By Dan Moren
May 25, 2017 6:20 AM PT
Belkin adding HomeKit support via WeMo Bridge
Belkin’s WeMo smart home accessories are popular because they’re fairly inexpensive, easy to use, and have been around for a while. But they’ve been missing one significant feature: compatibility with Apple’s HomeKit standard. Belkin initially said that making its existing devices compatible with Apple’s protocol would be impractical, but it appears to have backtracked, announcing today that it will launch a WeMo Bridge in the fall to add HomeKit support to existing and future devices.
The WeMo Bridge is a box that plugs in to your router via Ethernet and translates HomeKit commands into actions that WeMo devices can understand. It works with existing Belkin devices including the Insight Smart Plug (of which I have one), the Light Switch, Dimmer, and the Mini Smart Plug. Pricing has yet to be announced.
This is good news, but I hesitate to be wholehearted in my endorsement. If you have a heavy investment in WeMo devices and have wanted to use them with Siri, then obviously this is probably a worthwhile investment. However, if you only have a few WeMo devices, this becomes a harder sell. For one thing, depending on the price of the WeMo Bridge, it may be less costly to replace existing WeMo devices with HomeKit compatible alternatives.1 For another, who wants another box cluttering up their home–especially one that requires an Ethernet connection?
And there we get into the continued rub of smart home tech. With all these different devices and protocols, having bridges for each of them is just not scalable. I’m already out of Ethernet ports on my router as it is, and routers are shipping with fewer Ethernet ports these days.2
Given the varying standards being pushed, it seems unlikely that any of the companies backing them are going to swallow their pride and give up their own offering to sign on with one of the other major players. Apple, in particular, has–unsurprisingly–pretty strict requirements for HomeKit-compatible devices. To a certain degree, it’s up to the vendors of smart home tech to make their devices compatible with multiple protocols (if they’re interested in appealing to the broadest possible audience, that is). What Belkin’s move does show us is that despite the company’s initial objection that HomeKit support wouldn’t be feasible, there was enough of a potential market there that it ended up being worth the investment.
Of course, this also lends credence to the idea that an Apple home-automation product might be appearing sooner rather than later. It makes sense that companies would want to jump on the HomeKit train before it pulls into the station.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]
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