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Insteon homes in on iOS compatibility at CES with HomeKit hub

Complete with a redesigned app that can talk to any HomeKit device, Insteon unveils its HomeKit hub at CES.

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Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
2 min read

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Insteon

LAS VEGAS -- Insteon's making sure it plays nice with anyone's version of the smart home, including Siri's. At CES, Insteon announced a new HomeKit-compatible hub will be added to their product line, bringing all of its various sensors under Apple's upcoming smart-home umbrella. In addition, it's opened their API and officially joined the Works with Nest program.

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After previously bringing Cortana to Insteon with Windows compatibility, Insteon now has its foot in the door with Google (via Nest), Windows and now Apple.

The HomeKit-specific hub will retail for $150 (roughly £100 or AU$185), a premium bump over the $100 list price of their regular hub. However, it will allow all of Insteon's products to fit into Apple's system, meaning you can group them by rules and give commands to Siri that will simultaneously control multiple devices.

Insteon's app can also supposedly control every product in your HomeKit system, including third-party devices. Insteon wants to unify the fragmented smart home.

Communication troubles

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Insteon

Insteon sensors communicate through a proprietary radio frequency and Power-line, which broadcasts a signal using the existing wiring in your home.

It's a unique two-fold approach that aims to make sure its sensors can get their important information to the cloud under any circumstance, but because it's proprietary, it won't directly communicate with third-party devices. By contrast, two HomeKit-compatible switches announced today, the iDevices Switch and the Grid Connect Smart Outlet, respectively understand Bluetooth and Zigbee.

Insteon contradicts its own open approach by limiting the frequencies its hub detects to its own devices. It's made positive steps toward interoperability by joining the Works with Nest program and releasing this HomeKit-specific hub. You'll still need to primarily use Insteon products to make the initial cost of the hub worthwhile, however.

In our starter kit review, we found the cost to get started in Insteon's universe to be steep. That hasn't changed. Its list of sensors and devices has grown, and the system will now work well with your smart phone of choice. I'm excited to see how its hub and rules plays with those in HomeKit.

By allowing its app to control third-party devices, Insteon makes itself look like the company to finally unify the smart home. To actually accomplish that goal, it'll need to make its hub as universal as its app.

Outlook

In the meantime, Insteon becomes one of the first whole home systems compatible with Home Kit, putting it in a great position to capitalize on the growing connectivity Apple will create when they finally flip the switch on HomeKit.

The smart-home products of CES 2015 (pictures)

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