eBay, capable of doing very bright, mostly tacky colours. Without the motion sensor you either use the wall switch or the remote that comes with the strip kit. The setup worked fine but losing the remote was a risk of major annoyance. The setup has the sensor itself sitting on the bookshelf where my speakers are. It’s angled so that anyone entering the room, regardless of which door, triggers it. From there it flicks the switch connected to the LED strip on the other side of the room and leaves the light on for 5 minutes. The sensor is set to trigger this from sunset to 8am, by which time everyone is out of the house. As a proof-of-concept arrangement it now works fine, so I’m having some more power sockets installed above the cupboards so that the cabling can be hidden.

A few things to note:

  • the power cable and brick that came with the LED strip are not awesome. The plug does not sit flush with the connection, which lead me to accidentally knocking the cable half out a few times with alarming electric buzzing sounds as I did so. To remedy this I just used an existing PC power cable I had lying around, but this lead to unintentional trouble with the lights not switching on and off reliably (for a while there I thought the default “on” setting for the LED strip was “all off” until the remote was used, but this isn’t the case – it retains its last setting when the correct power cable is used…).
  • I also had trouble with the WeMo app. On my iPhone 5S, no matter what I did, I could not get the devices to show up. Using my old iPad 2 (same IOS version) they appeared immediately. I’m still not sure what the deal is with that… but once available, setting the rules for the devices via the app was a breeze.
  • Also, direct sunlight will affect the sensor as you’d expect, and it struggles to see things through glass (also as you’d expect). I lot of the pictures I’ve seen have the sensor on the floor, where mine is about 1.2 metres above the ground and it works well enough
  • The Belkin units that plug into the power sockets are chunky. Once will crowd a two-plug socket so that you can’t fit anything else next to it. Or, if there’s limited space above the socket, you may have trouble.

My original plan was to use this gear for this season’s Christmas lighting which may well still happen. I should also point out that for the cost of the WeMo kit and the LED strip you could buy a Philips hue strip, although you wouldn’t have the room-level control. The light the hue strip must be far superior to my LED, but it’s also 3 metres shorter. At the moment I use the geofencing feature on my hue collection and it works fine – my lights are on when I arrive and switch off when I leave. The Belkin gizmos let me fine tune things from there.