CES saw the launch of several new devices in the Wemo brand of smart home products. These included a refined mini plug that’s, frankly, the smallest smart plug we’ve ever seen for North American outlets. We also saw a nice scene controller with up to six actions (press and long-press in three “button” positions).
What didn’t get a lot of attention is a device that has us scratching our heads a bit. The Wemo React shares the tiny form factor of the new Wemo Mini Switch, except it’s not a smart plug. Instead, it acts like a sensor, reacting to when you turn on any load (like a lamp) plugged into it. With Wemo’s app or through HomeKit automation or Alexa routines, you can use that activity as a trigger to automate something else. So maybe turning on a side table lamp in the living room turns on the rest of the living room lights. Or turning off a nightstand lamp could initiate a “good night” routine.
The Head Scratcher
So what has us so flummoxed here? It’s that the plug can’t also be used to control the connected lamp or load. The presumption is that you’d want to use some device as a catalyst to trigger other devices but you wouldn’t want to control that device itself for any reason. That makes no sense to us. Sure, it’s great that you can sense the load status, but why not build that into the smart plug? Why create a separate product that can do that and only that?
Other product manufacturers offer this capability already. [amazon_link id=”B003IHTZDU” target=”_blank”]Insteon’s dimmer module[/amazon_link], for example, can sense load, turn on the connected lamp, and consequently turn on everything else included in an associated scene. It’s a valuable feature. We’re just not so sure how valuable it is only on its own—particularly since Wemo’s model forces you to choose control or sense. You can’t have both. We believe you should have both.
Wemo plans to roll out the React module this Spring with its other new products. The expected list price will be about $15. Our suggestion: hold back on this product and integrate its capabilities into a revision of the new mini. The new mini is expected to cost about $25, but wouldn’t it be worth a little bit more if it could also sense the load?