Home Automation

Insteon Hub Pro Adds HomeKit, Loses Lots of Insteon

7/9 Update: A DMZ reader reports that smarthome.com has stopped shipping the Hub Pro while they address some of the reported issues. This is from Smarthome Customer Support: “We have temporarily postponed shipping of Hub Pro units as we are currently working with Apple to resolve several technical issues with the environment.”

With companies now launching their HomeKit products, Insteon is one of the first to officially hit the market with its anticipated offering. The Insteon Hub Pro is Insteon’s answer to HomeKit, and now that the veil of secrecy has been lifted, the picture is a lot more clear. Depending on your needs and interests, though, it may not be a great picture.

For heavy Insteon users and enthusiasts, the Insteon Hub Pro is a significant step backward.

Insteon announced the Hub Pro this past Winter, just before CES. At the same time, they also announced a redesigned Insteon app for iOS that could control other discoverable HomeKit devices. With the lack of information that they (and, to be fair, all other members of HomeKit Club) could share about HomeKit products at that time, we all made a lot of assumptions. While the tech press is now all giddy with HomeKit excitement, we thought it made sense to dig a little deeper and find out what this thing could really do. Most of our assumptions were wrong.

Insteon Hub Pro Adds HomeKit, Loses Lots of Insteon

The new Insteon Hub Pro allows you to discover and control HomeKit and Insteon devices. Through the new Insteon+ app, you can set up multiple homes, zones, rooms, and scenes that are shared by all HomeKit products. HomeKit then enables the ability to control all of that through Siri (a feature the manufacturers and press seem enamoured by—we’ll have to see how well it really works). The Siri integration is much better than with Cortana, though. You don’t have to say “Insteon” or “HomeKit”—just tell her what you want to do: “Set the thermostat to 72,” “Turn off the downstairs lights,” or “Close the blinds.” Siri will automatically recognize these as HomeKit commands. Integration with Apple Watch isn’t as seamless as it should be, but presumably that will change over time.

But all of this comes at a great cost. First, it only works with iOS devices. Of course, we all knew that would be the case. But it also cannot access or control many Insteon devices including cameras, sensors, and remotes; it cannot send notifications and alerts; and it cannot set ramp rates and on-levels. For general consumers new to Insteon products, these tradeoffs may not be a big deal, but for heavy Insteon users and enthusiasts, this is a pretty significant step backward. It’s hard to think of this as a “Pro” version of the Insteon Hub.

Insteon+ unsupported deviceSo let’s dive in a little bit further, first with the unsupported Insteon devices. For perhaps obvious reasons, the new hub does not support some of the older, legacy Insteon devices. This includes things like the Insteon IR transmitter and receiver modules. This is probably not a big loss for most people. It also does not support wireless Insteon remotes. The “Hub II” didn’t support these when it was first released either, so this is not a big surprise.

But now it starts getting serious. The Hub Pro with the Insteon+ app doesn’t support Insteon wireless cameras. It doesn’t support any Insteon sensors—wired or wireless. It doesn’t support the Insteon Smoke Bridge or contact closure (I/O) modules. It can’t control or sync any of the buttons on Insteon keypads beyond the connected load, and it cannot control the second outlet on the newly-released double Insteon outlet. It cannot send iPhone notifications or email messages when certain events fire. It’s not mentioned anywhere, but it also likely will not control your Nest thermostat.

Insteon Hub Pro Adds HomeKit, Loses Lots of Insteon

Then there’s the Insteon+ app. Many Insteon users have been looking forward to the advertised app updates. But the Insteon+ app only works with the new Insteon Hub Pro. So unlike the existing Insteon for Hub app, which allows you to control both first and second gen hubs, the new app only supports the latest hardware. It’s also not a universal iOS app, meaning that if you want to use this on your iPad, you’ll be running the iPhone app…really big.

We have to imagine that this is not what long-time Insteon users expected or hoped for. The very name of the product—the Hub Pro—suggests that it will enable greater capabilities than the standard offering. Indeed, talking with Insteon at CES this past January, we were left with the impression that it would possibly improve on existing automation capabilities, perhaps offering better scheduling options and scene triggers, or even conditional scheduling—something that the first gen Insteon hub and retired HouseLinc control software handled nicely but the newer hubs and apps cannot support. Our recent queries about whether the Hub Pro would eventually control devices currently supported by the standard hub were met with a stock answer about not discussing product roadmaps.

So will the new Hub Pro eventually support the same devices currently supported by the product formerly known as the Hub II? We don’t know. Insteon’s not saying. Will it offer a greater breadth of scheduling and syncing? We don’t know. Insteon’s not saying. Will the much-needed user experience refresh of the Insteon+ app make its way to the iOS and Android Insteon apps that control the first and second-generation hubs? We don’t know. Insteon’s not saying.

Bottom line: If you pre-ordered the Insteon Hub Pro hoping to expand the capabilities of your existing Insteon network, you may be quite disappointed. If, however, you’re looking to integrate some of the basic capabilities of the more common Insteon devices with other home control products, this may just be the Hub you’ve been looking for. Let us know what you think in the comments. Did you pre-order with greater expectations or are you eager to try out this new product?

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About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard is a product experience consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.

30 Comments

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  • Very informative. One question, there is nothing stopping one from using multiple Insteon hubs, right? It isn’t like Z-wave in that way, there is no required centralized controller. Now of course that isn’t ideal, I’m just thinking about how this can be used to extend Insteon to HomeKit now, but won’t be able to completely replace your old Insteon hubs/ISY until later.

  • That is correct. You can pair an Insteon device with multiple controllers. The issue (besides the obvious usability) is that this makes it difficult and in many cases impossible to keep statuses in sync. If a scene or trigger from another hub changes the state of an Insteon device, the Insteon Hub Pro won’t be aware of that, so it’ll report that device’s status incorrectly.

  • […] Insteon’s Apple HomeKit-compatible hub drops support for many Insteon products. So will the new Hub Pro eventually support the same devices currently supported by the product formerly known as the Hub II? We don’t know. Insteon’s not saying. We have to imagine that this is not what long-time Insteon users expected or hoped for. […]

  • Obviously I haven’t tested this, but I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be in sync. I can use a keypad link to activate a scene and my Insteon controller (ISY99) maintains sync even though it did not activate the scene.

    When they start shipping, I’ll try to use both my ISY99 and Hub Pro and report back.

  • Cool…thanks, Ben. My bet is that your ISY is crosslinked with the keypad and every other device in your Insteon network. That’s over simplifying it, but that’s partly how Insteon’s own Hub software keeps tabs on device status when scenes are triggered.

  • Extremely helpful article Richard, great work. The Pro? Wow, disappointing, on many levels (I have leak detectors, and the smoke detector bridge).

  • Please, please tell me you have bad information. The new Hub Pro won’t work with existing Insteon sensors, cameras, or Nest? I have my entire system planned out using Insteon sensors to trigger events. (walk into my bathroom the light comes on, open the mailbox I get a notification, leave the garage door up I get a notification, the camera at the front door lets me see if I have a package delivered, Nest Protect senses high levels of smoke and all the lights and sprinklers come on, etc) If I can’t use any of those, I guess I won’t be buying the Insteon system I had planned, I guess I’ll have to go with the less-reliable Wink. 🙁

  • It’s published on Insteon’s own support pages that the Hub Pro does not support their own sensors—a big limitation in my opinion, and certainly enough to keep me from switching to the new hub for my primary home system. It’s entirely unknown, though, whether that’s a temporary limitation that they plan to remedy or a long-term incompatibility with the terms and constraints of HomeKit.

    We’re still not sure about Nest integration with the Hub Pro for two reasons. One is that Insteon has said nothing about it yet. And that could be because of the second reason: it’s possible that Nest will announce HomeKit compatibility, which could enable all kinds of great things. And if that’s the case, Insteon would need to remain quiet about it until Nest made their own announcement (maybe next week?).

  • I want to acknowledge that some feedback we’ve received on this post is that Apple has clearly documented what non-HomeKit they will and won’t allow manufacturers to “bridge,” and these limitations are simply the result of that. My point isn’t who’s to blame here, it’s that regardless of Apple’s HomeKit certification restrictions, this will cause some confusion for consumers, and most certainly some disappointment for existing Insteon users.

  • A reader correctly pointed out that another limitation of the Insteon+ app is that you cannot schedule scenes by sunrise/sunset time. That seems like a huge omission. This is something I learned quickly when working on software myself—you don’t want to have to be adjusting your evening and morning timers a few times each spring and fall!

  • Just talked to (always-excellent) Smarthome support, and yes, they confirmed this to be the case, no sunrise/sunset scene scheduling (by Apple’s design). Also, I took a quick look at the Insteon+ app http://fave.co/1GCOdj8 on iOS on iPhone 6 Plus (which I can’t do much with, given my backordered-since-Feb Hub Pro hasn’t arrived yet), and it seems to confirm this, nothing in there about sunrise/sunset.

  • I was getting ready to roll out Insteon in my home. The Deal Breaker for me was when I was informed (by Insteon Customer Support) that you would lose ALL control if you lost Internet Connectivity. Very poor design if my ISP has a problem and I cannot simply turn lights On/Off (like I would be able to do with a hardwired switch). What would happen if I had an Insteon controlled door lock and my ISP went down while I was away and did not have a physical key with me? Would I have to call a locksmith? Break a window? They need to either fix this in the Hub Pro or update HouseLinc to work with current devices/HomeKit.

  • According to the keynote from WWDC a few days ago, Apple has added Sunrise/Sunset events, as well as event triggers in the most recent update to the HomeKit API. I don’t like that we’re taking steps backwards, but the kinds of sacrifices Insteon has had to make here are probably a necessary compromise between being the first kid on the homekit block as it were. Hopefully additional features and device support will be added back in as time goes on. I won’t be upgrading from ISY until that happens.

  • No reason not to continue with your plan on using Insteon. Just consider a different controller. I had heard months ago that this controller was not all we hoped it would be. I am sure they will upgrade it but knowing Insteon, it will take a long long time. I was originally going to order one but since there presently is not much compelling in HomeKit, I opted to stay with my tried and true ISY. After seeing this article, I am happy with my choice.

  • Hello!

    Thanks a lot for the information, I was also expecting eagerly the new Insteon Hub Pro.

    However, I’ve got a doubt: I saw the Keynote from Apple and they were doing things like access a garage camera, open the garage door and control it with Siri using their Apple Watch (with Insteon+ which can only connect to Hub Pro) so how is this possible then? If I didn’t understand wrong, the article says you can’t do it?

  • I thought the Apple watch demo was with the available Lutron app—not HomeKit or the Insteon system. On the WWDC stage, though, they did demonstrate the Insteon watch app doing more, and that all requires the iOS 9 update and an as-of-yet unreleased Apple Watch app for Insteon+ (but they are working on it!).

  • I’m not sure he understood what you were asking. Basic Insteon devices themselves are entirely independent of a computer network. Now, if you want to control them locally or remotely with your iPhone, then yes, you need a network and a network-attached controller (such as an ISY) to do the communication, but this doesn’t apply to pushing the manual buttons on the physical switches. As long as you have power to the home, they will work, just like any other light switch.

  • I am sure this is an old article but everyone misses the entire discussion with Insteon completely. Completely. The idea is that it can control lighting, right? But their dimmers can only control line voltage lighting (A-lamps) which have been officially phased out in the United States and Europe. So are we stuck with their wireless bulbs? This is nuts? What about recessed downlighting? Even old MR-16s? LEDs? I am not talking about retrofit bulbs but actual fixtures that have low voltage drivers or transformers that require dimmers that have been designed in the past 10 years. Insteons lighting controls (which is the whole point of a house control system) is a good 20 years behind. The dimmers are worthless. When will they upgrade this? Or can we only control table lamps with their wireless light bulbs?

  • You’re right George, I wrote this around the time that Insteon released the Hub Pro. I’m a bit confused by your assertion, though, that line-level lighting products have been phased out. A19, BR30, and many other standard 110v and 220v bulbs are alive and well—they just use different technology (LED, for example). So there’s still plenty of market for electronic dimmers like Insteon offers. In the US, low voltage fixtures and cans are still far less common than their line voltage equivalents. Now that said, the challenge with most of the low-line voltage systems I’ve encountered is that their transformers don’t properly handle line dimming or even LED dimming in some cases. Maybe someday we’ll see transformers with built-in control capabilities, but that degree of pre-fab integration isn’t really the market that Insteon targets.

  • What a joke! l Ihave over 50 Insteon devices. Those aren’t cheap. When you roll out products with names like Pro or +, people expect additional support—not a SUBSET! I can’t wait for the class action lawsuit…