Microsoft Re-enters the Connected Home with Insteon

Microsoft Re-enters the Connected Home with Insteon

The Insteon app is now available for smartphones running Microsoft’s Phone 8 and devices using Windows 8.1, like the Microsoft’s Surface tablet (below).

That thunder you’re hearing in the connected home market? Giant Microsoft is back.

The Windows and Surface tablet maker has partnered with home control company Insteon to offer home control kits and a free Insteon control app for Windows Phone 8 and the Windows 8.1 operating system, which can be used by Surface tablets and computers.

Starter, home and business kits will be available in June in Microsoft Stores across the United States and in early July at Insteon sells a variety of lower-cost home control devices, most of which communicate via both wireless RF and over the home’s electrical powerline.


Homebuilding Possibilities

Insteon Chief Operating Officer Joe Gerber says the homebuilding market is not in the plans right now for the Microsoft kits, but that Insteon is having a lot of interesting discussions with homebuilders about using affordable and easily installed Insteon products in their offerings.

“We are very excited about the builder market,” Gerber says. “You think of all the technology that can go into the home, all the switches and plugs and light bulbs and cool as well,” and Insteon feels it can address those needs.

Nothing should then stop a homeowner from using Windows 8.1 or Phone 8 to control a home, says Gerber.

Enhanced App

Insteon already has apps for Apple iOS and Android-based devices. This is the company’s first app for Microsoft.

Gerber says most Insteon products should be compatible with the Windows 8 app, and that users of existing Insteon products should be able to connect to those devices with the new app. Insteon boasts over 200 skus and about 100 core products, from dimmers to switches, control modules, cameras, sensors and more

The app contains features such as Live Tiles to get status updates for devices on the Windows 8 tile-based Start screen, enhanced camera support to see views of multiple cameras, and multi-house support to control multiple homes and businesses.

“[The developers] created a great dashboard view with a Surface [tablet], so you can put it on a countertop and have outdoor and indoor cameras and see them all on one view, and devices giving you status,” Gerber says.


Kits and Specialized Packages

Kits sold in retail will range from $199 to $299, with add-on products sold by Microsoft retailing at $30 to $80. All kits are comprised of existing Insteon products.

Starter Kit – $199

  • 1 control hub
  • 1 camera (indoor)
  • 1 on/off module for controlling lights or devices
  • 1 motion sensor

Home Kit – $299

  • 1 control hub
  • 1 camera (indoor)
  • 1 on/off module for controlling lights or devices
  • 1 motion sensor
  • 1 thermostat
  • 1 open/close sensor

Business Kit – $499

  • 1 control hub
  • 1 on/off module
  • 1 open/close sensor for door or window
  • 2 cameras (indoor)
  • 2 thermostats
  • 3 leak sensors
  • 2 motion sensors

Homebuilders could feasibly construct and negotiate similar packages with Insteon. Gerber says Insteon can create specialized packages with sales to builders and developers.

Gerber says Insteon’s thermostat can control lighting, save energy, control ceiling fans and turn off a whole-house humidifier. Leak sensors are easily placed in locations like beneath the sink to sense moisture and can be identified by location on the app.

Microsoft has made previous forays into the home control and automation market, including products that worked over a home’s powerline. The company reportedly has been working on a home automation platform involving its Xbox game player and a Kinect sensor for possible voice and gesture control.

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