With Smart Home products connecting to the cloud, if a company decides to end support for a product or is required to close due to final troubles, there are few courses of action. The easiest one is to give up, and switch to another brand, or promise yourself you’ll never use one of those “Internet of Shit” products. The second one is quite more time-consuming and you’d have to work with the community to reverse-engineering the product and give it a second life, but obviously, this does not solve the supply issue since the product will not be manufactured anymore. Today, I learn about a third one: simply gather a small group of users, and buy the company!
That’s basically the story of Smartlabs’ Insteon Smart Home products. Smartlabs was in bankruptcy proceedings. its cloud turned off, and products not working since April 14. Some members of Home Assistant community worked on Insteon integration with the open-source home automation framework to help people keep on using their powerline nodes, USB adapters, and hubs. Companies in bankruptcy will usually try to find buyers, but in this case, it appears a small group of (well-off) existing Insteon users decided to gather the funds to buy what’s left of the company, with many of the services already restored.
Here’s the announcement on Insteon website:
We are a small group of passionate Insteon users that have successfully acquired Insteon. Like many of you, our homes are powered by Insteon’s amazing dual-mesh technology and highly configurable products.
Most of you discovered that the Insteon Hubs began coming back online. Our first priority was getting the hubs online immediately before we had access to this site, the email service provider, social accounts, etc. Every day more customers were giving up hope so it was critical to get that restored as soon as possible. We are aware not all functions are back online but we are actively working on it. We hope you understand this urgency and appreciate your patience.
Going forward we are committed to responsibly re-building the Insteon business. Our commitment to you, as part of the Insteon family, is to listen, communicate and be as transparent as possible in everything we do.
Please stay tuned for updates here as well as on twitter, facebook, reddit and elsewhere. If you are an Insteon Hub account holder, look for an email in the coming days.
Thank you all for your patience. We look forward to sharing this new journey with you.
CEO, Insteon Technologies
According to his LinkedIn profile, the new CEO is a member of an investment committee that manages a family of seed-stage venture capital funds that provides startup funding for promising new Southern California ventures”, so it might have helped with getting the funds, although I’m not sure that specific committee was involved in the purchase of Insteon. One way Insteon will become a self-sustainable business is through a yearly subscription fee ($39.95) [Update: that’s only if you’re using the Hub, see comments section], and indeed I’ve seen many products that fail over time to the lack of recurring revenues. Some IoT and Smart Home companies expect new hardware sales will sustain the business, but as the company grows maintaining cloud architecture becomes unsustainable. The best might be to offer free and paid tiers for more advanced features, as some users may not be happy with having to suddenly pay a yearly fee.
Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.
Home Assistant has always supported Insteon. I have had it running in my house for years. The press is widely misreporting that Insteon relies on Internet servers. This is simply not true. Only the OPTIONAL hub sold by Insteon needs the Internet. So yes all of those Insteon hubs stopped working but your light switches continued to function just fine. I have a lot of them and they all still work. You don’t have to own and Insteon hub – it is OPTIONAL. I have both Home Assistant and Universal Devices for hubs. Both of them kept working just fine.… Read more »
39.99 for a year of what? Being able to add a new module, or change a schedule ftom sunrise to 8am?
Sorry, no thanks. I loved Insteon and appreciate the attempt to resurrect the products, but I am NOT paying 40.00 a year for it.
Nope. Ain’t gonna happen.
You don’t have to pay $40/yr. That is for the OPTIONAL hub! I don’t even own this hub and I have a large Insteon network.
First, you can add devices to your network by simply using the buttons on the device to manually pair them. Next you can add devices using a third party hub. I have one from Universal devices. And it your are really into it there is a open source Python app which can add them.
Can you still control your lights/devices with Aleza commands without the Insteon Hub?
Yes, you can set up for free on Home Assistant using its Insteon support. Or pay a small fee on Universal Devices.
Smart Home products connecting to the cloud = A Titanic in search of an iceberg (*)
(*) From a security viewpoint.
When they replaced the thermostat at my place they asked me if I wanted a dumb one or a smart one. What’s the difference? I asked. With the smart one you can set the temperature, clock and other settings from your mobile phone using our app. Same price anyway. Give me the dumb one, thank you.
If you are going to write an article, please get your facts right. As pointed out before, the Smart labs failure only hit the insteon hub. I have a large installation of Insteon switches and devices and all of it still works. I did not want to rely on a cloud device for this exact reason and a few others. It is the same reasons why I would never use a Smartthings hub. There are multiple hubs available that support Insteon and the support APIs are well published unlike so many other HA products. I, for one, will support the… Read more »
….there are multiple great ‘hubs’ for Insteon..including HA and also UD’s 994i and Policy ..the mission critical element is Palms, and devices. I wish the new team success..
If only you could securely phone or text instruction to your equipment at home, instead of leasing premium features.
No one forces you to buy the Internet support. You can do what I did… Use Home Assistant for the hub. Get a stable domain name for house. Set up port forwarding in router. Set up all of the Alexa forwarding stuff on my personal Amazon account. Etc. etc. All of this can be done for free. It is just all really complex to do and it keeps breaking once every month or two. I’m getting tired of continuously debugging and fixing it. It is worth $10/mth to escape the hassle. Especially if I get hacked into, that could take… Read more »
More why should you need a man in the middle. Why not a secure point of contact on your broadband or mobile. But the market money model is lease, a recurring money charge. Why not your phone or home hardware do the work for free.
All of our houses are NAT’ed to keep all of our devices from being exposed onto the Internet for hackers to play with. Not the best defense but it is certainly useful. NAT’ed means our houses allow outgoing connections and they block incoming connections. So your house can ask for Netflix to send you a movie but Netflix can’t remotely access you TV. To be able to support remote access you have to set something up on the other side of the NAT. You can do it yourself for sort of free, or pay someone to do it. I did… Read more »
I dumped Insteon years ago. The hardware was prone to failure particularly the USB gateway devices. I replaced numerous before deciding that they were fundamentally defective designs that Insteon would not fix.
I went through the same with the USB PLMs. I’ve bought five of them so far. But on the bright side the last one I bought has been working for over five years now so that implies they have fixed whatever was failing. Since I was worried about failures one of the five is a spare I still have just in case.