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(Configuration)
(Configuration)
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This is mostly a push. WEMO is simple, you've got an app. The app controls the device. Done. Unless you want to do anything interesting, then you're stuck with third party integrations which are a bit limiting at best.
 
This is mostly a push. WEMO is simple, you've got an app. The app controls the device. Done. Unless you want to do anything interesting, then you're stuck with third party integrations which are a bit limiting at best.
  
INSTEON is complex and fragmented. You can do a ton of wonderful things, but you may need a lot of UIs to do so. First you need a way to bridge your IP-based network to the INSTEON network. In the old days this was a serial device attached to a computer, today it's the [http://www.insteon.com/insteon-hub/ Hub] - a little device with a power cable and an Ethernet jack. There are two (soon to be three?) versions of the hub, and as near as I can tell you may want the older 2012 version because the 2014 version removes some legacy support and hackability - but good luck trying to figure out which version you're buying.
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INSTEON is complex and fragmented. You can do a ton of wonderful things, but you may need a lot of UIs to do so. You can do this completely without a controller, effectively think of it like Bluetooth pairing where you physically press and hold a button on a "sender" (something like a light switch or pushbutton remote) and then push and hold a button on a "receiver" (something like a fan controller or plug-in adapter) and they'll be paired. But that's not interesting, if there's no app for control it's not a very smart home.
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 +
First you need a way to bridge your IP-based network to the INSTEON network. In the old days this was a serial device attached to a computer, today it's the [http://www.insteon.com/insteon-hub/ Hub] - a little device with a power cable and an Ethernet jack. There are two (soon to be three?) versions of the hub, and as near as I can tell you may want the older 2012 version because the 2014 version removes some legacy support and hackability - but good luck trying to figure out which version you're buying.
  
 
Once you've got the Hub setup, you need to control it. There's an app for that, of course, and the Android app isn't bad at all. But the Windows 8 app for the desktop is designed for phones and lacks some device support. And neither can handle scene controllers, effectively pushbutton remotes. For that you'll need the [http://www.smarthome.com/houselinc.html HouseLinc] software. And remember, it's all decentralized so the Hub has one configuration known and the HouseLinc software has other bits known but they don't know about each other. But thankfully it works. Mostly.
 
Once you've got the Hub setup, you need to control it. There's an app for that, of course, and the Android app isn't bad at all. But the Windows 8 app for the desktop is designed for phones and lacks some device support. And neither can handle scene controllers, effectively pushbutton remotes. For that you'll need the [http://www.smarthome.com/houselinc.html HouseLinc] software. And remember, it's all decentralized so the Hub has one configuration known and the HouseLinc software has other bits known but they don't know about each other. But thankfully it works. Mostly.
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| Yes
 
| Yes
 
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|}
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== Security ==
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Both probably losers, but for different reasons. WEMO is proprietary and "cloud-based" which means you're at the mercy of Belkin's developers for security. They [http://www.ioactive.com/news-events/IOActive_advisory_belkinwemo_2014.html goofed once], but a software patch to the devices fixed things. Belkin is an accessory builder, there isn't much need for security in a USB hub or mouse. They've done a decent job on WEMO, but it's still early days.
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On the other hand, we know where SmartHome has failed. The Hub is an HTTP-based device. The default password is easy to guess, nothing's encrypted, and - most damaging - the initial Hub '''can't''' be updated and the Hub II is still a microcontroller so it's not as simple as grabbing OpenSSL and patching things. But this isn't horribly critical if you don't expose the Hub to the outside world. First, change the username/password in the Android App. Don't open up the port number to the outside world or, if you do, at least change it from the default and '''NEVER''' connect over insecure WiFi since it will pass your password in plaintext. Even better, set up a VPN into your home network. Now you won't be able to access the app unless you're connected, but it will be secure.
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The bad news is that INSTEON's security probably cannot be fixed on your device. The good news is it can be fixed by swapping out the Hub with something new.
  
 
== Reliability ==
 
== Reliability ==

Revision as of 08:41, 1 March 2015

The current state of home automation is a bit lacking, but I feel that we're on the cusp of a revolution. There are plenty of competing standards out there for home automation protocols, but they follow two distinct patterns. The classic home automation grew from X10 which sent signals over the powerlines already in your house to control remote devices. It's decentralized and very flexible - considering it was invented in the 1970s. These protocols are built from the bottom up, usually microcontroller-based and designed for simplicity and mass production. There is a new breed of protocols like WEMO which are top-down - more software and microprocessor oriented and usually connecting over WiFI. These, I feel, are the way of the future - but their applications are currently limited as they lac the 40+ years of experience.

INSTEON falls into the former category. Destined to evolve or be replaced it's in an interesting position of being actively developed and having a wealth controller options. My gamble is that as the INSTEON devices I have fail (and they are prone to failure) something will be able to replace them - whether it's a new INSTEON controller (my hope) or a WiFi-enabled protocol with a robust set of options.

INSTEON takes X10-like powerline signaling and adds a proprietary low-range RF signalling for when the power lines are too noisy or you need to bridge phases (in the US, you've probably got 240V coming into the house which is split into two legs, to get from one leg to the other you need to bridge the X10/INSTEON signal). It's a big mesh repeater network so the more devices you have the better. You've also got legacy devices that are powerline-only and new devices that are RF-only - so try to get at least one dual-mode device which is the bulk of modern devices today.

INSTEON vs. WEMO

Both are home automation protocols. Both are largely proprietary and managed by a single vendor (SmartHome vs. Belkin). Both have ambiguous capitalization. Which one wins?

SPOLIER ALERT: Neither. At least as of now.

Initial Setup

WEMO wins for setup, you plug it in and it becomes an access point if it can't connect to a network. This means it's all wireless and you never have to open it up to configure it. It also means that you can access it anyplace you've got Internet access. If it loses configuration you just need to be near it to set it up again.

INSTEON is a bit more...interesting. You need to know a device ID, so make sure you write it down. Or you can push a setup button to have it broadcast said ID, but that's a pain if you've just screwed in a wall plate or (even worst) installed a ceiling fan controller. More importantly, you need this information every time you lose the config - keep it safe, boys and girls.

Configuration

This is mostly a push. WEMO is simple, you've got an app. The app controls the device. Done. Unless you want to do anything interesting, then you're stuck with third party integrations which are a bit limiting at best.

INSTEON is complex and fragmented. You can do a ton of wonderful things, but you may need a lot of UIs to do so. You can do this completely without a controller, effectively think of it like Bluetooth pairing where you physically press and hold a button on a "sender" (something like a light switch or pushbutton remote) and then push and hold a button on a "receiver" (something like a fan controller or plug-in adapter) and they'll be paired. But that's not interesting, if there's no app for control it's not a very smart home.

First you need a way to bridge your IP-based network to the INSTEON network. In the old days this was a serial device attached to a computer, today it's the Hub - a little device with a power cable and an Ethernet jack. There are two (soon to be three?) versions of the hub, and as near as I can tell you may want the older 2012 version because the 2014 version removes some legacy support and hackability - but good luck trying to figure out which version you're buying.

Once you've got the Hub setup, you need to control it. There's an app for that, of course, and the Android app isn't bad at all. But the Windows 8 app for the desktop is designed for phones and lacks some device support. And neither can handle scene controllers, effectively pushbutton remotes. For that you'll need the HouseLinc software. And remember, it's all decentralized so the Hub has one configuration known and the HouseLinc software has other bits known but they don't know about each other. But thankfully it works. Mostly.

Action Android App Windows 8 App HouseLinc
Add INSTEON receiver Yes Yes Yes
Add INSTEON sender No No Yes
Control Light Yes Yes Yes
Control Fan Yes No Yes

Security

Both probably losers, but for different reasons. WEMO is proprietary and "cloud-based" which means you're at the mercy of Belkin's developers for security. They goofed once, but a software patch to the devices fixed things. Belkin is an accessory builder, there isn't much need for security in a USB hub or mouse. They've done a decent job on WEMO, but it's still early days.

On the other hand, we know where SmartHome has failed. The Hub is an HTTP-based device. The default password is easy to guess, nothing's encrypted, and - most damaging - the initial Hub can't be updated and the Hub II is still a microcontroller so it's not as simple as grabbing OpenSSL and patching things. But this isn't horribly critical if you don't expose the Hub to the outside world. First, change the username/password in the Android App. Don't open up the port number to the outside world or, if you do, at least change it from the default and NEVER connect over insecure WiFi since it will pass your password in plaintext. Even better, set up a VPN into your home network. Now you won't be able to access the app unless you're connected, but it will be secure.

The bad news is that INSTEON's security probably cannot be fixed on your device. The good news is it can be fixed by swapping out the Hub with something new.

Reliability

WEMO has a bit of an edge here. The WEMO app usually just works and the pushbutton UI is also flawless, but limited.

The INSTEON Hub app is hit or miss. I don't know if it's fixable or if Hub placement is key here, but sometimes the devices just go yellow (unknown). On the other hand the pushbutton UI also seems to just work - once it's set up.

Robustness of Devices

WEMO's barely on the map here. We've got based wall switches and plug-in adapters but nothing else. It was designed by software people who thought remote relay control was a fun project.

INSTEON was designed by lighting people. It supports basic switches and plug-in adapters, but also dimmers, ceiling fan controllers, blind controllers, water sensors, motion detectors, certain IP cameras, thermostats, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. And this is why INSTEON is still, and will continue to be, relevant in the world of WEMO and Nests.