InsteOFF - Insteon abruptly turned off its cloud and (should have) ceased sales, many devices continue to (mostly) work using local controls
On April 14 2022, Insteon ceased all sales and service operations and shut off their cloud, as was first covered by Stacey on IoT here. Contrary to some very dire looking headlines, this cloud service suspension didn't actually brick all existing devices, and many simple devices like light switches continuing to work just fine. My own home's sunset/midnight/sunrise programs are all still running fine for now, at least until the next Daylight Saving Time change on November 6 2022 here in the US. But it does suck that neither of my Insteon Apps for iOS work any more. At all. The ominous red LED is glowing on my Insteon 2243-222 Hub Pro full time now, with no cloud to communicate with. This also means no more firmware update capabilities either, leaving the potential for vulnerabilities to remain unpatched.
While it's no fun to tell my readers of the sudden demise of a company whose products I recommended for years, at least there's some solace that I had a pretty reliable and (mostly) smooth 9 years of Insteon devices automating some of my home's accent and interior lighting, and hopefully some of you did too. There may also be some hope, a way to keep your gear out of the landfill for years to come, read onward for details.
Insteon's deplorable no-advance-notice cloud service suspension was painful, leaving many without any way to access to their hub. This means basic settings like time of day on/off programs can no longer be changed, myself included.
As Richard explains in his Smart Home Podcast #208, Insteon's 2005 design that uses both Insteon RF and Powerline that they dubbed a dual-mesh capability, and all these devices are repeating. This set up performed well in my home, the underlying, propriety protocols weren't something I needed to learn. These worked far better than X10 ever did. My "controllers" and "responders" still work in concert, so my wireless keypads to turn on and off my devices around my home still work, and my groupings (which lights turn on at sunset, which lights turn off at midnight, which lights turn off at sunrise) still work. The cloud connected hubs came much later, allowing for outside the home control, and used for rearranging groupings and schedules.
Even though shopping for replacement or new smarthome.com gear hasn't been taken offline yet, I would not recommend ordering anything: it's pretty inexcusable that their site doesn't even have any kind of warning that many of the products listed there are unusable, and plenty of Insteon gear is still listed on Amazon and eBay without any warnings.
The service shut-down has been confirmed by Insteon:
Dear Insteon Community,
In 2017, after many successful years, Smartlabs, Inc found itself in financial difficulties and the path forward was unclear. That year, Smartlabs took in additional capital and brought in new management to turn the situation around. These efforts resulted in new investment into the fortification of the technology and development of new products. The future was looking bright.
In 2019, the onset of the global pandemic brought unforeseen disruption to the market, but the company continued to move forward. However, the subsequent (and enduring) disruption to the supply chain caused by the pandemic proved incredibly difficult and the company engaged in a sales process in November, 2021. The goal was to find a parent for the company and continue to invest in new products and the technology. The process resulted in several interested parties and a sale was expected to be realized in the March time frame. Unfortunately, that sale did not materialize. Consequently, the company was assigned to a financial services firm in March to optimize the assets of the company.
The pioneering work in smart lighting and world-class products have created an extraordinary following and community. Clearly, all Smartlabs’ employees who have worked so hard to produce such world-class products and technology hope that a buyer can be found for the company.
Although incredibly difficult, we hope that the Insteon community understands the tireless efforts by all the employees to serve our customers, and deeply apologize to the community.
Folks just to clear up a few things, the issue with the servers being done impacts the Insteon App which uses the Insteon servers to process the requests from the App. The timers are actually stored on the hub thus the reason those still work but you need the App to make changes so we are screwed to make changes as long as the Insteon servers are down, the Insteon App is effectively dead. However the good news is the hub can still be used with software that runs locally and does not rely on the cloud.
This is such a shameful example of poor company behavior, and of the risk taken when investing in gear from any cloud-connected IoT device company. Such stories hurt the IoT industry as a whole. I'm glad that the prospects for some level of local Insteon device control may make the pain felt much less keen that it would be for other sad story endings such as Wink, and hopefully I can keep my dozens of Insteon devices away from landfills for at least a little while longer. All my local light wall toggle switches will continue to keep working, but once the we hit and a while back I moved from Insteon leak and smoke sensors over to the monitored service of (Amazon owned) Ring Home Security System, so my "blast radius" of damage from this unfortunate suspension of operations was minimized.
Warning: despite the red LED on your hub, don't reset to factory defaults, because then even your programs will cease working, and you won't be able to initialize the hub to fix this.
As for workarounds, I'm not fond of dealing with learning hobbyist Insteon PLM devices. This also means Home Assistant is looking less appealing to me as well. All I really need is the ability to easily add and remove lighting devices and switches to my sunset, midnight, and sunrise timer programs that rely on an accurate clock, along with approximate location data to calculate exactly when sunset and sunrise happens on any given day at my home.
If I do find something like HomeSeer works for my specific requirements, then it's unlikely I'll feel any urgency to rip and replace all my Insteon gear, including the toggle switch for my office's overhead lighting operated from 2 convenient wireless keypad locations, all my Insteon outlets scattered around the house, and my Insteon on/off switch modules. I'm not at all sure what smart home vendor's gear I would go with at this point.
- On May 3 2022, I back-ordered this item, which might begin shipping on May 13th, but I have no idea how long my wait will be:
$139.00 - HomeSeer HomeTroller Pi Smart Home Hub
- Looks like I'll also this:
$59.95 - Mark Sandler MNS Insteon Software Plugin for HS4
- I already have an Insteon Hub
Note, HomeSeer is:
- Locally Managed- "Your automations execute faster and more reliably because they’re processed locally and don’t need the Internet to work."
- No Monthly Fees - "Enjoy free remote access and free integrations with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT cloud services."
Am I thrilled to sink another ~$200 into my decade of Insteon purchases? Not really, but if it arrives before November's time change, and if the HomeTroller Pi Hub Quick Start Guide really is easy to follow, then this solution buys me some more years of time to ponder what I'll do next. I'll consider that a win.
I'll let you know how it goes!
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Changed title for much better clarity, from:
- Insteon abruptly turned off its cloud and ceased sales but many devices continue to work using local controls
- Insteon abruptly turned off its cloud and (should have) ceased sales, many devices continue to (mostly) work using local controls
I also cleaned up and clarified dual mesh operations, and clarified that workaround plans that don't involve PLM or Home Assistant.
On May 13, my 2 Day FedEx shipment from HomeSeer Technologies arrived, that wait wasn't nearly as long as I thought it might be. I hope to do an unboxing and initial configuration video that I'll share here in this article.
Good news, after a couple of hours of tinkering, I was able to move all 17 of my devices over to my new HomeSeer, and I set up my sunset, midnight, and sunrise events to trigger the appropriate devices to turn on or off.
I did end up working with Tyler Manson in technical support when I encountered a DHCP issue, but he found that the issue was already being worked on, so we quickly pivoted to working around the issue and getting my Banana Pi based device going again, aka, HomeTroller Pi Hub (HT-PI-G3).
- All TinkerTry articles about Smart Home
- Insteon is down and may not be coming back
Apr 16 2022 by Stacey Higginbotham at Stacey on IoT
Is your Insteon smart home system down? I’m getting reports from dozens of Insteon users that as of Friday their smart home hubs have stopped working. So far, none of them have heard from the company, and Insteon’s Twitter account hasn’t been updated since June 2021. I reached out to Rob Lilleness, the president and chairman of Smartlabs, the company that owns Insteon and have not yet heard back.
- LEAVING USERS IN THE DARK —
Shameful: Insteon looks dead—just like its users’ smart homes
The app and servers are dead. The CEO scrubbed his LinkedIn page. No one is responding.
Apr 18 2022 by Ron Amadeo at arstechnica
The entire company seems to have abruptly shut down just before the weekend, breaking users' cloud-dependent smart-home setups without warning. Users say the service has been down for three days now despite the company status page saying, "All Services Online." The company forums are down, and no one is replying to users on social media.
- Insteon’s troubles are a smart home tale as old as time
As Insteon and iHome’s cloud servers go dark, consumers are left holding useless pieces of plastic... again
Apr 20 2022 by Jennifer Pattison at The Verge
Revolv, Iris, Insignia, Staples Connect, Wink, and now Insteon and iHome: the graveyard of dead or dying smart home ecosystems that promised so much yet failed to deliver is getting crowded. Smart home company Insteon has turned off its cloud servers, as first reported [by Stacey on IoT(https://staceyoniot.com/insteon-is-down-and-may-not-be-coming-back/)], and device maker iHome has also shut down its servers, confirming to The Verge that its iHome cloud services were terminated on April 2nd.
At least my Insteon’s existing dawn/midnight/dusk light controls still work, at least until daylight savings time changes I suppose. I just can’t change anything.— Paul Braren | TinkerTry.com 🖥️🔌☀️🔋🚗 (@paulbraren) April 19, 2022
The Reddit threadhttps://t.co/4oXwNV26Ct
that the article refers to is quite helpful.@richardgunther @gigastacey pic.twitter.com/uvHFKQufom