Thursday, September 28, 2023

Belkin Wemo’s New Smart Dimmer Switch with Thread is Exclusive to Apple’s HomeKit

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Wemo, Belkin’s smart home arm, announced an updated version of its in-wall dimmer switch this week. The new Wemo Smart Dimmer with Wire ($59.99) is a wired smart switch that lets you dim and turn lights on and off remotely. It works exclusively with Apple’s HomeKit platform via Thread or Bluetooth and is available now on Belkin’s web store (coming soon). Amazon).

This HomeKit focus follows a recent trend for the company, whose last few products — the Wemo Stage Scene Controller, smart plug, and video doorbell — only work with Apple’s smart home platform. This means that the new Switch will exclusively use the Apple Home app (and not the Wemo app) and will work with Siri for voice control.

Despite using Thread, the main wireless protocol for Matter, and after it publicly announced it would be launching a new one Matter-ready devices this summerWemo says the Smart Dimmer won’t be upgraded to support the upcoming smart home standard.

“As of now, the Wired Dimmer cannot be upgraded to Matter via firmware update when the new standard launches later this year,” Cassie Pineda, a Belkin spokesperson, told IPS. The edge in an email. “When Matter launches later this year, we will bring new switches/dimmers to market that support Matter over Thread.”

While it may seem redundant to release two nearly identical versions of the same product in the same year, Pineda said the rationale is that the dimmer launching today supports HomeKit over Thread, “giving consumers a more responsive, reliable and secure smart home experience.” without the hassle of third-party apps,” she said. Matter’s delay (originally scheduled for this summer) may also have contributed to this split ecosystem.

The new $60 Wemo Smart Dimmer Switch works with Apple’s HomeKit.
Image: Belkin

The new Smart Dimmer does not replace the current Wemo Smart Dimmer Switch, which is still available and works over WiFi. That’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit and costs only about $40.

The biggest change with the new version, which is exclusive to Apple’s platform, is the use of Thread instead of Wi-Fi for connectivity. Thread is a wireless protocol specially developed for smart home devices; it is designed to be faster, more reliable and use less power than Wi-Fi.

Since the Smart Dimmer uses HomeKit over Thread, you’ll need an Apple HomePod Mini or Apple TV 4K (2nd generation) to act as a Thread border router for the Switch. An upcoming update to Thread will open up border routers from different manufacturers to work together, but the Wemo Switch can only work with Apple’s border routers.

If you don’t have a Mini or newer Apple TV, you can still use the Smart Dimmer via Bluetooth. All you need for this is an iPhone for local control and an Apple Home hub (either an iPad or any model of Apple TV or HomePod) if you want to control the switch when you’re away from home and set up automations in the Home app.

In addition to Thread and Bluetooth, the Smart Dimmer also has NFC technology for a faster, tap-to-pair setup.

The new dimmer has two buttons to dim the lighting.
Image: Belkin

A wired switch, the dimmer fits in a flush-mounted box.
Image: Belkin Wemo

A wired switch, the Smart Dimmer works with or without a neutral wire, making it compatible with both newer and older homes. There are only a few smart switches that work without a neutral wire: GE Lighting’s Lutron Caseta, Leviton, Aqara, and Cync offer some of the more familiar options.

Wemo’s Smart Dimmer is not compatible with three-way switches (lamps controlled by switches from two locations). It can only replace single-pole switches (Wemo does sell a Wi-Fi three-way smart switch). It can be combined with the Wemo Stage Scene Controller to create a virtual three-way configuration. Wemo says the switch has flicker-free technology, so it works with both standard and dimmable bulbs without creating a flickering effect at lower light levels.

While it’s good to see more Thread products coming to the smart home, launching new Thread devices that don’t upgrade to Matter today and then promise the same device will come with Matter support later this year will cause confusion. . Confusion in the smart home is one of the most important things Matter should solve.

The main takeaway here is that Wemo’s new Smart Dimmer is designed for those who are all-in on Apple’s HomeKit and have no plans to try any other smart home platform. If you plan to use Matter in your smart home – which carries the promise of controlling your home with multiple platforms if you want – wait for the next version.

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