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Insteon Connected Kit review: Strong lighting controls; weak app integration

Becky Waring | Jan. 29, 2015
Insteon's Connected Kit is a very inexpensive, but its weak camera and clumsy installation procedures (in some areas, but not others) drag down our opinion of the system as a whole.

You can create different schedules for every day of the week, if desired, or you can establish scenes with different combinations of lighting for particular scenarios: Reading, watching movies, or even the time of day. While I didn't test any of them, Insteon also sells a variety of in-wall keypad dimmers that can control a local load plus other devices or groups of devices on the Insteon network. Insteon will even print custom labels on the keypads for you (for an additional fee, of course).

After I set up the living room, I installed an LED bulb and a motion detector in the bathroom. I programmed the motion detector to turn off the light after a couple minutes of inactivity, so I need never turn the bathroom light on and off. Finally, I added an open/close sensor to the front door and programmed it to turn on the lamp nearest the door.

Performing these steps felt like time-traveling to the early days of home automation. To link the motion and door/window sensors to the devices you want them to trigger, for example, you must press buttons and then listen for beeps and watch for flashing LEDs for confirmation that the pairing worked.

The old-school motion sensor, which runs on a 9-volt battery, even has jumpers and tiny dials that must be turned with a jeweler's screwdriver (fortunately, these are present only for legacy installations--I didn't need to fiddle with them). The door/window sensor, though, is obnoxiously large--it's nearly 3.5 inches long. If you want something more discrete, Insteon's hidden door sensor is available for the same price (but it's not included in the package).

What exactly is dual band?'
Insteon's proprietary dual-band network technology is unique in that many of its components utilize both power-line and RF control to provide fail-safe operation (exceptions include door/window sensors and motion sensors that operate on batteries instead of plugging into the wall).

Like the RF-only Z-Wave technology, each Insteon device is both a transmitter and a receiver, and the resulting network forms a mesh. Unlike Z-Wave, however, Insteon doesn't rely on a routing table. As a result, the Insteon motion and door/window sensors continued to control the lights, even after I unplugged the Insteon hub.

The living room scene, on the other hand, ceased to operate, because it was operating according to a schedule that was controlled by the hub. So if you build a connected-home system with Insteon, don't consider the hub to be an optional component.

And now it's back to the 80s
Setting up the Wi-Fi security camera, on the other hand, was a frustrating, four-hour experience that was not worth the end result. The camera is a Foscam clone--it's based on the same hardware design and uses the same browser interface as that ubiquitous model--and it's limited to resolution of 640x480 pixels.

 

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