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Insteon home automation adds unofficial Nest support

Owners of the Insteon Hub will be able to control Nest's Learning Thermostat alongside smart LEDs, motion detectors, wireless cameras, and other connected devices, within Insteon's app.

Lindsey Turrentine/CNET

After releasing an app update on Monday, Insteon announced this week that its home automation system is now compatible with the popular Nest Learning Thermostat. Owners of the Insteon Hub will be able to monitor and control the basic functions of their Nest directly from the Insteon app, along with any motion detectors, LED lights, or other smart-home gadgets they've integrated into their systems.

Insteon isn't the first system to claim compatibility with the Nest. In September, Nest announced plans for a partner-based developer program, naming the high-end automation network Control4 as partner No. 1. Other systems, like Vera and Revolv, have since figured out ways to work without Nest's blessing by backdooring Nest integration into their systems.

This is the approach that the team at Insteon has taken, and while it allows Insteon to offer its users basic control of the Nest from within the Insteon app, it also means that future changes to the Nest API could leave them locked out of that back door. To the company's credit, Insteon is up-front about this, telling its users, "We talk to Nest Learning Thermostat through their servers. Any changes made to these servers could interrupt your ability to control your thermostat through the Insteon app."

Nest doesn't quite condemn these sorts of forced smart-home marriages, but its team does look at them as providing a diminished experience compared with what users can expect from their official partnerships, and from the Nest app itself. "[Insteon is] accessing Nest products and services in an unauthorized way that we believe will lead to a second-class customer experience," a Nest spokesperson told us. "We intend to make APIs available to developers shortly, which will be the tested and documented way for third parties like Insteon to access Nest products and services, and will provide the best experience for our mutual customers."

Adding the Nest to your Insteon system is a simple, straightforward process...

...but perhaps not as polished an experience as what you'll get with a system like Revolv. Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Setting a Nest up within Insteon's app is a fairly easy process, but you'll need to be sure that you've already registered your thermostat directly through Nest. From there, it's just a matter of putting your Nest log-in info into the Insteon app. I tried it out for myself and was using the Insteon app to turn the heat up within a few minutes.

Controls are somewhat limited. You'll be able to do things like adjust the heating and cooling temperatures or turn the thermostat off altogether, but you won't be able to schedule temperature changes, or connect the thermostat with the other gadgets in your Insteon network. Insteon calls these kinds of conditional automations "macros," and the company told us that while they aren't in place at this stage, Insteon plans to expand the app's capabilities in the future.

Still, the current level of functionality is fairly rudimentary and probably not enough to justify deleting the Nest app outright. To an extent, this sets Insteon apart from Revolv, which already allows you to schedule heating and cooling changes using things like motion detectors and geofencing. For what it's worth, Revolv is also the more "polished" app when compared with the Insteon app's rather sparse design -- although Revolv is also a significantly more expensive hub, with a price of $299. The Insteon Hub retails for less than half that, at $129.99.