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Founded 2005
Parent Smartlabs, Inc.
Native client(s) on iOS, watchOS, Android, Windows Phone

Insteon is a home automation (aka domotics) 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 independently transmits, receives, and repeats messages.[3] Like other home automation systems, it has been associated with the Internet of Things.[4]

Insteon-based products were launched in 2005 by Smartlabs, Inc.,[5] the company which holds the trademark for Insteon.[6] A Smartlabs subsidiary, also named Insteon, was created to market the technology.[7]


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

Each message contains a two-bit "hops" field that is initialized to 3 by the originating node and decremented each time a node in the network repeats the message. Individual Insteon messages can also carry up to 14 bytes of arbitrary user data for custom applications.

Network topology[edit]

Insteon is an integrated dual-mesh (formerly referred to as "dual-band") network that combines wireless radio frequency (RF) and a building's existing electrical wiring. The electrical wiring becomes a backup communication method in the event of wireless interference. As a peer-to-peer network, devices do not require network supervision, thus allowing optional operation without controllers and routing tables.

Central controllers[edit]

Insteon devices can function without a central controller or they may be managed by a central controller to implement functions such as control scheduling, event handling, and problem reporting via email or text messaging. A computer can be used as a central controller by connecting it to a power line modem, which serves as a communication bridge between the computer and the Insteon device network.


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.[8]: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 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.


Insteon devices are configured by applying a sequence of "taps" (button presses) to a pushbutton on each device to establish direct device-to-device links — a process known as "plug and tap". Alternatively, a central controller may be used to configure devices.

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 manage device identifiers on their own.


Insteon chip sets manufactured by Smartlabs can transmit, receive, and respond to (but not repeat) X10 power line messages, thus enabling X10 networks to interoperate with Insteon.[9][10]

In 2014, Insteon released a home automation system compatible with the touch-enabled Metro interface, with devices appearing as "live tiles",[11] and later added voice control via Microsoft Cortana.[12][13] In 2015, voice control was added via compatibility with Amazon Echo.[14]

Insteon announced an initiative in 2015 to integrate the Google-owned Nest learning thermostat with Insteon.[15]

An Insteon network may be connected through a gateway to Apple's HomeKit system[16] and used with the AllJoyn protocol.[17]


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[18]
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[8]:53


  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. ^ "Can we talk? Internet of Things vendors face a communications 'mess'". Computer World. IDG. April 18, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2015. 
  5. ^ "First Look: Insteon's Easier Home Automation". Washington Post. September 2, 2005. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 
  6. ^ "INSTEON - Trademark Details". Retrieved October 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Insteon Partners With Nest". Orange County Business Journal. January 6, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Insteon The Details" (PDF). Insteon. 2013. 
  9. ^ "X10 Programming for Insteon Devices". Smarthome. Smarthome Inc. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  10. ^ "Home Control 101: Insteon vs. X10". EH Network. EH Publishing. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  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. ^ Crist, Ry. "'Alexa, hit the lights': Amazon Echo adds Insteon support". CNet. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  15. ^ Brown, Michael (5 January 2015). "‘Works with Nest’ program gains traction with 15 new smart device integrations". IDG Consumer & SMB. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  16. ^ Ricker, Thomas; Kastrenakes, Jacob. "First HomeKit devices confirm Apple TV's limited role in home automation". The Verge. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  17. ^ "AllJoyn: Building Universal Windows Apps that Discover, Connect, and Interact with Other Devices and Cloud Services Using AllJoyn". Channel 9. Microsoft. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  18. ^ Irwin; et al. (2011). "Exploiting Home Automation Protocols For Load Monitoring In Smart Buildings" (PDF). 

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