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Prying Eyes: The highly integrated WeMo Switch

24 Nov 2015  | Brian Dipert

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At top is the aforementioned factory-reset switch. To the left of it is the PCB-etched Wi-Fi antenna. At the bottom is a five-pin connector and cable, which interconnects the two PCBs. And in-between them at the PCB's center is its processing "heart," Ralink's MIPS-based RT5350 Wi-Fi SoC. The RT5350 is also found in 802.11b/g routers, access points, and the like ... the value of its routing capabilities becomes understandable when you understand how the WeMo Switch is initially configured.

If you haven't already noticed, the WeMo Switch doesn't include an Ethernet port, USB interface, or other system connection. How then do you initially configure it with your Wi-Fi network's SSID, encryption key, and other parameters? As is the case with Google's Chromecast, the WeMo Switch initially creates its own private Wi-Fi network, which the configuring Android or iOS device temporarily connects to. Via the configuration utility, the desired end Wi-Fi network attributes are sent to the WeMo Switch, which then reboots to complete the setup process.

Here's a closeup of one side of the power PCB:

Remove two screws from the power PCB, along with loosening two retaining clips holding the digital PCB in place, and the two-board assembly lifts away.

Let's first look more closely at the underside of the power PCB:

The HF3FA relay switches the "live" wire of the three-prong AC outlet set; the ground and neutral connections pass through the input-to-output chain unaltered.

Finally, let's look at the underside of the digital PCB:

Near the bottom is the switch used to manually switch the output outlet via the front-panel button. Above and to the right of it is an Etron Technology EM63A165TS (PDF) 256 Mbit 166 MHz SDRAM. And at the top is a Macronix MX25L12835EMI serial NOR flash memory.

As is the case with many consumer electronics devices, the hardware implementation is highly integrated and low cost from a bill-of-materials standpoint. Given that the product ASP is $49.99, Belkin is presumably making a decent profit margin on a per-unit basis. Unknown, however, is how much it cost the company to develop the WeMo Switch and its product line companions, as well as the costs of maintaining the WeMo "cloud" server infrastructure that supports both initial device activation and ongoing WAN access.

About the author
Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Embedded Vision Alliance. He is also a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company's online newsletter. And he's an off-hours freelancer as the Principal at Sierra Media, where he contributes to (among other things) the Brian's Brain blog at EDN Magazine. Brian has a BSEE from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. His professional career began at Magnavox Electronics Systems in Fort Wayne, IN, where he worked for an aggregate 2.5 years as a co-op engineer. Brian subsequently spent eight years at Intel Corporation in Folsom, CA, holding a variety of roles in the company's nonvolatile memory group. During this time, Brian also authored and co-authored four technical reference guides published by Annabooks Press. He then spent 14 years (and five months) at EDN Magazine; at the conclusion of his career there, he was the senior technical editor covering consumer electronics-targeted ICs, software and sub-systems.

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