At CES this year, smarthome technology was front and center, with hundreds of vendors showing off existing and future connected device offerings. While last year’s showing was largely about isolated products with proprietary app control, a big theme this year is integration. New products from manufacturers like Pella and Anderson are coming out of the gate with bridges for Z-Wave integration, Lutron’s Caséta products now work with Nest and Harmony Home remotes, and many vendors received Apple’s blessing to announce HomeKit integration.
One company embracing integration to a perhaps unexpected degree is INSTEON. Often considered a closed ecosystem, INSTEON has previously offered its customers little opportunity to use non-INSTEON devices with its own outside of third-party control systems.
Broad Platform Support
All of that is about to change. While expanding penetration for its own brand through retail and online sales, INSTEON’s integration approach will leverage strategic partnerships and affiliations with a broad range of platforms and organizations. We’ll run through some of the highlights here:
HomeKit. INSTEON announced at CES full support for HomeKit, including the ability to control your home through Siri and fully integrate any and all HomeKit devices in your home through the INSTEON app—even device types not already part of INSTEON’s product lineup (garage door controllers, color changing bulbs, etc.). HomeKit support will require INSTEON’s new Hub Pro (more below) and is expected to roll out when Apple launches HomeKit early this year. Whether Apple will allow companies like INSTEON to enable HomeKit device support from anything but its iOS apps is yet to be seen.
Microsoft. Earlier in 2014, INSTEON announced a partnership with Microsoft that entailed app support for Windows devices and retail distribution in Microsoft Stores. INSTEON executives hinted at updates to these apps, which are arguably already INSTEON’s best app offerings to date despite some limited workflow and navigation paths. These updates should include improvements to the clever but thus far clunky Cortana integration and possibly long-awaited Start screen live tiles, though INSTEON won’t get into specifics.
AllSeen Alliance. In addition to obvious synergy with Microsoft’s recent announcements about its own AllJoyn plans and contributions, INSTEON may likewise benefit from the integration opportunities that AllJoyn and AllPlay promise to offer product developers. INSTEON plans to examine such potential integration opportunities as they make sense.
Works with Nest. While the INSTEON apps had previously offered Nest thermostat control, INSTEON’s participation in the Works with Nest program gives customers a level of assurance that they’ll have continued support for their thermostat, even as Nest evolves its platform. Additionally, INSTEON has been chosen to participate in Nest’s Rush Hour Rewards program where consumers can save money from participating energy providers by reducing energy use during peak usage times.
Thread Group. INSTEON isn’t discussing whether their recent participation in the Thread Group suggests the new Hub Pro will incorporate an 802.15.4 radio (required for Thread communications), but one thing it certainly gains from such an affiliation is open dialog with similarly minded companies hoping to find common ground for integration and co-existence.
New Hardware and APIs
In addition to the above affiliations, INSTEON is also releasing a new Hub Pro and a set of APIs to ensure continued third-party support for its platform. The new $149.99 hub will not only enable HomeKit integration for those interested, but it will also be required to take advantage of upcoming enhancements to INSTEON’s scene control, including planned conditional logic for more advanced automation capabilities. According to Joe Dada, INSTEON’s founder and CEO, the Hub Pro will always offer a higher tier of capabilities for consumers, partly due to its more robust hardware.
The new API INSTEON announced addresses a concern we first raised when the new INSTEON Hub II was released—will third-party developers be able to offer support for the new platform? The answer is an adamant “yes.” The new RESTful API will give developers access to discover and control all devices in harmony with the INSTEON for Hub apps. The first version of the API is available now with updates expected later this year.
Not Connected with Staples
One connection point that many had been hoping and waiting for was last year’s announced integration between Staples Connect and INSTEON. While the official line from both Zonoff—technology provider behind Staples Connect—and INSTEON all through 2014 was that this collaboration was on both companies’ roadmaps, neither is willing to talk about it now, suggesting that this may not be a priority for either group. When asked about the fate of this agreement, Dada cited INSTEON’s outstanding dual-band reliability and hinted at concerns about how such integration could negatively affect consumers’ perception of reliability. How that might differ from the previously mentioned RF-based or IP-only integration points INSTEON is adopting is unclear.
A New Smarthome Era?
As companies like INSTEON and others that have typically offered closed ecosystems begin to forge alliances and join in strategic partnerships, one has to wonder if we’re seeing a new era of cooperation between vendors. Or are we instead seeing new lines being drawn not between vendors but standards groups and cartels? One thing for certain is that INSTEON has its bases covered as things unfold, offering integration opportunities with all most major players.