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Belkin takes a stab at home automation

Home automation products have been featured at CES, well, ever since there was a CES. I’ve seen all sorts of products like the X-10 modules that turned appliances on and off and dimmed lights and the Insteon system of switches, dimmers and even sprinkler controllers.

These early lines of product have their place — back in the eighties I had about a dozen X-10 modules all over my house — but aside from geeks like me, most people didn’t bother to adapt the technology even though it was affordable and easy to find at Radio Shack.

At CES we’re seeing a number of home automation products that take advantage of the near-ubiquity of WiFi to move data around the house and  smart phones and tablets as controllers.

I spent some time at the Belkin booth looking at their new WeMo line of modular home automation modules. These products are still in development, but they’re quite promising. The devices, which require that you have a home WiFi network, can be used to turn appliances on and off, let you know if you left your garage door open (and let you close it) or respond to motion in the room.

Each device communicates to the Internet via WiFi and can be controlled via any iOS device (the company is also developing Android software) from anywhere on the planet.  A company spokesperson told me that modules can also be programmed to turn on and off at specific times or after a specific amount of time. I’m hoping I can use a module to turn off my Foreman grill after, say, 10 minutes so I stop burning my panini sandwiches.

WeMo wall plug modules will be available in March for $49.99 each. Motion sensors will cost $59.99. No other controllers are necessary as long as you have a home WiFi network.

Belkin expects to launch additional devices over time.

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