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Battle of the HomeKit hubs: Lutron Caseta versus Insteon

Michael Brown | July 14, 2015
If you thought Apple would swoop in with its HomeKit platform and solve all the ills that bedevil the fledgling smart-home market, that it would show the rest of the industry just how simple it can be to enable consumers to build out a smart home, your faith has yet to be rewarded.

On the security front, neither Insteon's hub or Lutron's bridge supports smart door locks, security cameras, smoke detectors, or as I've already mentioned, open/closed or motion sensors. Insteon has a far more complete collection of connected-home devices than Lutron does, including leak sensors, door-lock controllers, infrared transmitters and receivers, and much more; but the Insteon Hub Pro is not currently compatible with many of them. It does support Insteon-brand dimmable LED bulbs (both A19 and PAR38, for recessed lighting), dimmer outlets, and on/off modules (for controlling devices such as box or oscillating fans or non-dimmable light bulbs).

Lutron's Caseta bridge, on the other hand, offers several features that Insteon's hub does not: Support for a limited number of smart thermostats (Honeywell's Wi-Fi thermostat and the Nest Learning Thermostat), support for motorized window shades (Lutron models), and support for geofencing (so you can program lights to turn on when you approach your home with your smartphone, and turn off when you leave with it).

Using Siri to control a HomeKit home

Using Siri to control your connected home is the same process for both HomeKit controllers. You can utter Siri commands to control individual devices ("Hey Siri, turn on the bedroom lamp"); to control Rooms, or groups of devices ("Hey Siri, turn on the home theater"); to control Zones, or groups of Rooms ("Hey Siri, turn off the downstairs"); and to control Scenes, which can be devices in the same room or in different rooms ("Hey Siri, set the scene to Movie Time").

I'm not a long-time Siri user, so I'll chalk up some of my early problems using voice recognition to inexperience or not speaking clearly enough for it to understand what I said. But there were also many situations where the text my iPod touch display matched exactly what I said, and Siri reported that my instruction had been performed, but nothing actually happened.

Other times, Siri would misunderstand what I said and deliver either search results, say she couldn't perform the requested task, or that she wasn't able to find any devices. One time when I was using just one device connected to Lutron's Caseta bridge, Siri turned the light on as requested but then said "OK. But hmm, only some lights responded. You may want to check on them."

After reviewing the Roku 3 media streamer, I concluded that voice commands are better and more efficient than using the any point-and-click or touchscreen user interface--when they work. When voice commands don't work, you get even more frustrated because you look like an idiot talking to an inanimate object. I found that Siri's performance improved over time, but at this point, no one should buy a HomeKit-based connected-home system because it supports voice recognition.


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