Yes and no – mostly no

Going to be very hard to keep this one under 500 words!

Want to play with IoT? If you are a geek, it’s somewhat easy, there are lots of things to mash-up and make it connected and ‘smart’.
If you are the common man, it’s a bit harder.

Belkin is a company that has been making Wifi enabled power outlets for a while. I have 2 of them at my house. They are Okish. Nothing flash. Not cheap, not reliable, and no way to use them outside of their mobile device app (I had to hack their command protocol to make them work with Opto – more on this in a moment).

IFTTT is a software company that makes connections to other companies and allows you to build ‘rules’ to connect the stuff together.
For example, I have a rule that says, when I post a picture to Instagram, take that picture and post it to my Tumblr account.
It does it automatically in the background for me. (Oh, and because I have their free account, it can take anywhere from 2 seconds to 15 minutes for that rule to fire – its random when it happens – that’s the cost of free).

So Belkin now makes a device that connects their power switches to IFTTT.
They issued a press release about it back on Nov 13th (I am blogging about it on the same day, but this blog is not going to be scheduled to be published for a few weeks – no matter, its a timeless subject).

Here it is;

This new product empowers DIYers to create their own custom WeMo setup, the possibilities truly seem endless.

From a software standpoint, everything about the Belkin WeMo Maker is still based out of the familiar iOS and Android app. The WeMo Maker can connect to most devices that are controlled by a low-voltage DC switch, commonly found in American homes. From there, it can be setup to control the functions of the device via the WeMo app.

It can consume data from a variety of different collection points, from the hardware side of things it can accept data from 5 volt sensors. This allows for the WeMo Maker to be manipulated based on a variety of sources, such as rain or moisture levels or temperature, motion and light as well. Additionally, it can call upon If This Then That (IFTTT) capability allowing for variety of things to happen based on other actions in the world.

For me its DOA. Dead On Arrival.
Humans are more complex than the rules IFTTT allow (at this stage).
The rules are very hard and fast, for example, you can only really say ‘if this, then that’. So, if Instagram picture, then Tumblr post’.
That’s it.
What if I want to say, Only post the picture to Tumblr if the Instagram photo has a #smartcar or #moto360 hashtag? Nup. Too complex.
Or, another real example; my boss Benson uses IFTTT a lot, he wanted to have the weather come to his phone each morning, but since we live in SoCal, only if there was rain forecast.
Easy right?
We jumped into IFTTT and said, if morning, get weather, send to phone.
Done. Then we looked for the rule that said ‘if rain forecast, run rule’.
They just can’t handle the complexity of human life.
Add to all that the fact that most people are only going to have the free version of IFTTT, so if you want to turn the lights on with the Wemo Maker? Yeah, anywhere from seconds to minutes before they turn on……

I have tried to use their system as well, I really have, but since they don’t have a simple ‘or’ or ‘and’ rule, nor can you cascade rules, I just cant…..
If its 4pm and there is rain forecast, send me a text. Nup.
If its before sunrise and I go for a run, when I get back, turn on the lights. Nup.
Anyway, you get the point.

So. Dear old Belkin and their new toy? It’s just that….A toy.
Does it open the door for IoT for the common man? ‘Yes’, but they will soon get ticked off with IoT because Belkin has failed them, but the common man will not make that jump but rather think its IoT that has failed.
So I have really mixed feelings about it.
(Also, don’t get me started about how their new toy only works with their app and they have not made a way for me to easily have my way with it).

Ok, 608 words. I left out a LOT of thoughts I have on this one.
Enough for now.

EDIT. Wemo answered my Tweet asking about their API.
(Remember, an API is a published way to access a device or data set and interact with it).
I’m not a lawyer, but in reading the page they linked to, I get the feeling that its not very open or friendly…. But, that said, at least they do have some way to offer some sort of interaction.
FWIW I won’t be applying for access… If I need to have my way with the new device, I will look at hacking it.
Lastly, its a solid NO for me because it HAS to use their cloud to work. In other words, every command using this API has to go through their cloud from my device to their Maker device.
If my net goes down, do does their device and thus my device thats plugged into it.
This right here is why I figured out how to talk directly from my device to their device, and not via anyones cloud…. Its fast and direct, and I can make my own rules as to when it turns on or off.

808 words. I give in.