|At a glance|
|Product||Insteon HomeKit Enabled Hub (2243-222) [Website]|
|Summary||One of the first available Smart Home hubs that works with Apple's HomeKit|
|Pros||• Dual mesh architecture for robust connection|
• Supports many devices
• Hierarchical structure eases large network management
• Siri Voice control of devices, zones, rooms, and scenes
|Cons||• iPhone app only|
• Not all Insteon products are supported
• Relatively expensive
• No email, SMS or in-app notifications
• Requires Apple TV for remote access
• Siri still a work in progress
Typical Price: $340 Buy From Amazon
Apple's HomeKit is "a framework for communicating with and controlling connected accessories in a users home" that was announced at the June 2014 WWDC. It has been anticipated with both excitement and dread. Excitement by consumers hoping for a way out of the morass of incompatible products that define today's SmartHome market. Dread by the makers of those incompatible products.
A spate of HomeKit product announcements earlier this year at CES 2015 helped keep interest alive and now about a year after HomeKit was unveiled, the first products are starting to trickle onto store shelves. Here's a page that shows the current handful of products that work with HomeKit. One of those first products is Insteon's HomeKit Enabled Hub (aka Hub Pro model 2243-222) that is the focus of this review. But first a little HomeKit background.
HomeKit is a set of protocol specifications that enable Smart Home products to communicate. It's part of Apple's MFi Program ("Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad"), so could hold the same potential for Smart Home focused Apple partners to make money on Apple-blessed devices as it has provided for iPhone/iPod/iPad accessory makers.
HomeKit primarily focuses on devices that use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth / Bluetooth LE to connect. But Apple has allowed devices using ZigBee, Z-Wave and other proprietary technologies to also communicate via HomeKit-enabled bridges. However, 9to5Mac reported Smart Home / Home Automation devices already connecting over Wi-Fi will need to have HomeKit native versions, as will many Bluetooth-based products.
Another interesting factoid is that all HomeKit certified devices must contain a HomeKit chip obtainable only from Apple. So that's why manufacturers can't simply HomeKit-enable existing products by simply upgrading software / firmware and passing Apple's HomeKit Certification process.
So what's the big deal with HomeKit? In a word, Apple. HomeKit imparts the same easy-to-use-by-the-rest-of us aura to a category of products that currently are loved more by DIY home improvement geeks than Apple's traditional fanbase. By having a "Works with Apple HomeKit" certification, consumers will know that products interoperate and have Apple's blessing.
Works With Apple HomeKit Logo
Finally, there's Siri. If you've dreamed of talking to your house and having it obey, HomeKit will be for you. Siri plays a key part in HomeKit, as we'll see later.
Insteon has been around since the late 90s, when founder and CEO Joe Dada acquired two product-engineering firms to speed up development of a proprietary home-networking protocol that in 2005 became the mesh networking technology that is at the core of all Insteon products. Insteon uses a dual-mesh network that combines powerline and RF media vs. the single RF network (ZigBee, Z-Wave, BlueTooth, Wi-Fi) used by other Home Automation technologies
The dual-mesh network provides redundancy and higher reliability for delivering signals to connected devices. An Insteon whitepaper highlights key dual-mesh network advantages:
- INSTEON is a true peer-to-peer dual-mesh network. Its most important property is its simplicity.
- INSTEON messages are fixed in length and synchronized to AC powerline zero crossings. Because messages propagate by synchronous simulcasting, no network controllers or routing tables are necessary—a three-byte source and destination address in each message suffices.
- Optimized for home command and control, INSTEON allows infrastructure devices like light switches, clocks, thermostats, security sensors and remote controls to be networked together at low-cost. In turn, these devices can appear as nodes on larger networks, such as Wi-Fi LANs, the Internet, telephony and broadband entertainment distribution systems, because INSTEON can connect to them using internetworking devices.
For further technical drill-down, check this white paper.
I found several interesting comparative charts on the Insteon site. The first chart compares Insteon with the other popular HA networking methods. As you can see, Insteon uses the 915 MHz band for one of its Physical Layers. The lower frequency propagates farther in the home than 2.4 GHz radios and Wi-Fi can't interfere with Insteon products.
Comparison of Insteon and other HA architectures
The chart below, developed by Insteon, shows a comparison of sensors and features available with competing Home Automation Systems. Several things are worth noting: First, WeMo also has ZigBee devices such as the WeMo Light bulbs.
Second, and more importantly, not all of Insteon's devices shown in the chart are currently compatible with the Hub Pro and its companion Insteon+ app. Essentially, lights, dimmers and switches are currently compatible. Sensors (open/close, leak sensors, motion sensors), thermostats and cameras are currently not supported, but Insteon plans to include at least some of these devices in the future. Here's a link that shows current Insteon+ compatability with Insteon devices.