Insteon (commonly written INSTEON) is a system for connecting lighting switches and loads without extra wiring. INSTEON is a dual-band mesh home area networking topology employing AC-power lines and a radio-frequency (RF) protocol to communicate with devices. It is a home automation networking technology designed by SmartLabs, Inc. INSTEON is designed to enable devices, such as light switches, thermostats, motion sensors, etc. to be networked together using the power line, radio frequency (RF), or both. All INSTEON devices are peers, meaning each device can transmit, receive, and repeat any message of the INSTEON protocol, without requiring a master controller or routing software.
All INSTEON compatible devices act as repeaters, meaning that they repeat each message they hear. This is in contrast to other mesh networking topologies where only "advanced nodes" repeat. Automatic error detection and correction are included in all INSTEON compatible products. The power line protocol uses phase-shift keying and is designed so that the repetition is synchronized: All repeaters repeat the same message during precisely defined time slots, so while the repetitions collide, they do so in harmony in a manner that preserves the message. The power line AC frequency is used as the synchronization source.
- 1 Device categories
- 2 Programming INSTEON devices
- 3 Network topology
- 4 Installation
- 5 Transmission
- 6 X10 compatibility
- 7 About the company
- 8 Specifications
- 9 References
- 10 See also
- 11 External links
Most INSTEON modules fall into one of three categories: Wire-in, plug-in, and battery powered.
Wall switches make up the backbone of the INSTEON system, with models available that fit either decorator-style or traditional toggle-style wall plates in a variety of colors. An INSTEON wall switch is about the size of a traditional dimmer, but includes all of the electronics necessary to communicate with other INSTEON modules. Both a TRIAC-based dimmer and relay-based switch are sold in several different power capacities. A user would remove and replace an existing wall switch with the INSTEON switch. The INSTEON switch serves as the local load controller for whatever was wired to the switch before.
Wall keypads are very similar to wall switches, but they contain additional buttons that do not have any direct relation to hard-wired load for the keypad. INSTEON markets these extra buttons as "scene" buttons that let a user recall different lighting levels or control other INSTEON devices. It is common to see wall keypads at entry and egress points on a house configured to turn all of the home lights on or off and set away modes for thermostats, etc.
Wall outlets can be installed to add INSTEON control of plug-in devices in areas where a plug-in module might be unsightly. An INSTEON outlet has one of the two outlets of a duplex receptacle configured for INSTEON control so that it can be activated remotely. The other outlet is labeled as "always on" and behaves like a normal outlet. Like the wall switches and keypads, a homeowner would replace their existing outlet with the INSTEON outlet.
In-line modules round out the INSTEON wire-in product line and encompass a variety of different types. All in-line modules are designed to be mounted inside or behind a fixture or electrical junction box. Traditionally, INSTEON in-line modules have been used to provide INSTEON-enabled lighting circuits that didn't have a directly accessible wall switch. A home owner could wire a circuit of recessed ceiling lights with an in-line module and remotely activate them from an INSTEON wall switch elsewhere in the house. With the recent expansion into international markets that do not use US decorator or toggle-style wall switches, INSTEON produced a line of micro modules that include switch-sensing technology. Rather than replace a wall switch with an INSTEON switch, a home owner can connect their existing wall switch to the micro module, tuck the micro module behind their wall switch plate and still have remote control to the load.
Plug-in modules are the most approachable INSTEON module type, as their installing merely requires plugging in a lamp or appliance into the bottom of a unit that then plugs into an outlet, much like an electronic power adapter. INSTEON has manufactured plug-in modules that contain TRIAC dimmers, relays, as well as low-voltage controllers that offer a dry-contact relay. Currently, the INSTEON product line has reused the plug-in module form factor to add support for First Alert's OneLink line of smoke detectors and has similar products to communicate with Morning Industries door deadbolts. Many older INSTEON plug-in modules featured a pass-through power outlet but newer modules do not include such an outlet. Newer modules are, however, including an expanded set of on-device buttons that let a homeowner turn a device on, off or adjust the brightness without needing another INSTEON controller. While not a direct plug-in device, INSTEON manufactures an LED light bulb that includes INSTEON technology. The bulb is marketed as being easy to install and the world's first networked light bulb. As the bulb has no on-device controls and a lamp's built-in switch when turned off disables the bulb, the bulb works best in more advanced automation systems with multiple INSTEON devices or in systems that use a central controller for smartphone control.
Sensors have been slowly added to the list of INSTEON devices over the past several years. Initial implementations of INSTEON were control-only and users had to bridge home control technologies to add sensory input to their home control system. Home automation software like HomeSeer and Indigo maintained support for a large variety of X10 modules and users often meshed the sensors available for X10 with the control modules produced for INSTEON. With the release of battery-powered INSTEON devices, INSTEON began offering native motion and contact-closure sensors. The company recently expanded their sensor options, now including a water leak sensor, and the earlier mentioned Smoke Bridge. Users who wish to add traditional wired magnetic contact sensors to their INSTEON system can do so using an INSTEON wireless open/close sensor as the company provides a sensor screw terminal under the cover. As battery powered INSTEON devices do not have a direct connection to the power line, they require at least one INSTEON device that is dual-band. Traditionally, this role was provided by a phase-bridging access point system but as most INSTEON products now ship as dual-band, almost all wire-in or plug-in INSTEON devices can receive and rebroadcast RF messages.
Remote controls have been offered in two form factors. The original wireless remote offered was a large, black or silver six-button controller that included buttons for all-on and all-off. Most recently, INSTEON released a much smaller remote that can fit inside of a decorator-style wall plate and borrows design cues from the line of INSTEON wall switches. Several versions are manufactured that include a single-function switch, a "four scene" 8-button remote as well as an "eight scene" 8-button remote.
Other products offered by INSTEON include a traditional programmable thermostat that works with 24 volt AC systems and also functions with a companion wireless thermostat that runs on AA batteries. The wireless thermostat does not directly control a heating or air-conditioning system but can send commands to the wired thermostat or less commonly, in-line modules that control a line-voltage heating system. Enterprising home owners have found methods of controlling most heating and cooling systems even when not officially supported by INSTEON through the use of relays, in-line modules and low-voltage interfaces that even work with millivolt gas furnaces.
Unlike other wireless control technologies, a basic INSTEON setup does not require the use of central controllers. For example, a keypad can be configured locally to control switches throughout the home. However, there are features only available when central controllers are employed. These features include scheduling, events, conditional logic, advanced device properties and diagnostic tools.
The INSTEON technology has found great success with DIY home control software and can be managed from Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. The company has maintained a series of "power line modems" that interface a computer with the power line network. More recent modems have included a dual-band radio to facilitate communication with battery-powered INSTEON devices.
Programming INSTEON devices
INSTEON devices are set up using a method dubbed Plug-n-Tap linking. A homeowner performs a series of taps using each device's set button to form direct device-to-device control links. Modules do not need a house or unit code like X10 devices (unless used with an X10 system), as every INSTEON device has its own unique identifier code, similar to a MAC address. When tap-tap linking is used, the devices take care of managing device identifiers on their own. Although a basic system can be deployed without a controller or personal computer, such a device may be added for advanced home management. Some devices are able to save and restore the configuration of individual devices on the network. Adding a computer for control requires home control software but allows for very advanced configuration including variables, triggers, conditional events and schedules.
INSTEON is an integrated dual-mesh network that combines wireless radio frequency (RF) with the home's existing electrical wiring. This is intended to improve reliability by providing a backup system in case of wireless interference. As a peer-to-peer network, devices do not require network supervision, thus dispensing with the need for controllers and routing tables.
Each transmission contains a two-bit "hops" field that starts at 3 and is decremented each time a node in the network repeats a message. The repetition scheme is designed so that all of the nodes repeat the messages in precise synchrony with one another, so the repetitions collide by design and strengthen one another in harmony.
INSTEON devices are set up using a "plug and tap" method. Each device has its own unique identifier code. The procedure to link two INSTEON devices can be done manually at the devices. Although a basic system can be deployed without a controller or PC, such a device may be added for advanced home management. Some devices are able to save and restore the configuration of individual devices on the network.
INSTEON uses digital signal processing to encode and transmit messages, enabling rapid transmission of control data between INSTEON devices. Individual INSTEON messages can also carry up to 14 bytes of arbitrary user data to support home-control applications from developers.
INSTEON products on the power line can be manufactured to be X10-compatible. Homeowners with existing X10 networks can migrate to an INSTEON network without having to discard all their existing X10 devices. INSTEON devices repeat INSTEON signals, but not X10 signals.
Although both can be sent over the same power line, INSTEON commands are not similar to or compatible with X10, and X10 commands are not INSTEON. Rather, INSTEON driver chip sets simply include the capability of transmitting, receiving, and responding to X10 power line messages in addition to INSTEON messages. X10 compatibility is implemented in the INSTEON-compatible chip sets made by SmartLabs, which are offered for sale to other product vendors wishing to implement INSTEON in their products.
About the company
INSTEON shares their headquarters with Smarthome.com, both wholly owned subsidiary of Smartlabs. Located in Irvine, California, both companies cater to home control and automation interests. INSTEON was initially a product manufactured and sold by Smarthome but recently, INSTEON has become its own marketing entity and now takes full ownership of the INSTEON brand and product line.
INSTEON products are still sold through Smarthome.com, but can also be found on other online retailers, including Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon France, BMB Electronics, Smart Living Technology and Envious Technology in Australia. A recent push by the company has seen INSTEON products and starter kits appear in several United States big-box retail stores; INSTEON kits are now available in select Costco and Best Buy stores across the United States.
- Data rate
- Instantaneous (within a single packet): 13,165 bit/s
- Sustained best case (over multiple packets): 2,880 bit/s
- Sustained average case: 180 bit/s .
- Message types
- Standard: 10 bytes
- Extended: 24 bytes
- Message format/structure
- Source Address: 3 bytes
- Destination Address: 3 bytes
- Flags: 1 byte
- Command: 2 bytes
- User Data: 14 bytes
- Message Integrity: 1 byte
- Devices supported
- Unique IDs: 16,777,216
- Device Types: 65,536
- Commands: 65,536
- Group Members: 256
- INSTEON engine memory requirements
- RAM: 80 bytes
- ROM: 3 kilobytes
- Typical application (light switch, lamp dimmer) memory requirements
- RAM: 256 bytes
- EEPROM: 256 bytes
- Flash: 7 kB
- Power line physical layer
- Frequency: 131.65 kHz
- Modulation: Binary phase-shift keying (BPSK)
- Min Transmit Level: 3.16 Vpp into 5 ohms
- Min Receive Level: 10 mV
- Phase Bridging: INSTEON RF or hardware
- RF physical layer
- Frequency: 902 to 924 MHz
- Modulation: FSK
- Sensitivity: -103 dBm
- Range: 150 ft unobstructed line-of-sight
- "How to Control Your Home with your Cell Phone". Popular Mechanics. October 1, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "Refresh!: INSTEON Technology". Electronic Design. Penton Media, Inc. April 5, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- "What is Insteon?". Retrieved 2007-06-25.
- Irwin et al. (2011). Exploiting Home Automation Protocols For Load Monitoring In Smart Buildings.
- Darbee, Paul (August 11, 2005). "INSTEON The Details" (PDF). Smarthome Technology. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
- DASH7, for wireless sensor networking
- KNX (standard), for intelligent buildings
- ONE-NET, an open source alternative
- Powerline communication
- Universal powerline bus (UPB)
- X10 (industry standard), a home automation protocol
- Z-Wave, an RF mesh technology