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Insteon's smart home tech now supports Cortana-based voice input

Microsoft's voice recognition technology will now let Windows Phone users speak directly to Insteon's smart home system.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Insteon on Thursday followed through on its promise to bring voice control to its home automation products. The Insteon app for Windows Phone 8.1 now lets you use Microsoft's Cortana voice recognition feature to tell your phone what you want your home to do. Possibilities include locking the doors, turning off the lights, and adjusting the thermostat; with Cortana, Insteon home automation hub users can manipulate more than 200 connected devices.

We liked the Insteon system when we reviewed it last year, but found the app clunky and occasionally counter-intuitive. For that reason, it ranked behind comparable offerings by Belkin and SmartThings . The competition to create a unified hub has grown more heated in the past year. Two of the biggest keys to the success of these systems are third-party compatibility and easy-to-use controls that unify all the pieces. Hubs have gotten better at both, especially the new Wink Hub . Available at Home Depot, it works with most common types of signals, from Bluetooth to Z-Wave to Wi-Fi.


The Insteon system has a wide array of accessories with the distinct advantage of a dual-band signal that stays online even when your router crashes. However, because it lacks Z-Wave, ZigBee, and some other common frequencies, it's harder to pair with independent devices.

With Cortana, Insteon now offers plenty of automation options. Not only can customers use voice control to carry out simple tasks such as those mentioned above, supposedly they can trigger several actions at once through "scenes."

For instance, saying, "Insteon, leaving the house" could close the garage door, turn off the TV, and activate your motion sensors. Other features included in Insteon's Cortana update include quick views of available devices and grouping devices into multiple homes. You'll now even be able to give restricted access to your smart system to children or guests.

See all of your connected devices from the dashboard. Insteon

Controlling Insteon through voice commands won't stay exclusive to Cortana, as Insteon has confirmed to CNET that it will launch an app designed for Apple's upcoming HomeKit, as well as a HomeKit-ready hub in Q4. HomeKit allows developers to make devices that can use the full spectrum of iOS controls, including Siri-based voice input. Many expected Apple to show HomeKit off as part of the iPhone 6 debut event early in September, but the company made no further announcements. An unveiling at Apple's rumored October 21 iPad event now seems more likely.

You can purchase Insteon products on the company's website, or in various US stores and online internationally in Europe, Asia and Australia. You can download the updated app now, and none of Insteon's technology requires a subscription fee.