Given the crazy considerable amount of play that the energy-efficient joys of Crock-Pot cookery get 'round these parts, I thought it would only be appropriate to kick off my coverage of the 2014 edition of the International CES in Las Vegas with a look at a countertop slow-cookin’ machine that can be remotely controlled from the gym, the office, the commuter train, or from 75-feet away on your couch because you’re far too preoccupied with "Sex Sent Me to the ER" to get up and turn down the damn temperature yourself.

Joining the expanding WeMo family of smartphone-enabled home automation gizmos — current choices in the iOS- and Android-compatible range include a baby monitor, a motion detector, outlet and light switches, and a couple other new-to-CES products that I’ll get to in a bit —from the surge protector wizards at Belkin, the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker is without a doubt the brainest vessel for stewed meats to hit the market. However, I think that the Belkin CES booth in the robot-heavy South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention center could have benefited from the piped in aroma of beer-soaked roast beef to really drive the point home.

One of the joys of using a designed-as-safe-to-leave-unattended slow cooker in the first place — it’s probably the most passive way to prepare supper — is that you just set the timer and temperature and go about your day as usual. You can feel free to go shovel the driveway, check in on grandma at the home, or sit by the pool and guzzle margaritas for five hours and, when you return, a delicious pulled pork — or classic pot road — dinner will be awaiting you. But despite their low-maintenance appeal,  slow-cookers have to be dealt with at some point, which is where this brainy Crock-Pot with a $100 price tag comes in handy. Using the WeMo app, you can turn the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker on or off, receive reminders, or adjust temperatures as you see fit. 

In terms of design, the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker isn’t radically different from standard Crock-Pot models but its shiny silver finish and black control panel, lid, and base to help it stand out. It's unclear what quart capacity the smart model is.

Web-connected Crock Pot screen

The Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker was just one of several WeMo-enabled small appliances displayed at Belkin's CES booth: A Mr. Coffee coffee maker, a gargantuan Holmes humidifier, a Holmes air purifier, and a Holmes console heater. Mr. Coffee, Holmes, and Crock-Pot are all brands owned by Jarden Consumer Solutions, Belkin’s partner in lending serious smarts to humdrum small household appliances. I'd be curious as to if Belkin expands the WeMo range to other Jarden brands. I could personally use an iPhone-controlled heated blanket from Sunbeam right about now.

For the DIY-minded, Belkin also introduced the WeMo Maker, a small module that adds “Internet connectivity to any device controlled with a DC switch, such as research robotics, motors, sprinkler systems, antennas, and more. A small module that wires into low-voltage devices, WeMo Maker also lets you monitor and manage a wide range of 5V DC sensors from anywhere using a smartphone or tablet. WeMo Maker also works with IFTTT, which lets you create specialized recipes bringing the Internet of Things to your fingertips."

Last but not least, Belkin unveiled its own WeMo Smart LED Bulb as CES. The fully dimmable 60-watt equivalent/800 lumen bulb, like its many smart LED contemporaries, can be controlled from anywhere with an iPhone or Android Device.

Along with the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker and the WeMo Maker, the WeMo Smart LED Bulb will be commercially available this spring with a retail price of $39.99 which, I should point out, is cheaper than the big smart LED on the market, the Philips Hue. Sets of two WeMo Smart LED Bulbs along with a WeMo Link (the bridge that connects to an outlet) will sell for $129. The additional WeMo-enabled appliances from Jarden will be released later on in the year.

Stay tuned as I share more highlights from CES including the latest in home connectivity from the always-forward thinking Bosch, who was kind enough to host my visit this year.

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CES Photo: Matt Hickman

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