Wemo Stage smart home switch finally gets Thread: Why it matters

In April 2021, Belkin released Wemo Stage Scene Controller, a smart home device that can be mounted on a wall like a switch and, when needed, popped free from its case for use as a portable remote control. As its name suggests, Stage is an IoT device intended to control smart home "scenes," which are sometimes referred to as automations or routines.

Wemo Stage works with Apple's HomeKit to make one's smart home setup a bit more robust. Up to six HomeKit scenes can be activated using this controller, eliminating the need to, for example, retrieve one's smartphone or tablet, open a smart home app, and toggle between scenes within it.

In place of an app, someone who lives in a smart home can, for example, simply press Stage in its wall-mounted plate to switch to a different lighting scene — perhaps one tailored for movie night. Alternatively, Stage can be popped free from its wall plate and carried to different rooms, making it just about as convenient as possible.

Stage controller gets Thread

Earlier this month during CES 2022, Belkin revealed plans to add Thread support to its Wemo Stage controller via a future firmware update. Thread is, put simply, a type of mesh network that enables compatible IoT devices to directly communicate with each other.

This direct communication eliminates the need for smart home devices to "talk" with a separate bridge or hub, moving the products off the home's primary WiFi network while enabling each IoT device to, Belkin explains, operates as its own "mini router." This, in turn, eliminates the need for things like a WiFi bridge in a large home while making the overall communication between devices more reliable and faster.

As we noted in our Wemo Stage review, the lack of Thread support has been a problem for this controller. Range issues mean the remote can, at times, fail to trigger the actions you want, at which point you'll have to pull out your phone and use the app to turn a scene on or off. The time between pressing the controller's button and actual changes in one's IoT scene was also noticeably slow.

Thread support will, hopefully, address Stage's persistent connectivity issues, making it easier to control devices even if they're located on a different floor or behind multiple walls. Stage is effectively an endpoint (meaning it doesn't have its own networking capabilities) on a Thread mesh network, but users will still likely find, if nothing else, that the rate at which smart home devices respond to the remote control will speed up while battery usage will decrease.

The Stage firmware update with Thread support started rolling out to some users in early January 2022 (via HomeKit Authority), though Belkin had said at the time that it would take a few weeks before everyone got access. That rollout has finally wrapped up and, assuming you own a Stage controller, you should be able to control your compatible smart home devices with it over Thread instead of Bluetooth.