Smart home company Insteon finally breaks silence after turning off users’ lights
One of the biggest fears you can have when you start investing in smart home gadgets (outside of privacy concerns) is, “What if the brand you I have chosen unsupported or firm? For Insteon customers, this is a fear that has become all too real. Following a sudden shutdown of corporate forums and the suspicious estrangement of key executives (including Insteon’s chairman and parent company president), Insteon has finally released a statement that appears to confirm its closing.
Many of our readers may not immediately know the name Insteon, but it is a smart home company that enjoyed early popularity for its expandability, speed of operation and automation tools, with many early adopters who have invested in it quite deeply. The company offered basics like smart switches, outlets, sensors, and remote controls, but it also had a complex ecosystem of additional gadgets like computer interfaces, range extenders, and integrated devices that could be used in many new and personalized ways. Its products worked with the Google Assistant and were an early adopter of Apple’s HomeKit.
Insteon uses a hub-based system that communicates via a proprietary 900 MHz protocol paired with powerline-based wired data transmission, with each device acting as a repeater for a large mesh-based smart home system. Despite being integrated with many other services, Insteon has never used the more universal smart home standards that have since taken off, and the rise of Matter may ultimately prove to be one of many nails in his coffin.
Various Insteon products, including keyboards and remotes that were popular for triggering “scene” automations.
Customers first noticed something was wrong when Insteon’s services were discontinued over a week ago, interfering with some automations, digital assistant integrations, and even the basic remote based on applications in many cases. As Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo pointed out, the protocols used by Insteon were reverse-engineered, and customers have some recourse in the form of Home Assistant and OpenHab to fill the void, but it takes a bit of work on their part. In at least Home Assistant’s case, customers are further warned: “Do not factory reset your device under any circumstances, as it will not be recoverable.” A remote connection to Insteon’s servers is apparently required for the installation to complete successfully.
Stacey Higginbotham of Stacey On IOT pointed out at the start of this mystery that Rob Lileness, chairman and president of parent company Smartlabs, removed references to Insteon and Smartlabs from his LinkedIn profile, and that various other executives associated with the company either listed their roles as either having ended or similarly excluding Insteon from their professional history. Higginbotham also noted that a phone number associated with the company was no longer connecting and no one at Insteon appeared to respond to inquiries. Android Police contacted Insteon for more information at the time, but there was no immediate response.
This Insteon radio silence continued for a few days, when suddenly the company updated its website with a statement that at least indirectly addresses these developments. The company explains, in part:
In 2019, the onset of the global pandemic caused unforeseen disruptions in the market, but the business continued to forge ahead. However, the subsequent (and long-lasting) disruption to the supply chain caused by the pandemic proved incredibly difficult and the company embarked on a sale process in November 2021. The goal was to find a company mother for the company and to continue to invest in new products. and technology. The process resulted in multiple interested parties and a sale was expected to be completed within the March timeframe. Unfortunately, this sale did not materialize. Therefore, the business was outsourced to a financial services firm in March to optimize the company’s assets.
With Insteon pausing before outright saying “we’re bankrupt”, it’s hard to read this “asset optimization” statement with the feeling that Insteon intends to come out of this stronger than ever. on the other side. On the contrary, it looks like a confirmation of the end.
As for the remedies available to users, there are reports that certain types of Insteon hubs can still operate reliably even if the company’s servers become unresponsive, and customers on the /r/insteon subreddit have discussed different solutions and workarounds for their problems – if you’re one of those affected, it might be worth a look. (More like Instestoppedfriendship?)