Insteon is a home automation (domotics) technology that enables light switches, lights, thermostats, leak sensors, remote controls, motion sensors, and other electrically powered 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]

Native client(s) oniOS, watchOS, Android, Windows Phone

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

According to a press release on June 13, 2017, SmartLabs and its Insteon technology has been acquired by Richmond Capital Partners with Rob Lilleness of Universal Electronics assuming the role of chairman and CEO.[8]


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 simultaneously so that message transmissions are synchronous to the powerline frequency, thus preserving the integrity of the message while strengthening the signal on the powerline and erasing RF dead zones. Insteon powerline messaging uses phase-shift keying. Insteon RF messaging uses frequency-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

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 transmission medium in the event of RF/wireless interference. Conversely, RF/wireless becomes a backup transmission medium in the event of powerline interference. As a peer-to-peer network, devices do not require network supervision, thus allowing optional operation without central controllers and routing tables.

Insteon devices can function without a central controller. Additionally, they may be managed by a central controller to implement functions such as control via smartphones and tablets, 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 an Insteon USB/serial PowerLinc 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 applications, should those applications choose to implement encryption.[9]:53

Insteon enforces linking control by requiring users to have physical possession of devices, or knowledge of their unique Insteon IDs in order to create links. Firmware in Insteon devices prohibits them from identifying themselves to other devices unless a user either physically presses a button on the device during the installation process or explicitly addresses the device via a central controller. Linking to a device by sending Insteon messages (e.g., from a central controller) requires knowledge of the 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.

The security of Insteon RF devices was criticized in a DEF CON presentation in 2015.[10]


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. Alternatively, a central controller may be used to configure devices.

Each Insteon device has its own unique identifier code, similar to a MAC address, and the technology allows directly linked devices to manage their identifiers.


Older 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.[11][12]

In 2014, Insteon released a home automation system compatible with the touch-enabled Metro interface, with devices appearing as "live tiles",[13] and later added voice control via Microsoft Cortana.[14][15]

In 2015, voice control was added via compatibility with Amazon Echo.[16] That same year, Logitech announced the Harmony Hub-based remote would support Insteon devices when deployed with an Insteon Hub.[17] Also in 2015, Insteon announced an initiative to integrate the Google-owned Nest learning thermostat with the Insteon Hub.[18]

Insteon was one of two launch partners for Apple's HomeKit platform, with the HomeKit-enabled Insteon Hub Pro.[19] In 2015, Insteon announced support for the Apple Watch, allowing watch owners to control their home with an Insteon Hub.[20]


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[21]
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

Insteon second generation i2/RF replaces first generation i1/RF for wireless Insteon communications. i1/RF and i2/RF uses different frequencies and can operate independently. There currently is only one legacy product that implements i1/RF (SignaLinc RF signal enhances introduced in May 2005). The specifications below are for i2/RF.

  • Center Frequency: 915 MHz
  • Modulation Method: FSK
  • FSK Deviation: 200 KHz peak-to-peak
  • Data Encoding Method: Manchester
  • Symbol Rate: 9124 symbols per second
  • Data Rate: 4562 bits per second
  • Symbol Time: 109.6 microseconds
  • Bit Time: 219.2 microseconds
  • Sensitivity: -103 dBm
  • Range: 400 ft unobstructed line-of-sight, half-wave dipole antenna, 0.1 raw bit-error rate


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  2. "Refresh!: Insteon Technology". Electronic Design. Penton Media, Inc. April 5, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
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  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.
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  8. "Richmond Capital Partners Acquires Smartlabs and Fortifies Company with $7.3 Million in Funding to Accelerate the Company's Push in the IoT Industry". Insteon. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
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  10. Shipley, Peter. "Insteon: False Security and Deceptive Documentation". Youtube. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  11. "X10 Programming for Insteon Devices". Smarthome. Smarthome Inc. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  12. "Home Control 101: Insteon vs. X10". EH Network. EH Publishing. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  13. Hachman, Mark (15 May 2014). "Microsoft teams with Insteon to sell connected-home kits". IDG Consumer & SMB. Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  14. 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.
  15. Darryl Taft, "Insteon Taps Microsoft Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 Home Automation App", eWeek, July 16, 2014
  16. Crist, Ry. "'Alexa, hit the lights': Amazon Echo adds Insteon support". CNet. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  17. "Logitech and Insteon Team Up For Easier Home Control". 2015-08-13. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  18. Brown, Michael (5 January 2015). "'Works with Nest' program gains traction with 15 new smart device integrations". IDG Consumer & SMB. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  19. Ricker, Thomas; Kastrenakes, Jacob. "First HomeKit devices confirm Apple TV's limited role in home automation". The Verge. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  20. "Insteon ships its HomeKit-enabled hub and app". 2015-06-02. Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  21. Irwin; et al. (2011). "Exploiting Home Automation Protocols For Load Monitoring In Smart Buildings" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
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