CES 2020 Home Automation

Behold the Wemo React. It Controls Nothing—It Just…Reacts.

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).

Behold the Wemo React. It Controls Nothing—It Just...Reacts.
This is not a smart plug. It’s a sensor.

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. Insteon’s dimmer module, 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?

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About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard Gunther

Richard is a digital technology consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.