To Wemo or not to Wemo: the making of a verb with Belkin

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Can a product become more than just a gadget, and can it become a word? That’s what Belkin’s CEO Chet Pipkin is hoping for if more people take up its home automation solution Wemo.

Belkin’s Chet Pipkin doesn’t have the same air about him that other executives have. He’s not cheesy, he’s not fake, and he’s not trying hard to get us to like him.

Instead, he’s sitting on a couch in a small restaurant opposite the water on a surprisingly warm day in Sydney, dressed a little more casually than most owners of companies that we normally see.

And he speaks candidly about the future of his business, and why it’s not just in making the cables, accessories, peripherals, and the random nicknacks that Belkin has predominantly been known for.

He’s talking about why the future of his company is in home automation.

The product he’s talking about is the Wemo, Belkin’s answer to a plug and play world that can take your home and basically put it on the network.

It’s a new category, and it’s one that Belkin is helping to shape, together with the hacking and tinkering community of the world, as it finds new and innovative ways to turn the regular homestead into the home from The Jetsons, minus Rosie, at least for the moment, anyway.

In this example today, your home and its lights and appliances are all little computers, and Belkin’s Wemo is the interface to make these bits and pieces light up, switch on, and be controlled from when you’re at home, and when you’re not.

Imagine walking into your home and having the lights switch on when it’s dark outside. No more fumbling awkwardly for the light switch, with the hall and living room lights switching on when you’re home.

You make your way to the kitchen and there’s food cooking already: the lamb roast you left in the slow cooker is going from when you switched it on half way through the course of the day, and will be ready in an hour when the significant other comes home.

“These are experiences that people want to have that are near and dear to them,” says Pipkin, telling GadgetGuy that Wemo’s development has been close to five or six years of experimentation, of learning what people like and would want to use home automation for in their lives, and applying it in a way that makes sense and is easy for anyone to use. Not the guy with the tool belt and sparky license, but anyone.

You, me, him, her; anyone.

“Is it possible for me to come home to a lit house?” asks Pipkin. “Is it possible for me to have my lawn getting watered when it needs it, but not automatically when it’s raining?”

“These are just intrinsic things that we as people wanted to do,” he says, referring to how Belkin’s Wemo can be connected to services such as IFTTT, also known as “IF This Then That,” which allows you to trigger rules to make Wemo do different things, such as respond to weather forecasts and switch on the lights or sprinkler system for you, or anything that a Wemo can be connected to.

But that last part is an important observation, because a Wemo can be connected to lots of things, and with the impending and upcoming release of the Wemo Maker, that’s an even more truthful statement.

Previously, Wemo devices were limited to specific elements of the home, with lights and power switches being the main things that could be Wemofied (our word).

With the Wemo Maker, any gadget can be turned to a wireless controlled Wemo product, though you may need to bring some of those skills from home, since it will require a few more plugs than just the regular plug port.

Using this product, Chet talks about being able to Wemo things, and uses his company’s gadget like a verb, which we notice quickly and pounce upon, asking if it’s a name he’d like to see used as a word, like when someone says “Google” when they actually mean “search.”

“We think it helps it,” he says, adding that “it gives people a tool [and] an easy way to talk about this.”

“The key for us now is to educate people that there is a solution and an answer,” says Chet about home automation, and how easy it can be.

“It’ll be a huge challenge getting the word out.”