INSTEON home automation for Windows and Windows Phone (Hidden Gems)
Insteon (often written as INSTEON) has been in the home automation business for a few years, going back to 2010. The company has apps on iOS and Android, but starting a few weeks ago, they released a universal app for Windows Phone and Windows. Even more, they teamed up with Microsoft to sell special kits in the Microsoft Store, complete with Windows Phone branding on the package.
Whether it is controlling your temperature, dimming the lights, watching the world through a Wi-Fi camera or getting an alert when your door opens, Insteon does it all. Because of the completeness of their system, their partnership with Microsoft and the overall coolness, Insteon is today's Hidden Gem. Watch our video review to see it all in action!
Remember, by leaving a comment on this article, you stand a chance of being one (of two) winners to earn your own Insteon Home Kit ($299) as seen in our review!
Insteon – What is it?
Home automation is finally hitting its stride in 2014. With the abundance of smart devices (phones, tablets, computers, watches), Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and ubiquitous Wi-Fi signals, having a connected home is no longer limited to programmers or those with abundant incomes.
Insteon (www.insteon.com) makes a huge line of various accessories that you can purchase for your home to control or monitor the behavior of appliances and services. The Insteon system all starts with the Insteon Hub (~$100 USD), which connects up to your router through and Ethernet plug and is powered by plugging it into your wall. Once enabled, users can then connect up the Insteon app on their phones or tablets to the Hub. Of course, the Insteon Hub is useless without sensors, so you need to pick those up in order to start building your automated empire.
Insteon has no monthly service fees. You simply buy the hardware, and that is it.
When you setup the Insteon network, you can leave it local or setup your router for to port-forward the Insteon Hub. The latter option allows you to monitor and operate your Hub remotely from your phone or tablet.
Insteon Kits and parts
Although you could buy Insteon parts bit by bit, the company has created numerous starter kits to give you all the basics. At the Microsoft Store, they come in three different levels:
- Starter kit ($199 – Link (opens in new tab) – INSTEON hub, on/off module, motion sensor, Wi-Fi camera
- Home Kit ($299 – Link (opens in new tab) - INSTEON hub, on/off module, motion sensor, Wi-Fi camera, plus thermostat and open/close sensor
- Business Kit ($499 – Link (opens in new tab) - INSTEON hub, on/off module, 2 motion sensors, 2 Wi-Fi cameras, thermostat, 2 open/close sensors, 3 leak sensors
If, however, you do not want to go through Microsoft, Best Buy and even the Home Depot sell all the parts and other starter kits, including $119 'Start Here kit' that features the Hub and 2 Dimmer modules. The modularity to me is the beauty of Insteon: you buy what you need, and for just over $100 you can get a pretty snazzy kit to start the process. Do you have an extra $60? Now you can pick up an extra sensor.
Indeed, Insteon has accessories for everything, including in-line wiring if you really want to customize your house. Such optional sensors include:
- Ceiling Fan and Light Control
- Garage door kit (open, close, monitor)
- Insteon bulbs
- Smoke Bridge monitor for First Alert
- Water leak sensor
- Wireless phase coupler
- Plug-in Appliance On/Off Module
- Wireless Outdoor IP Security Camera with Night Vision
- Sprinkler Controller
…and the list goes on and on. The point is, with Insteon you can wire up virtually anything in your home to fit your needs. You can spend $200 or run it up to $5000, depending on how many items you add, but the modularity is certainly impressive.
INSTEON for Hub app – Windows Phone and Windows 8.1
Insteon has two apps for Microsoft produ cts, including Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1. The app is universal, so the similarities between them are not by accident. The apps are, of course, free and I have had little issues with them. The Windows Phone app on occasion makes a popping noise and it does not resume so well when sitting in the background (I presume it needs to reconnect to the server). However, both apps are easy to operate and work very well, especially with the wireless camera. Considering they are 1.0 versions, I am satisfied with them so far.
- Download INSTEON for Windows Phone 8
- Download INSTEON for Windows 8.1 (opens in new tab)
Cortana is coming
As we previously reported, Insteon and Microsoft are bringing Cortana support to their app later this summer. The Cortana integration allows you to tell the Insteon system various commands, including:
- Ask Cortana to dim the lights for movie time based on specially created scenes - "INSTEON, turn on 'Movie Time."
- Instruct the thermostat to reduce the temperature to ensure that the house is cool upon returning home from work - "INSTEON, adjust 'Living Room Thermostat' temperature down."
- Tell Cortana that you're ready for bed - "INSTEON, turn off all of the lights."
Adding Cortana to the mix is sure to make Insteon even more fun to use.
What about setting up the Insteon system around your home? From my experience, installing Insteon is a lot easier than I anticipated. The door open and close sensor was "installed" within three minutes, and the Hub required even less time. Any problems I ran into were usually my own fault i.e. skimmed over the directions, ahem.
To set up each sensor, the user launches the app, picks the room (or creates one) and adds items from the pre-selected list of available Insteon sensors. The app then walks you through the process, including helpful videos. Overall, Insteon could not have made it simpler. If you do run into a problem, there is tech support to walk you through the process.
My only problem to date is the thermostat. My thermostat is a 4-wire system whereas Insteon's is 5-wire setup (the Insteon thermostat gets power from the AC unit, not batteries). The problem is allegedly solvable by picking up a $35 Venstar wiring kit from Amazon (opens in new tab), which is arriving this week. Alternatively, Insteon Hub does work with the Nest thermostat too.
Additionally, you have 'Scenes,' which you can think of batch scripts for Insteon. In other words, you can set it up so that when you walk through the front door (open and close monitor) the lights come on (on/off module) and the HVAC system sets your desired temperature (Insteon thermostat). Although they are fun, Scenes do take some thinking ahead to plan out, but they do offer plenty of customization for the tinkerer.
Wrapping it up
Watch our video tour of the Insteon Home Kit to see some of the system in action. Overall, I am very pleased with the Insteon system. It does not break the bank, lets users configure their system according to their needs (and budget), and it is a lot of fun to setup. Seriously, grab a kit and take a few hours on a Saturday and have a blast.
What do you think of Insteon and home automation? Is it there yet or are you still waiting for it to get better? Let us know in comments and don't forget to check our other Hidden Gems!
Thanks to Mark Guim for the work on the video review
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.
DON'T LIKE: Home kit seems a bit bare, would love for it to include more sensors
IMPROVEMENTS: Have it work with various connected appliances (Refrigerators, Ovens, Washer/Dryers, etc)
"turn it down" = recognize insteon app
"a degree" = background adjust -1 degree based on measurement setting Fahrenheit or Celsius without opening app Cortana responds, "A bit too warm? Alright, let me turn that down for you." While displaying a glance of current settings adjusting to new settings. Then quickly resuming whatever it was we were doing. Feels too much like Google... Not like what I imagined Cortana to be.
Always there, prizes or no prizes.WPC FTW! :)
-Support for windows and WP.
-upcoming integration with Cortana.
-I can use it to see my home from anywhere in the world.
-And the best of them: You guys are giving two away for free. Dislikes:
Not so easy to install I think.
friend has it and it works very well
The only real concern I have at this time is the possibility of the signal from the main hub not reaching an add on located some distance away.
And I really like it because technology always made me feel safe, good to know I have an affordable option that integrates with my phone!
I also like that by using the Hub, you can control all sorts of devices within the home that are equipped with Insteon controls such as light bulbs, wall switches, outlets, thermostats, and more. I love that you can get e-mail or text message alerts from the Hub if motion is detected in the home, a door is opened, a window is opened, or from water leak sensors while you're away.
I think that feature may be particularly appealing to people who travel a lot and parents. For instance, parents could receive an e-mail when the door opens to notify them that their child is home from school. You can also use the alerts to know if your maid showed up or the repair man.
And just who couldnt do anything else but be excited about INSTEON's integration with CORTANA? :) I dont know about you but i would like to call a day off by saying, "Insteon, im going to sleep , close lights, open them all up in 4 hours! "
I only dont like that the price does not include a lot of sensors or switches to automate your home and is only for the central controller, which by the way is the brain of a home automation system. You have to buy them separately from yourself. Other than that, Insteon is of great use and i would be glad to implement it to my house too asap! :)
One other thing that i think can be changed to make insteon better is regional availability.
Also, the insteon guys, should explain better how our privacy cant be breached with this cloud based program. A lot could benefit but are too afraid of using an internet connection with cameras at their house in and out , info about almost everything on their house etc.
Im surely taking it though! Endless possibilities, it can only get better with our help, and make our homes and the world an easiest and better place! :)
Since I never used I don't can say stuff that can make it better but this is certainly one of the best options out there for home automation
I need this.
I wonder up to how many WP it is able to sync at once to control it.
Along with Cortana this couldn't be any better.
Great work, guys!
Hope they roll it out to the U.K. soon.
Way to go!
The wall switches and light bulbs especially, would be great to have.
It would be great to see outdoor/weatherproof, motion activated cameras introduced (if they don't already have them), for exterior home monitoring. Where I live, in the north desert of Arizona, I get a lot of critters making their way through my yard at night, and it would be kind of cool to see who's "tresspassing" in the middle of the night. Not to mention the convenience of being able to monitor the perimeter of ones home for various reasons. Very happy to see MS partnering with Insteon, and bringing this to WP and Windows!
Everything.. so there is nothing like I didn't liked!
I would like a security mode in the kit and app which kinda alerts me when sensing any suspicious activity.
Should add a text to phone( as sometimes many users are out of there WiFi zones or data connection, so texting on suspicious activity would help a lot.
I would also like to see something like the treasure tag with the actual location based sensor helping me find my little things easily.
A watch dog function would be also helpful as it can be connected to a speaker so , thereby sensing the dog doing mischiefs it automatically plays the recorded voice saying the dog to stop!!
And choking up with more ideas!!
A note to developer:
Try adding a connection strength meter( as in many places the speed is bit low some of the of the time) of our WiFi thus telling us how to control it when we are out of our house.
App for Windows Phone. The Insteon sounds like a better alternative, plus the Wi-Fi camera and sensors seem awesome I know my Apple friend wants to do something similar and would be jealous of I win the package.
I'll talk about how it can be more reliable and improved.
They should implement geo fencing support in the apps. The sensors on the doors of room switch off/on the lights when we close or open the door. But sometimes we forget to close the doors of the rooms. What can be done is by geo fence implementation in phone app, when we are out of home, all the desired electric devices( LEDs, ac etc) get switched off and camera sets to recording mode automatically. And when we get back at home, camera gets switched off automatically. Also, when the app notify us that we left these devices switched on when we get out. This would all be hassle free automation. Totally futuristic, isn't it.
At least my home will listen to me.
I loved the part when u came to the hall & lamp turned ON .... it acted better than you :P
Night vision is a plus point.
Hope it was there when my home got robbed :| ..Overall a nice product.
and the app should be updated ... it is slow;P
Suggestions or improvements i would like to give or see:
1) Dark theme for the app (black background) instead of white background.
2) Pin to start options for devices..etc..
3) Live tiles for the main app and also for the sub-pins
4) Nest support.
5) Action centre support.
6) Cortana support.
7) And mainly transparent tile for WP 8.1 start screen. The app crashes when resumed and have to relaunch it everytime.. So please fix it.
* insteon should be able to work with an average home in countries like India.
* insteon needs future support for washing machines, smart refrigerators, etc.
A small use of your fingers and your done. :D
Being able to combine things together - IFTTT - seems like a good idea, though so more tinkering with the opoen/close sensor would be good as lights would be going on and off all the time as me and the misses leave for work and get in at different times - would it turn the lights off on her when I leave and then turn them back on for an empty house when she does?
Some sort of geo-fencing would probably be the next best thing to add, the ability to tell when a device is either within the perimiter, or maybe connected to the local network, and then altering lights/heating as appropriate.
Overall, the modular nature seems great and the starter kits don't break the bank compared to similar products.
With Cortana integration, this will become the mother of all home automation systems :)
NEGATIVE-Returning home from work late at night and want hot water/AC turned on before you enter you house..Suddenly you release that(any one can happen)-
1)-There is no electricity for Insteon and other components to function.
2)-No battery left in your WP,,so no orders can be passed.
3)-Various other unknown factors beyond our control.
POSITIVE-An old granny who can't even sit upright or can't walk and is alone at home and no one to help..But she can-
1)-Press the Cortana/Search button and give commands.
2)-See for intruders through the cams connected and protect herself!!
3)-Her family who's out for a little trip wouldn't have to worry about her well-being back at home!!
4)-The granny would be less bothering to her family when she could do the petty stuff on her own!! :P :P It has more uses to it and there will be more when ideas and plans are implemented and am sure we all would be using it in our later lives just as we all are using WP!!
INSTEON will become necessary from an accessory soon!! Not being rude but this is just my thinking and I don't want any contradictory or "explain or educate me'omm
I just like it, and want...
I don't know, maybe for track my refrigerator door, or turn on the backside lights of my house without have to wake up at total dark to turn it on ...
The products that Insteon is offering is really great and i would like to see some more products from them. I don't think i will be buying the automation kit but I'm really happy to see many companies working with Microsoft and helping them build Windows phone/Windows platform into a bigger one. :)
-You can look at all your devices on a screen and favorite the import an ones.
-Also you can turn on automatic sensors that light up when you are in that room
-microphone camera and the ability to move the camera is awesome
-the fact this works on a windows Os is the icing on the cake. What I think could get improved
-unfortunaly I dont have a windows tablet so if this app isn't already on a differs os like android or apple maybe they can add it
-my biggest fear is someone hacking this hub and just unlocking my doors and walking right in. I didn't notice security settings for the hub
-live title should show quick alerts or even what the camera is displaying
- maybe we could add a phone line to the hub so it could dial into 9-1-1(not too practical)
-cabinet locks for baby safety
Mister Snowden: Watch your back B-)
"Cortana, play Marvin Gaye" followed by "Cortana, lights off"
It seems there is not a remote lock control but the rest on offer is very tempting.
I will also need to learn how those thermostats work, I might actually need more than one as is seems that with the roof heating all rooms have indipendent thermostats!..
With this new technologies I am often very tempted but when I buy too early I am often disappointed as they don't work well or with all the systems they should.
Moreover, these kits (any brand out there) are very expensive. It takes very little time to become obsoletem I don' t want having to spend a lot and end up having to replace too soon.
To me it's a always ON way of watching my home.. wherever wherever I'm worried.. it's like Agents of Shield Level 7 Access!!
Super Se Uper... .Cortana. I'm waiting. .I think the app needs a beauty update!
Because when it comes to our loved one's, having the ability to check in on them from afar is just the right convenience needed in a world that is often busy, chaotic and ever increasingly unpredictable. Being able to do this from any place at any time adds a much needed peace of mind. ******************* Plus, using your phone to control appliances in your home is quite fun. ****************** So with Insteon, you not only get the pleasure of near instantaneous access of your home fixtures, you also get the peace of mind knowing that you can be sure your loved ones and property are both safe and secure.
(typed this once but it didn't seem to post)