Is the Belkin WeMo-enabled ‘smart’ Crock-Pot worth it?

Belkin WeMo-enabled "smart" Crock-Pot

Belkin’s WeMo-enabled “smart” Crock-Pot is a great slow cooker. But are the connected features worth it?

Ever since I installed the Nest Learning Thermostat and saw the benefits of it in regards to making my home more comfortable, I have gone on a bit of a mission to make my house as “smart” as I can. This has amounted to me incorporating many connected devices over the last few years and has, for the most part, changed the way my family and I live.

But not all connected devices are needed or even make sense. While I love my Kevo smart lock, Nest thermostat and WeMo light switches and power adapters (and was recently blown away by the new Sonos PLAY:5 music system), items like the iKettle, Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew coffee maker and the Baidu Kuaisou “smart chopsticks” confuse me.

RELATED: A look at Belkin’s WeMo Switch (and who should be using it)

Take the coffee maker – besides being able to turn it on via an app on your phone you still need to clean it and put the ground coffee and water in the machine before you can brew a pot. Having it connected only replaces the need to set a timer, which every coffee maker can do. Not really that smart in my opinion.

This brings me to Belkin’s WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot I was sent to test a few weeks ago. In theory it’s a great concept, but the features it currently has don’t quite make it a must-have device.

First and foremost, the WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot is a great slow cooker. With three temperature settings and a 6-quart dish it can cook all your favourite slow cooker recipes to perfection. Not much of a surprise really since it is an official Crock-Pot appliance.

Connecting it to WiFi gives you the option to adjust the temperature remotely via the WeMo app, turn the unit off and be alerted when your meal is ready. What it can’t do is keep your food chilled so that you can add all your ingredients and turn it on at a later time and it also can’t stir your food.

WeMo Crock-Pot app

The WeMo app lets you adjust the cooking temperature of the Crock-Pot and will alert you when your meal is ready.

If all you want is a functional slow cooker with the ability to adjust the cooking temperature from another room and be alerted when your food is ready, then the Belkin WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot is for you. If you’re looking for something truly “smart” and groundbreaking, wait until an appliance with the features I mentioned comes along.

Belkin’s WeMo-enabled “smart” Crock-Pot retails for around $159.99 Canadian. Visit crock-pot.ca for more information.

Share your thoughts on connected devices (and your slow cooker recipes) in the comments below.

It’s time to stop throwing away our phones!

Phonebloks

Dave Hakkens is a genius. If the world is looking to find the next Steve Jobs, he’s our man. Dave sees that most people throw their smartphones away usually because of one thing. Not enough storage. Camera is outdated. Not the latest this and that. The problem of course is that with billions of smartphones in the world, the e-waste is starting to pile up. And it’s only going to get worse as new devices are released every other month it seems. So Dave has envisioned Phonebloks; a revolutionary idea for a smartphone that wouldn’t need to be thrown away. A smartphone made out of interchangeable blocks that you could modify to fit your needs. It’s brilliant and could just be the next big thing.

Say you prefer to use your DSLR for photos. Then you could downgrade or remove the camera block on the phone and add a bigger storage block. Store everything in the cloud? Shrink the storage block and add a bigger battery block. The idea is that if something breaks or becomes outdated, you could just swap that part out and minimize the amount of junk you contribute to the world. And in the process it would give us all what we truly want — a fully customizable device. If companies don’t get behind this they’re just throwing money away (I see “bloks” becoming as popular as “apps” in a few years).

This is all just a dream for Dave so far and nothing has been built or funded. But he’s trying to get people to support it. Not by asking for money, but by creating a Thunderclap of supporters that will be unleashed on the world on October 29. He’s hoping to have 750,00 people signed up by then (he’s 98% there now) so that the world will take notice that we need “a phone worth keeping”.

Check out the video about Phonebloks below and let me know what you think. Is this something you’d get behind? Think it’s a good idea? Share your thoughts in the comments, drop me an email at brian@bamcat.com or Tweet me @bamcat.

A look at Belkin’s WeMo Switch (and who should be using it)

Belkin's WeMo Switch

Belkin’s WeMo line offers some amazing, easy-to-use home automation products that can be controlled via apps for both Android and iOS devices. I was sent a plug-in style WeMo Switch to test a few months ago and was so impressed with its capabilities that I immediately purchased a second one for another room in the house.

Setting up the WeMo Switch is as easy as plugging it into the wall, connecting it to your Wi-Fi via the free app and then deciding what you want to control with it. I went with a lamp in my living room with the thought that if I’m out at night I can turn it on and not come home to a dark house (and also make it look someone is home). This led me to think about all the other great scenarios the WeMo Switch could be used for and the types of people it would benefit most.

Parents

If your kids are anything like mine, they want to fall asleep with a light on. That’s fine, except that they don’t get a proper sleep if there’s too much light in the room for the entire night. This means I usually end up going into their room to turn the light off after they’ve fallen asleep. Try that with a baby and see how long it takes before they’re wailing from the littlest noise you make. With the WeMo Switch a parent can turn on/off a lamp without ever having to go near the bedroom. It should be on the top of every new parents gift registry in my opinion. Belkin also sells an HD Wi-Fi Camera (with Night Vision) that can be used to see (via an app) if your little one might still need the light on before you turn it off (the camera also acts as a great baby monitor as you can listen to the room via the app as well).

Travellers

Using a regular timer for your lights when you’re away on vacation is not the best option these days. People watch your house and can figure things out fairly quickly. And if the power goes out, well your timers usually fail. With devices connected to a WeMo Switch you can turn things on and off when you choose, making it look more natural that someone is home. I had my stereo on a WeMo while away this summer and every night I’d turn it on for a bit so there was sound in the house along with the lights. And if the power does go out, the WeMo will come back online when your router does. You can also set a rule for the WeMo so if you forget to turn it on or off it will act as a timer as well. Belkin also has a WeMo Wall Switch that takes it up a notch and allows you to control your exterior or ceiling lights.

Real Estate Professionals

When you’re selling a house you want it to look spectacular with each showing. This usually means leaving all the lights on in the house for an entire day. With hydro rates where they are this is not the best method (especially if your clients are energy-conscious). Wouldn’t it be great if you (or your assistant) could control the lights of your listings from your office/car/favourite coffee shop? For a small upfront investment this would definitely leave an impression with your clients and will most likely get them talking about it with their peers, in turn giving you a better endorsement than just “Yeah, they sold my house.” This is also good if you’re working with a vacant home. Even if the house has no Internet you could set the WeMo’s up with rules to manually turn on and off lights/devices at specific times. And don’t worry about getting confused what’s connected to what. The WeMo app allows you to name each adapter so you know that 123 Main St. Living Room will turn on the living room light at 123 Main St.

Scaredy Cats

My basement doesn’t have any lights you can turn on and off with a wall switch. This means that whenever someone ventures down into it they need to cross the room in the dark (usually tripping over toys, weights, and other random basement things) to turn a light on. With the WeMo Switch I can use my iPhone to turn the lights on and not have to worry about breaking my neck. And my kids can go down there without me having to do the danger dance for them first. As an added bonus, Belkin has a motion sensor you can add to the WeMo Switch so that if someone needs to run down quickly to get something the lights will automatically come on and go off when they get back upstairs.

Gadget Geeks

This is a no-brainer, but if you’re a gadget geek the entire WeMo line is for you. Do you know how cool it is to show your friends that you can turn on and off lights with your phone? As a self-proclaimed gadget geek I’ll tell you, it’s very cool! Even better than lights is controlling other devices. Putting your computer or TV on a WeMo so it powers down completely overnight to save some energy is a huge bonus.

No device is perfect of course, and since the WeMo relies heavily on Wi-Fi if something goes wrong with your Internet connection your WeMo won’t work the way it should. There’s also some debate over the amount of energy they use and whether they do help you conserve or not. Another thing to keep in mind is that with the plug-in style WeMo Switch if someone manually turns off a light or device attached to it the WeMo won’t be able to turn it back on (this happened with someone watching our house during vacation and when we got home our light was off even though the WeMo was on).

The Belkin WeMo Switch retails for around $49.99 CDN and is available at most major electronic stores. For more information on Belkin’s full WeMo line, visit belkin.com.

Do you have a WeMo or similar device? Let me know how you use it if so. Leave a comment below, drop me an email at brian@bamcat.com or Tweet me @bamcat.