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 digital technology 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.