Switch puts you in control of your powerADAM ROBERTS
Given how useless I am at this whole "being an adult thing", I'm always surprised at returning home from work every day to find an intact flat, rather than a smouldering wreck.
I've had close calls before.
One time I had to text a friend from a wedding ceremony to get them to check I hadn't left the iron on. I had, so that worked out pretty well, all things considered.
Examples like this make me hope for a move to the automated home of the future.
Considering our species' innate laziness, I'm really shocked we're not already controlling everything remotely.
Devices which connect to the internet are becoming more common, but we're far away from the point when we'll have wi-fi enabled dishwashers and toasters with their own Twitter account.
But there is technology out there that allows any device or appliance to have a (basic) connection to the internet.
Belkin recently sent me their WeMo Switch + Motion kit to test out.
The device is essentially a wi-fi enabled power point, allowing you to flick the switch on a connected device remotely, from wherever you are.
Set-up is simple.
Plug the WeMo Switch into a socket, download the app, pair your iPhone or Android device with the WeMo over wi-fi and give it your wi-fi network details so it can access the web.
Once you do that, you can control it from your network, or anywhere you have a data connection (so, basically anywhere in the world).
You have to do that with every WeMo unit, but then from there everything is controlled with the app.
The fun part is coming up with innovative ways to use these new abilities.
You can either toggle the devices on yourself, or set up rules, so that a light always goes on at a certain time.
You can do things like set up a slow cooker for dinner and then turn it on from work so that it is ready when you get home.
Or connect a WeMo to the power point which controls your power hungry stereo amp, so you can make sure it is switched off while you're away from the house.
The idea is that the switch will save time and money, as you control your devices with your phone's dashboard.
The first night I turned my electric blanket on from my lounge, I felt like a god.
But then I realised that the small size of my flat meant I had saved myself from a 30-second trip.
That advantage quickly decreases when you factor in the 10 seconds it took me to find and open the app to turn the electric blanket on, and then the 30 seconds it took me to go and have a look at the blanket to see whether it had all worked. Overall, I'm down 10 seconds.
The pack also came with a WeMo Motion Sensor, which I set up to activate when I returned home, turning on a dehumidifier and heater.
But the built-in functions are only half the story.
The WeMo also hooks into my favourite automation service, If This Then That, meaning you can do things like have a heater turn on if a temperature drops to a certain level, or have a light turn on at sundown.
You can also - in a slightly hacky way - use Siri to turn on a device, which is a pretty cool little trick.
Or you can make the sensor a security device, either turning on a light, or sending you a text message, when it senses motion.
The possibilities are not quite endless, but they're getting there.
Now, some caveats.
Firstly, it's not super cheap.
The WeMo costs $80 on the Apple site, though you can probably find it cheaper elsewhere, but to get the best value out of the system you'll definitely need more than one.
Once you've got them, you have to contend with a slightly bulky design, meaning it can be difficult to fit it next to other devices in a multi-plug situation.
It would be better if the unit was shaped so it kept to the profile of the plug, rather than spreading to the sides.
There are also some logistical challenges.
Everything connected to the WeMo is turned on when you flick the switch on your iPhone or Android.
So you can turn on your electric blanket and your Star Wars lamp (if you have one of those, I mean, just hypothetically), but if you then want to keep the lamp on but turn off the blanket, you have to do things the old-fashioned way.
Then the next time you try to turn the whole lot on again, only the lamp will turn on (because the electric blanket is switched off).
Also annoying, the WeMo has its own light, which you can't turn off. If you prefer sleeping in complete darkness you'll have to unplug it.
So the overall WeMo experience, while amazingly useful in terms of saving you time and energy, does bring its own set of problems, albeit problems you'd be embarrassed to discuss in public.
That said, it is an impressive first step in the quest for a perfect home automation system.
Even if all it does is prevent you from burning down your home, that's still a pretty good deal.