Kitchen 372

    Published on February 24th, 2015 | by Greg


    Home Automation In The Kitchen: WeMo Crock-Pot And Coffeemaker

    Home automation is a catch-all term that has come to mean anything from individually-controlled lightbulbs to whole-house security systems. Some folks touch their toes gently into the category with smart locks, and others just want automated blinds. We’ve seen a wide range of products that use the term from the office to the bedroom. But one place that hasn’t yet joined our connected lifestyle is the kitchen.

    Belkin aims to change that, with their WeMo line of gear- it includes everything from the aforementioned lightbulbs to some solid switches, sensors, and outlets. But the most interesting parts of the lineup to us were the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo and the Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew Coffeemaker with WeMo. We’ll start slow and get perky, but the basic WeMo concept boils down to allowing regular folks a simple and effective way to create “rules” and schemas that help control the appliances around you, as well as give you the ability to control them from afar. With IFTTT- if this then that- it takes only a few buttons clicks to setup instructions like “if my alarm goes off, then slowly brighten the lights and start making a pot of coffee”.

    You might be wondering in what world you’d need your Crock-Pot to include fancy automation. That’s a reasonable worry- after all, the real value is that you can “set it and forget it”, leaving your one-pot meals to simmer for quite some time. This six-quart slow cooker has three temperature settings, with a classic stainless steel body and a glass lid and stoneware interior that are both machine-washable. When your timer goes off, it will switch to warming mode, keeping your food ready for serving. From soups to roasts, corned beef hash to chili con carne, the Crock-Pot with WeMo is a great way to prepare and serve a party- we used it during last night’s Academy Awards and didn’t need to worry about finding a way to keep our from getting cold. The real value of including the WeMo functionality came one night when we weren’t sure about dinner timing- we could leave everything in the pot at a low temperature, and then switch to a higher one a while before we were heading back, pressing a button when confident in our arrival time. Granted, it’s a fairly specific use-case, and won’t be for everyone, but if you’re already in need of a Crock-Pot then there’s really no reason not to spend just a little more for the extra utility.

    On the same note, the Mr. Coffee Smart Coffeemaker is pretty similar to it’s non-WeMo-enabled counterpart but you’ll find yourself enjoying the ability to brew a pot without getting out of bed. It takes a little bit of preparation of course, making sure you have everything ready to go, coffee ground in the filter and the water reservoir filled. But the WeMo app (available for Android and iOS devices) makes it easy to schedule, monitor, and modify your brew from anywhere. You’re probably not going to need to check in on your coffee from across town, but we did find ourselves appreciating the ability to remotely brew a fresh, hot pot of java for when we got to the office, even if schedules changed. The machine itself is solid- the water used is an optimal temperature (205 degrees) and it brews quickly, making a full pot of coffee in about eight minutes. The double-walled, vacuum-insulated carafe is excellent, though the reservoir is a little small considering the footprint of the machine- it’s pretty big and a little commercial-looking. We did miss being able to modify brew times or control settings- there aren’t any options, either on the machine’s control panel or via the app.

    Overall, your life probably doesn’t require WeMo. Home automation still has yet to catch on amongst plenty of consumers, who tend to be intimidated by the various protocols and multiple systems out there. And while we love Z-wave and Zigbee, we definitely approve of Belkin’s unique approach, aiming straight for the heart of the home with items that are exclusive. The app is perfectly adequate, and easy on the eyes, though is a bit focused on the other parts of the line so overkill if you’re simply trying to turn your coffeemaker on. Belkin has set a new bar for appliances though- where a connected fridge always has a large price premium over others, the WeMo line don’t cost much more than their non-connected brethren. At first, having the Internet of Things play nice with your kitchen appliances might seem a little bit silly or extravagant- but it’s funny how quickly you’ll get used to having a different type of control. Available online and in stores- the Mr. Coffee for around $140 and the Crock-Pot for around $130.

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    About the Author

    Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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