As they tend to do, Amazon and Insteon quietly (read: barely) announced that Alexa now supports Insteon scenes. Insteon made the announcement on their official blog on 9/30/16.
If you are already an Insteon user with scenes built out, here’s what you have to do: NOTHING. Your scenes will automatically work with no configuration required! I tested this the day the news was released and was very pleased with the results. If you’re thinking that Insteon scenes are just like Alexa groups, you’re kind of right, but totally wrong, so read on.
In the Alexa app, you can configure groups of devices across multiple platforms. For instance I have a group called “Downstairs Lights” which includes a mix of Insteon, Hue and WeMo devices. This works great when I want to turn all of those devices on or off, but it turns everything on at 100%. In most of my rooms this is fine, but my kitchen has five PAR38 LED downlights on an Insteon dimmer, and 100% could melt your face off with prolonged exposure.
Insteon scenes allow you to set specified levels for all of the devices in the scene. The drawback, of course, is that you may not be able to control all of your devices. In the above example, I would only be able to control my kitchen and den lights, because Insteon has no access to control WeMo or Hue devices in its scenes.
The good news is that you don’t have to choose to use one or the other. If you’re already a user of Insteon scenes, you already know this, and you’re gaining the ability to control them by voice. So while it makes sense for me to ask Alexa to turn off the Downstairs Lights group at the end of the night, it also makes sense for me to ask Alexa to turn on my Movie Time scene when I want to watch a movie (for the record, it shuts off the Sonos if its on, dims the den light to 20% and turns off the kitchen lights). What you’re gaining is additional functionality, should you choose to use it.
As I mentioned, existing scenes will automatically work. Any new scenes you create will have to be discovered in the Alexa app or you can just wait about an hour for Alexa to run a scan. Right now, scenes can only be turned on or off, so you cant ask for them to be set to a percentage as you would with an Alexa group. Locks and garage controls will not be supported, but ceiling fans and Sonos devices are.
While I don’t see myself using this as often as Alexa groups in the short term, having the flexibility to trigger scenes by voice may spark my creativity in the long term.