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Insteon is a home automation technology that enables light switches, lights, thermostats, motion sensors, and other electrical devices to interoperate through power lines, radio frequency (RF) communications, or both.[1] It employs a dual-mesh networking topology[2] in which all devices are peers and each device autonomously transmits, receives, and repeats messages.[3] Like other home automation systems, it has been associated with the Internet of Things.[4]

Every message received by an Insteon compatible device undergoes error detection and correction and is then retransmitted to improve reliability of the network. All devices retransmit the same message at the same time so that message transmissions collide synchronously, thus preserving the integrity of the message. The power line AC frequency serves as the synchronization reference for message transmissions. The power line protocol uses phase-shift keying.

Insteon was launched in 2005[5] by, and is a registered trademark of, Smartlabs, Inc. The Better Business Bureau rates Smartlabs a B- based on its complaint history, business size, and length of time in business.[6]

Device categories[edit]

Most Insteon modules fall into one of three categories: Wire-in, plug-in, and battery powered.

Central controllers[edit]

Insteon devices are linked to each other by pushing button on the devices themselves in a particular sequence. However, there are features only available when central controllers are employed. These features include scheduling, events, conditional logic, advanced device properties and diagnostic tools.

An Insteon installation can be managed from iOS, Android, Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. The company has a series of "power line modems" that interface a computer to the Insteon network. In January 2015 Insteon announced a gateway to allow it to interconnect with Apple's HomeKit system [7] and the AllJoyn protocol.[8]

Insteon markets its own brand of central controller: the Insteon Hub, a device to control Insteon light bulbs, wall switches, outlets, and thermostats at home or remotely and receive email or text message alerts from disrupted sensors, as well as to schedule the operation of Insteon devices, such as turning lights on at sunset.

LED bulbs[edit]

In 2012, the company introduced the first network-controlled light bulb.[9] As the bulb has no on-device controls and a lamp's built-in switch when turned off disables the bulb, such bulbs work best in more advanced automation systems with multiple Insteon devices or in systems that use a central controller. Bulbs come in both traditional A19 size and a larger PAR38 size for recessed lights.

Wall switches[edit]

An Insteon wall switch replaces a conventional wall switch, thus enabling remote control of the switch's electric load. Depending on its intended purpose, an Insteon switch contains either a TRIAC-based dimmer or a relay. Insteon wall switches allows every wall switch to control every other wall switch without the addition of extra wires. Multiway switching can be done with a few taps of the set button. An Insteon rechargeable battery powered switch allows for a wall switch anywhere in the home. An Insteon Keypad allows for the control of other switches and devices.

Wall keypads[edit]

Wall keypads have multiple, programmable pushbuttons that are commonly used as "scene" selectors to recall preprogrammed control levels. For example, they may be used at building entry and egress points to program lights and thermostats to "occupied" or "unoccupied" states.

When a wall switch is replaced with an Insteon Keypad, the control of a light fixture remains while adding remote control of other Insteon devices. The On and Off buttons take the place of the original wall switch. Tapping the buttons controls the lights while the Dimmer Keypad brightens and dims lights by pressing and holding each button.

The scene buttons can be used to control individual devices like an LED Bulb or other wall switches, or groups of devices. The keypad can in turn be controlled by other devices.

Wall outlets[edit]

An Insteon dimmer 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. The On/Off Outlet can remotely control both the upper and lower outlets independently.

In-line modules[edit]

In-line modules are mounted inside or behind a fixture or electrical junction box. Insteon in-line modules are used to provide Insteon-enabled lighting circuits that don't have a directly accessible wall switch.

Insteon has miniature in-line modules that include switch-sensing technology that can be used with an existing wall switch connected to the micro module.

Both in-line modules and micro modules are available as a dimmer or as a relay.

Plug-in modules[edit]

Plug-in modules require plugging in a lamp or appliance into the bottom of a unit that then plugging the module into a power outlet. Insteon has manufactured plug-in modules containing TRIAC dimmers and relays that include a set of on-device buttons that let a homeowner turn a device on, off or adjust the brightness without needing another Insteon controller. The Insteon product line has reused the older plug-in module form factor to add support for smoke detectors and electronic door deadbolts. A low-voltage controller includes a dry-contact relay. Additionally, there is a plug-in device, the Outdoor On/Off Module equipped with a weather-resistant enclosure.


Insteon wireless sensors include motion sensors, contact-closure sensors, water leak sensors, and smoke detectors. Wired magnetic contact sensors can be added to wireless open/close sensors. As battery- powered Insteon devices do not have a direct connection to the power line, their use with wired Insteon devices requires at least one Insteon device that can receive and rebroadcast RF messages.

Remote controls[edit]

Insteon remote controls include: a wireless single-function switch, Mini Remote (4-Scene or 8-Scene), and Tabletop Enclosure. The wireless switch and Mini Remotes can be hand-held, mounted on a wall or clipped to a sunvisor. Any Insteon wired switch or keypad can be installed in a Tabletop Enclosure which includes a tethered cord for power.


Insteon thermostats work with most heating and cooling systems found in homes and many businesses. The Insteon thermostat gives control over low-voltage and millivolt heaters. When an Insteon Thermostat is installed and linked to a central controller, it can be remotely controlled from a smartphone or tablet.

Insteon programmable thermostats work with 24 volt AC systems and also function 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. The wireless thermostat can 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.[citation needed]

WiFi Cameras[edit]

Insteon HD WiFi Cameras are equipped with 614,400 pixels, video capturing speeds of 1280 x 720, 16:9 widescreen video options and HD video sensor.[citation needed] Indoor cameras feature full pan and tilt and come with a ring of darkness-illuminating infrared LEDs.

Low Voltage[edit]

The Insteon plug-in module, I/O Linc, can monitor and control low voltage devices such as alarm sensors, electric door strikes, and contact closures. The I/O Linc has four output relay modes to allow the control of different types of devices, can control Insteon lights and appliances using standard sensors. The I/O Linc has one sensor input and one output relay (NO/NC).

Embedded Devices[edit]

Insteon embedded modules can be used to control lights without a directly accessible switch, such as Malibu or recessed lights. In-line modules are designed to be mounted inside an electrical junction box or behind a fixture to control the lights from any location in the home. Insteon’s embedded devices include:

  • Ceiling Fan Controller (Dual-Band)
  • Dimmer DIN Rail Dimmer
  • On/Off DIN Rail
  • Insteon Micro Dimmer (Dual-Band)
  • Insteon Micro On / Off (Dual-Band)
  • Insteon Micro Open / Close (Dual-Band)
  • Insteon 0-10V Ballast Dimmer
  • In-LineLinc Relay - Insteon Remote Control In-Line On/Off Switch (Dual-Band)
  • In-LineLinc Dimmer - Insteon Remote Control In-Line Dimmer Switch (Dual-Band)
  • Insteon 240V 30AMP Load Controller Normally Open Relay (Dual Band)
  • Insteon 240V 30 AMP Load Controller Normally Closed Relay (Dual-Band)

Door Locks[edit]

The Insteon MorningLinc RF Doorknob/Deadbolt Controller allows entry or exit by locking or unlocking doors at the press of a button locally or remotely.

Network topology[edit]

Insteon is an integrated dual-mesh (formerly referred to as "dual-band") network that combines wireless radio frequency (RF) and the home's existing electrical wiring. This is intended to improve reliability by providing a backup system in case of wireless interference.[citation needed] As a peer-to-peer network, devices do not require network supervision, thus dispensing with the need for controllers and routing tables.


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. 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.


Insteon network security is maintained via linking control to ensure that users cannot create links that would allow them to control a neighbors’ INSTEON devices, and via encryption within extended Insteon messages for applications such as door locks and security systems that make use of extended messages to send sensitive data.[10]:53

Insteon enforces linking control by requiring users to have physical possession of devices in order to create links. Firmware in INSTEON devices prohibits them from identifying themselves to other devices unless a user physically presses a button on the device during the installation process. Linking to a device by sending INSTEON messages (e.g., from a computer or central controller) requires knowledge of the 3-byte address of the target INSTEON device. As these addresses are unique for each device and assigned at the factory (and displayed on a printed label attached to each device), users must have physical access to the device to read the device address from the label and manually enter it when prompted during installation by a computer program or controller.

Installation and programming[edit]

Insteon devices are set up using a "plug and tap" method. A homeowner performs a series of taps using each device's set button to form direct device-to-device control links; no central controller is required. While this procedure of linking Insteon devices can be done manually at the devices, a central controller or computer-enabled interface may be added for advanced home management. Some controllers are able to save and restore the configuration of individual devices on the network.

Each Insteon device has its own unique identifier code, similar to a MAC address. When devices are directly linked using the "plug and tap" method, the devices take care of managing device identifiers on their own. Adding a computer for control requires home control software but allows for very advanced configuration, including schedules, triggers, and conditional events.


In 2014, Insteon teamed with Microsoft to release the first home automation system compatible with the touch-enabled Metro interface, with controlled devices appearing as "live tiles"[11] and later enabling voice-activated commands.[12][13] using Microsoft Cortana.

In 2015, Insteon announced an initiative to integrate the Google-owned Nest learning thermostat with Insteon.[14]


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[15]
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
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[10]:53

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How to Control Your Home with your Cell Phone". Popular Mechanics. October 1, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Refresh!: Insteon Technology". Electronic Design. Penton Media, Inc. April 5, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 
  3. ^ "What is Insteon?". Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  4. ^ Patrick Thibodeau, "Can we talk? Internet of Things vendors face a communications 'mess'", Computerworld, April 18, 2014
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ricker, Thomas; Kastrenakes, Jacob. "First HomeKit devices confirm Apple TV's limited role in home automation". The Verge. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Channel 9. Microsoft Retrieved 1 July 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Molly Oswaks, "Here it Is: The World's First Remote-Controlled (LED) Light Bulb", Gizmodo, June 20, 2012
  10. ^ a b "INSTEON The Details" (PDF). Insteon. 2013. 
  11. ^ Hachman, Mark (15 May 2014). "Microsoft teams with Insteon to sell connected-home kits". IDG Consumer & SMB. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Ochs, Susie (16 July 2014). "Insteon's Cortana integration will let Windows Phone users talk to their house". IDG Consumer & SMB. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Darryl Taft, "INSTEON Taps Microsoft Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 Home Automation App", eWeek, July 16, 2014
  14. ^ Brown, Michael (5 January 2015). "‘Works with Nest’ program gains traction with 15 new smart device integrations". IDG Consumer & SMB. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  15. ^ Irwin; et al. (2011). "Exploiting Home Automation Protocols For Load Monitoring In Smart Buildings" (PDF). 

External links[edit]