After quietly building up a team in downtown Seattle, consumer-tech company Belkin announced today that it’s making Seattle the hub of its home-automation research.
Belkin is based in Los Angeles, which remains the headquarters of its “WeMo” home automation division, but it’s now doing research and development in Belltown.
Its WeMo Labs has 23 employees at the Fourth and Blanchard Building. The headcount could double in size over next year, according to Shwetak Patel, a University of Washington professor and Belkin’s “chief scientist.”
Patel, a MacArthur “genius” fellowship recipient affiliated with the UW’s electrical engineering and computer-science programs, sold a startup company called Zensi to Belkin in 2010. Zensi was commercializing sensor technology to monitor energy consumption in the home.
Building on the Seattle presence that began with Zensi, Belkin in 2013 acquired the Linksys home-networking business from Cisco. Linksys had engineers in Seattle who stayed on and became the basis of the WeMo Labs.
Belkin considered putting the research group in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, but opted for Seattle because of Patel, the UW connection and the kind of expertise available here.
“They realize that a lot of the best talent in computing and embedded systems is in the Pacific Northwest; this is where they want to recruit from,” Patel said.
Though they’ll have to compete with Apple and every other California tech company that’s here to recruit software engineers.
Patel, meanwhile, is dividing his time among the UW, Belkin and a new company called SNUPI, which is building home leak-detection systems. That is, when he’s not busy consulting with Microsoft on devices such as the new Microsoft Band.
It doesn’t distract much to be Belkin’s chief scientist, he said:
“I’ve kind of just weaved it into my daily calls and schedule and meetings.”