Microsoft Home Automation: New Partnerships, New Possibilities

Microsoft Home Automation

Microsoft home automation has taken a significant leap into the market with a new, long-term partnership with the tech company Insteon. You may have known Insteon as one of the many home automation companies to choose from when considering smart home cameras, light bulbs, and sensors. Now the company — and all its related interfaces — is going to become increasingly intertwined with Microsoft technology.

This is big news for Windows fans and homeowners looking for Microsoft home automation advantages: Essentially, it means that you can choose Insteon products through Microsoft and avoid adding yet another unfamiliar format or app into your mix. Let’s take a closer look at the Insteon deal and what it means for the future of home automation.

Microsoft Home Automation Plans

Microsoft hasn’t had much to do with automation in the past, but now players like Google (which acquired Nest and its smart thermostat) and Comcast are building their own automation packages. To stay competitive and benefit from the rise of the automation market, the Windows company has apparently decided that it is time to make some investments of its own.

What Microsoft home automation does have going for it is a number of Windows smartphones, tablets, and computers to work with. Insteon will get support on any devices with Windows 8.1 or later, which comes with a new-and-improved version of the Insteon app that you can use to control various devices around your home. Windows devices are also getting Live Tile capabilities that let users manage multiple devices from their start screen.

The partnership also allows Microsoft to sell Insteon devices in its stores and other purchase centers. What devices can you expect to see popping up in Microsoft channels? Packages including the important Insteon Hub (which manages all Insteon devices through your Wi-Fi network) will be offered. You can also buy LED smart bulbs, cameras, motion sensors, leak sensors — the list goes on. Insteon has been in the automation business for long enough to create an impressive list of enabler-devices, so a visit to the company’s own website may also prove worthwhile.

Insteon Keeps Going On

Remember, this is a partnership — not a merger or acquisition. Insteon will continue offering its own products, which can also be controlled via iOS and Android phones. The deal with Microsoft means that Windows phones get interesting extras and that Insteon products get special treatment from the tech giant, but if you like Insteon there’s not reason to start avoiding its products.

In fact, Insteon is still busy releasing new products and features. One that will eventually be hitting all operating systems is Visitor Mode, a new capability that allows homeowners to give limited control so specific people. In other words, maybe you want your babysitter to be able to control the lights, but not the security alarm — Visitor Mode can help with that. Likewise, it may be nice to give your kids the ability to control door locks but not thermostats. This solves one of the common problems when it comes to managing smart homes with growing families. For the short term, the extra mode will only be available on Microsoft devices, but additional compatibility is planned for the future.

Giving it Time

Microsoft plans on offering all the extra Insteon compatibility on June 1, 2014, with additional products and features coming a month later. If you want to purchase an entire kit, which includes the hub device and two lamp dimmers, prices will start at $199. Other devices in the Microsoft store will range between $30 and $80, which is pretty typical for Insteon products.

Keep in mind that neither Insteon nor Microsoft will play nice with other brands, so if you already have some home automation devices (WeMo switches, Vivint security, etc.) you may need to replace them, if you want to switch to a Windows/Insteon system.

If you’ve been waiting for just the right time to make your home smart, Microsoft home automation may be the option you’ve been wanting. Keep an eye on Microsoft retail stores, app stores, and the site for additional details.

Photo Credit: Karlis Dambrans