One of the biggest fears you can have when you start to invest in smart home gadgets (outside the concern of privacy invasion) is, “what happens if the brand I chose ends support or shuts down?” For customers of Insteon, this is a fear that’s playing out right now as they experience their third day of service outages. There’s been no official word yet, but things don’t look good: The company’s forums are down, and executives (including the president and chairman of Insteon’s parent company) are distancing themselves from the company. By all appearances, Insteon is dead.
Many of our readers may not be familiar with the Insteon name, but it’s a smart home company that saw early popularity for its extensibility, speed of operation, and automation tools, with many early adopters investing in it quite deeply. The company offered basics like smart switches, outlets, sensors, and remotes, but it also had a complex ecosystem of additional gadgets like computer interfaces, range extenders, and embedded devices that could be used in plenty of novel, custom ways. Its products worked with the Google Assistant and were one of the first adopters of Apple’s HomeKit.
Insteon uses a hub-based system that communicates over a proprietary 900MHz protocol paired with wired powerline-based data transmission, with each device serving as a repeater for an expansive mesh-based smart home system. While it is integrated with many other services, Insteon never made use of the more universal smart home standards that have since been taken off, and the coming rise of Matter may ultimately prove to be one of many nails in its coffin.
Various Insteon products, including keypads and remotes that were popular for triggering “scene” automations.
Customer reports indicate that Insteon’s services have been down for about the last three days, interfering with some automations, digital assistant integrations, and even basic app-based remote control in many cases. As pointed out by Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo, the protocols used by Insteon have been reverse-engineered, and customers do have some recourse in the form of Home Assistant and OpenHab to plug the gap, but this requires a little work on their part. In at least the case of Home Assistant, customers are further warned, “Do not factory reset your device under any circumstances as it will not be recoverable.” A remote connection to Insteon’s servers is apparently required for setup to complete successfully.
Stacey Higginbotham of Stacey On IOT pointed out a couple of days ago that Rob Lileness, president and chairman of parent company Smartlabs, has removed references to Insteon and Smartlabs from his LinkedIn profile, and that various other executives associated with the company now either list their roles as having ended or similarly exclude Insteon from their employment history. Higginbotham also noted that a phone number associated with the company no longer appears to connect, and no one at Insteon appears to be responding to inquiries. Android Police has also reached out to Insteon for more information, but there was no immediate response.
Some reports indicate that certain Insteon hub-types may still be working reliably even with the company’s servers no longer responding, and customers in the /r/insteon subreddit have been debating different solutions and workarounds for their issues — if you’re among those affected , it might be worth a look.
There’s been no official word from the company yet, even though customers have paid hundreds to thousands of dollars for hardware and certainly deserve an explanation. Frankly, it’s not clear if the company even still exists in a warm-bodies-at-an-office sort of way. To all outward appearances and given the apparent disinterest after days of outages, either Insteon has decided to pull a Wink, or it’s just dead, much to the chagrin of owners and to the entertainment of smart home critics. (More like Insteoffdarling?)
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