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An introduction to the INSTEON world


Smarthome, the world’s leading integrated provider of electronic home improvement products, has introduced a new wireless home-control network technology called Insteon™ (pron. “instee-on”), offering a radio frequency (RF) network with integrated powerline communications for the first time. Insteon is designed to become the de facto standard in affordably delivering a secure, reliable and fast connection between automated home devices for lighting, security, entertainment systems, appliances, climate and more in the home.

How will Smarthome’s new Insteon technology be used?

Insteon will allow users to automatically and/or remotely control a myriad of functions in their homes, from lighting scenes to temperature control to wireless security cameras, as well as “mission-critical” functions such as remotely filling the swimming pool and locking doors. Insteon may also be incorporated into washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) devices, garage door openers, audio and visual devices, and more.


How does Insteon work?

Smarthome engineers uniquely designed Insteon as a dual band wireless network with RF and integrated powerline. They chose to integrate powerline communications because it is the most pervasive and affordable home networking technology, while RF allows connection to wireless applications both in or outside the home. With Insteon, a signal is sent simultaneously throughout the home to reach both powerline and wireless devices.

Is Insteon compatible with previous standards such as X-10 or future technologies such as Zigbee?

Yes. Insteon is “backwards compatible” with X-10 and will be compatible with signal band RF solutions, such as Zigbee, once products are developed and on the market.

Is Insteon easy to install or will I need to hire an electrician?

Insteon users will simply need to plug-in two RF access points in their home to create the RF portion of the network. The installation of Insteon products features a simple “Plug and Tap™” installation process.

[update: 08/11/2005]: SmartHome released the "INSTEON: the details" whitepaper.  This document contains all the technical details, so make sure you check it out!

Background

In early 2005, Smarthome Inc., the world’s leading provider of electronic home improvement products, is introducing initial products based on its award-winning wireless home-control network technology called Insteon™ (pron. “instee-on”), which combines radio frequency (RF) with integrated powerline communications into one seamless network.

Insteon is designed to become the de facto standard in affordably delivering a secure, reliable and “instant on” connection between automated home devices for lighting, security, entertainment systems, appliances, climate and more in the home.

The first Insteon products include many popular Smarthome lighting control products with Insteon technology incorporated—including a KeypadLinc, ControlLinc, SwitchLinc, LampLinc, ApplianceLinc and PowerLinc Controller.

History

In the past decade, several industry alliances have spent millions of dollars conducting research and development to create a home-control networking technology superior to X-10™, the 30-year-old home automation standard that works through the home’s existing wiring, or powerline.

X-10 allows users to automatically and/or remotely control a myriad of functions in their homes, from lighting scenes to temperature control to audio video equipment. It has never been widely adopted among mainstream consumers because of unpredictable performance and reliability.

Yet X-10 has remained the industry standard due to its low cost (an average X-10 dimmer switch can cost under $20). Alternatives to X-10 have been unsuccessful thus far because the technologies developed were either too expensive, not backwardly compatible to X-10, inflexible or too complicated to install and use.

Insteon Development

Four years ago, engineers at Irvine, Calif.-based Smarthome began working on developing what would become Insteon. With the largest base of electronic home improvement customers in the world, Smarthome was perfectly suited for developing the next-generation of home-control network technology. Since the company’s inception 12 years ago, it has developed more than 150 products based upon feedback from their hundreds of thousands of customers.

In contrast to previous efforts to provide an alternative to X-10 that have focused solely on technology, Smarthome’s engineering team approached the project with the consumer in mind, with reliability, low cost, ease of installation and use, and backward compatibility with X-10 as key objectives.

In June 2004, Smarthome officially announced Insteon. The network technology sends signals to devices in the home 15 times faster than X-10, enabling new audio/video control applications. Each Insteon device acts as a transceiver/repeater using Signal Enhancement Repeater Technology (SERT™) for outstanding network reliability. In addition, all communications are confirmed and each device has a unique identification. With encrypted messaging, Insteon can allow access control applications such as locking doors.

The name Insteon derives from its “instant on” function. Insteon messages only require .04 seconds to be received, which is less time than it takes the human eye to see a light turn on.

Insteon will be priced comparably and is backwardly compatible to X-10 technology, thus appealing to the large existing install base of electronic home improvement homeowners.

Smarthome engineers uniquely designed Insteon as an integrated wireless network technology incorporating RF with powerline communications. They chose the powerline because it is the most pervasive and affordable home-control network technology, and RF to provide extended reach as needed and to work with wireless applications. The combination allows users to seamlessly send a signal from a wireless or powerline device from anywhere in the home to any other device.

For example, a wireless keyfob can be used to unlock a battery-operated door lock using Insteon’s RF capability, while at the same time turning on the lights in the home using Insteon’s powerline capability.

Insteon is cost effective and easy to integrate into products. Smarthome is committed to working with partners to incorporate Insteon into a wide variety of everyday devices, including appliances and other household products, as well as developing its own products based on the technology.

Installation

To begin using Insteon, users will simply need to plug-in two SignaLinc™ RF access points in their home.  

The installation of Insteon products features a simple “Plug and Tap™” process. For examples, to control a downstairs lamp from upstairs, a user would:

• Plug the lamp into an Insteon module in the downstairs electrical outlet
• Plug a desktop controller into the upstairs electrical outlet or use a wireless control device
• ‘Tap’ the upstairs desktop set button
• ‘Tap’ the downstairs module set button
• The installation is complete.

Insteon devices will be able to be programmed via a PC as well as programmed and controlled remotely via the Internet. PC home automation software can be used to manage devices throughout the home, such as dimming the lights and turning on the stereo during dinnertime.

Applications

The practical applications for Insteon include remotely controlling or automating lighting, appliances, security, climate and more. While broadband technologies such as Ethernet and 802.11 are perfect for transmitting large amounts of video and audio data, Insteon is a “narrow band” technology that is better suited for sending simple data to control household automation functions.

Insteon is designed to be easily incorporated in OEM products, such as washing machines, dryers and dishwashers, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) devices, garage door openers, and more. For instance, when incorporating Insteon, dishwashers will be programmed to not to turn on when the washing machine is in use or someone is taking a shower. When the dryer’s cycle is complete, a pleasant voice can remotely tell a user their “Clothing is finished,” instead of a loud buzzer.

Other applications include homeowners using Insteon to receive a text message on their mobile phone if a refrigerator stops working, adjust outdoor speakers via a wireless controller and automatically fill or adjust pool or spa temperatures.

Market Potential

According to ABI Research, the home-control market in the United States is projected to be almost $9 billion by 2007.

With Insteon, it is now possible to perform many home automation tasks that couldn’t be accomplished because of cost, security and reliability problems. The opportunities for home automation applications are nearly endless. Users can creatively program Insteon products to perform tasks that best suit their living environments — and make their homes more convenient, safe and fun.

Smarthome is introducing its first lighting control products with Insteon™ home-control networking technology. These devices include:

SignaLinc™ RF
The SignaLinc RF is the network access point that enables Insteon messages to be simultaneously transmitted via RF signals. To establish an Insteon network it is recommended that a minimum of two SignaLinc RF modules be installed within the home to create a robust network. The SignaLinc RF modules also serve as electrical phase couplers. The SignaLinc RF has a high-performance transformer and power supply system, which allows it to operate at full power when simulcasting Insteon messages. A plug-in style case blends into any home décor and includes Smarthome’s innovative pass-through AC outlet. Installation is as simple as plugging in each module.

SwitchLinc™ II
SwitchLinc II is a wire-in remote control dimmer that fills the home with personalized mood lighting for any occasion. An eight-level light bar allows homeowners to know the brightness level of the lights. Homeowners can also create “scene lighting,” or change the lighting to match their mood, by pressing one button to change multiple lights in the room or in the whole house. SwitchLinc II can be programmed for scenes, such as “Movie Time,” “Party,” or “Romance.” The SwitchLinc II with Insteon technology is faster, more reliable and secure than previous models using older technology. The SwitchLinc II supports both Insteon and X-10 products and has a changeable LED light pipe and faceplate and is one-third thinner than the previous model.

KeypadLinc™ II
The KeypadLinc II is an in-wall controller that activates individual lights, or triggers whole-house mood lighting “scenes” with the touch of a button. The Insteon-enabled keypad/dimmer communicates with all X-10-compatible products. Homeowners can combine the flexibility and powerful features of the current KeypadLinc with the performance-enhancing features of Insteon. Scenes allow users to control multiple circuits, rooms or even all the lights in the home with a single command. All member circuits will turn on to the homeowner’s independently desired levels (or off) simultaneously, at their independently desired ramp/fade rates. Because the KeypadLinc II remembers different light settings for different situations, homeowners are able to launch various mood lighting scenarios with one touch such as “Movie Time,” “Party” and “Romance.”

LampLinc™ II
Insteon-enabled LampLinc II allows remote on/off control as well as remote dimming/brightening from any Insteon or X-10 product. The devices remember different light settings for different situations and include the “soft start” feature that gradually brings lights up over a user-defined period of time, extending the life of light bulbs. A homeowner or installer can create custom automation solutions, timed events and multi-device macros with or without PC programming. Whole-house automation can be obtained with the addition of Smarthome’s wide array of expansion devices such as plug-in relays, wire-in keypads, switches and interfaces.

ApplianceLinc II
Like Smarthome’s line of Insteon SwitchLinc II, KeypadLinc II and LampLinc II modules, the ApplianceLinc II is fully compatible with whole-house scenes activated by a single signal. For example, if homeowners send a “Relaxation” scene, which fills their home with ambient lighting, they can have the ApplianceLinc II turn on a cascading fountain. The ApplianceLinc II offers an outlet on the face so homeowners won’t have to unplug their appliance modules just to find a place to plug-in the vacuum cleaner.

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