Insteon Gets Another Chance

Screenshot of the Insteon's new blog post, showing the Insteon logo in the header, the "A New Day for Insteon!" title, and some of the intro paragraph of the blog post

It would appear that, sometimes, miracles happen. A few days ago, an update graced the website of Insteon, a company whose abrupt shuttering we covered in detail two months ago. An entity described as “small group of passionate Insteon users” has bought what was left of the company, and is working on getting the infrastructure back up. Previously, there was no sign of life from the company’s APIs. Now, Insteon hubs are coming back to life — or perhaps, they’re Inste-online again.

We’ve explained that revival of these devices without acquiring the company IP would’ve been tricky because of stuff like certificate pinning, and of course, a pile of proprietary code. Buying a company that’s undergoing a liquidation is not exactly end-user-friendly, but it would seem that someone sufficiently business-savvy got it done. The new CEO, as reported by [CNX Software], is a member of an investment committee — it’s fair to assert that this would help. A more sustainable funding source rather than ‘sell hardware and then somehow provide indefinite services’ is promised; they are moving to a subscription model, but only for Insteon Hub users. Recurring payments don’t sound as bad when it comes to paying developers and covering operational costs, and we hope that this revival succeeds.

Nothing is mentioned about moving towards openness in software and hardware — something that protects users from such failures in the first place. The new company is ultimately vulnerable to the same failure mode, and may leave the users in the dark just as abruptly as a result. However, we have our fingers crossed that the updated business model holds, purely for users’ sake. At least, unlike with the Wink hub, Insteon’s transition to a subscription model is better than the Inste-off alternative.

We thank [Itay] for sharing this with us! Via [CNX Software].

32 thoughts on “Insteon Gets Another Chance

  1. Wikipedia says Smartlabs who runs Insteon tried to sell it and when that failed someone was appointed to try and “optimize” the assets of the company. From Wikipedia:

    In a community statement published on the website (link 404), Smartlabs has revealed that it has been looking for a parent company to purchase and continue developing the Insteon ecosystem following supply-chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. This sale failed to materialize in March 2022 and subsequently a financial services firm has been tasked with optimizing the assets of the company.[1][2]

    Evidently that plan is working. On 09-June-2022 it was announced Insteon is back to selling subscriptions, 1-Year Access for $39.95 every 12 months, 2-year access for $69.95.[3] But I haven’t seen anything discussing what has changed with Insteon to prevent a second commercial failure.

    CNX said: 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.

    Outside of CNX [4] and their referenced 09-June-2022 “A New Day for Insteon!” letter [5] I have not heard of this Insteon bankruptcy then user buy-out story, but it seems true. The “A New Day for Insteon!” letter came out the same day Insteon started selling subscriptions again. Both Wikipedia articles on Insteon mention nothing about a bankruptcy then user buy-out.

    * References:

    1. Insteon

    2. Insteon (company)

    3. Insteon Updates – Subscriptions Ready to Buy

    4. Is your Smart Home product being shutdown? Just buy the company!

    5. A New Day for Insteon!

      1. Thanks for the pointer!

        Having “Home automation company Insteon” in the opening sentence would have let the article stand on its own without unprepared readers going down the rabbit hole

          1. Why so offended? The article literally says nothing about the company’s services that have been restored. It’s like the writer says “Insteon restores their shut down services!”, then when someone asks “which services did they offer?”, you’re like “how dare you suggest the writer explain their main thesis?”. I get that you support the writers, but blindly defending a single article because a reader wanted more info seems a little much (especially as the commenter was correct: it would have helped to describe the company, at least as a home-automation services provider).

          2. It’s a reward for people who read Hackaday regularly. If you did, you’d have read the article two months ago about how Insteon ceased to be.

            Besides, if you knew what Insteon was, you’d be able to put the article in context. If you didn’t, either it doesn’t matter, or you could find out more by clicking the link or using your favourite search engine.

            Whining about the fact that you have not been spoon fed everything is just churlish. This is Hackaday. Hackers are supposed to figure things out.

          3. You’re relying on external dependencies and putting down accessibility.

            I have nothing against learning more and doing your own additional research, but if you are pro buried institutional knowledge I’m guessing you don’t believe in commenting code or thinking beyond a single user segment.

            If it’s a nod or reward to devoted readers you want, think of designs that do this well: Futurama or the Konami code to list two. They don’t abandon a general user, they ADD extra value to those that have the knowledge.

  2. “A more sustainable funding source rather than ‘sell hardware and then somehow provide indefinite services’ is promised; ”

    Oh pUHLEASE… The only ‘indefinite services’ they need to provide their users are a TINY amount of data and server space. Something that gets cheaper every year, while the hardware they sell doesn’t increase in usage requirements over time.

    Yes its all the rage for investment companies to buy in and force a sub model on companies. Its garbage and just leads another unexpected shuttering down the road If thats all they want to do.

    1. How about they make everything work without going through a server on the internet? No more indefinite costs to the company, and the users are better off too! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this yet? Nobel prize in economics coming my way? :/

      1. My Insteon stuff works just fine with no remote server. Why? Because I never bought their “hub” and instead hooked their older “power line modem” or PLM to a raspberry pi and use an open source Insteon to MQTT bridge. So my stuff works with NO internet connection. Although if the PLM dies I’m screwed. Maybe I should look at buying a spare.

        1. Do buy a spare or two once they’re back up for sale. I have a few spares, and while I’ve only had one failure, it was astonishing to me how much I have come to depend on the automations I’ve developed over the years. I only have 2 install footprints, but I keep a spare PLM at each of them.

  3. I’ve recently been adding sonoff smart switches flashed with tasmota on them and running on an openhab mqtt server to my house, and I’d recommend it to everyone interested and capable of setting it up. No fees beyond the initial purchase of the cheap esp8266 based relays. Even better, build your own switches with esp8266s if you have the time, get costs down to <$5 a switch.

    1. Other misinformation circulating….

      The Insteon hub is optional. I have a large Insteon install and don’t own one. Everything works fine with out their hub.

      Second, there are many alternatives to the Insteon hub. I have hubs from Universal Devices and Home Assistant. Both of those work great with my Insteon devices. Hubs are only needs for more complex automations, Alexa support, external control via app.

      I never noticed the hub went down because I don’t own one. What bothered me was that some of my device died and I was unable to buy replacement devices.

      Again, Insteon devices do not need the Internet. They work fine without the hub. The Internet is not required to set them up.

        1. You need an Insteon USB Powerline Modem. And that’s is part of the bankruptcy problem, you can’t buy them. Last I heard the Universal devices people were working to get production restarted. A few are around on Ebay, etc.

          Insteon radios are common 900Mhz. Random link from someone hacking on them…

          Maybe the new owners will open source the radio protocol.

          1. Thanks for the link!

            Based on that post it sounds like the protocol is mostly open already, so with any luck the new owners won’t really have a say in the matter. I just ordered a Yard Stick One and I’ll give it a try.

        2. What this sub-thread leaves out is that used, but working 2413s USB PLMs are currently selling for north of $400USD. These were $80USD new.

          An additional challenge is that the 2413s fails every 2-4 years. They’re repairable by replacing the Electrolytic Capacitor – Radial Leaded -10uf 400V. Even dead ones sell for BIG $.

          If this “new” Insteon truly wants to be successful, they need to put this item back into production and up for sale soon (and at a reasonable price). If they don’t, there will be massive defection to other ecosystems.

  4. Matter. That is why this is happening and nothing Insteon does will change THAT future. Can they make money being a legacy bridge technology to larger Matter ecosystems? Wrong question.. How long can they sustain operations being a legacy bridge subscription… That is the investor Q.

    This is all about the Matter ecosystem resetting the playing field and crushing out non-standard competition. Insteon is just one of the legacy players seeing the writing on the subway wall.

    1. Matter has nothing to do with why Insteon failed. Their core chip was one of the key MCUs hit by the semiconductor shortage. We used the same chip family and had to redesign everything to remove it. They didn’t and they lost any ability to produce product.

      Matter will most likely win in the longer run, but it is going to be several years before Matter achieves parity with what Insteon has today. Another piece of this is keeping the Insteon installed base working until Matter is able to support a transition.

      What is most likely to happen? The new Insteon will use their experience to launch a line of Matter compatible devices as well as provide a mechanism to transition legacy customers. This transition to Matter is going to take at least five years for large systems. Sure you can get a three light bulb system working immediately, but that is very different than a constructing a system with over a hundred devices. Things as basic as Scenes are not there is Matter 1.0 and will have to be fixed in 2.0.

  5. This sounds like a classic bait and switch scam. They have people over a barrel with sunk in costs. Killing the service without an upgrade path was absolutely wrong. Taking advantage of this after a long outage and putting the screws to people for a monthly ransom to use the hardware. When the company had an outage for thousands of users that lasted more than a month
    I believe this makes them a viable target for litigation that could force the release of minimum information required to self host the software required to keep the lights on and a method to export existing device configurations from from the users existing users and device configurations on the insteon cloud to a format the self hosted version uses.

  6. Why do I get the feeling that the first thing that happens is that the hubs get their firmware updated to no longer allow third party workarounds.

    Anyone who had a functional insteon install has either replaced it or figured out home assistant to run it at this point.

    They’ve also sworn off buying anything from insteon (no matter who the owner is) ever again.

    The company’s products have never been reliable. Hubs die every couple of years, switches last a bit longer than that. But anyone who has used insteon products for any length of time has a box full of dead devices, and probably has had one or two die in such a way they don’t even turn the lights on since the servers got shut off.

    The real reason the company died, is that they hadn’t made a new product since the hub that let it connect to amazon echos, which was ironically the thing that actually made these useful, instead of having to find a remote or pull out a phone to use an app.

  7. Its GREAT to see insteon back to life. I upgraded half my house to Control4 so far and it would save me thousands if insteon had a Control4 DRIVER to be able to integrate the two.

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