I had been mildly interested in wi-fi cameras and other minimal web-enabled security/automation items for a while-besides keeping a lookout while away, how much fun might it be to spy on the cat?? I had looked at Iris and Smarthome components when I was browsing the area DIY box stores. A turn-key system had a lot more appeal, rather than building something from scratch. Iris looked the most intriguing, but the reviews at that time were mediocre and you had to pay a monthly fee to get the most out of it.
Then last fall Costco made me an offer I couldn’t refuse-a starter kit from Insteon that had the basics of what I needed, at a great price. This kit included the network hub, a wi-fi camera, a couple of control switches for outlets, a motion detector, and a couple of open/close sensors. I didn’t really want to be so connected that everything turned on and off as I left a room, adjusted the atmosphere, or cooked dinner for me while I was at work, and I didn’t want to have something with ongoing costs associated. The reviews were decent, there is no ongoing fee,and so we were off.
The hub was quite easy to hook up to my home network, and all the components connected effortlessly except the wi-fi camera. Since you want to have more interaction with it and be able to view video, it is more complicated-more on that later. Insteon has apps for iOS, Android, and Windows which allow you to control your devices and group them together in “scenes”, where they work together to accomplish a desired task. There is a PC interface available as well.
Multiple cameras can be added to the system. If you don’t want your cameras to end up linked on one of those sites where you can click and see inside peoples’ houses, be sure and change all the passwords from the defaults. Set up involves adding ports in your wireless router configuration, and if you want to have the highest level of remote control through the web, you can forward the port and establish a URL for your system. This was the most involved part of the process for me, and some was trial and error. After a few months using the system, I felt that the external URL wasn’t useful to me and I discontinued this option.
At this point, I am making the most use of the camera. The camera can be set to send an alert upon sound and/or motion, and it can be scheduled to react at the times you desire. It also has audio capability that can work in both directions. I also like to have lamps on timers, and open/close sensors on remote doors and windows. I haven’t really explored making a lot of scenes to this point, where components interact with each other. Insteon defines a “scene” as multiple devices responding to memorized states. For example, a dinner time scene turns on the dining table light, dims the kitchen lights to 10%, backyard lights turn off and the thermostat adjusts to 72º. Since a component can be part of only one “scene”, I can’t have the same light go on at a certain time of day, and also be triggered by the motion sensor at night, for example, so there are some limitations.
Insteon has an increasing variety of components you can add to your system, including locks, thermostats, LED light bulbs, wired wall switches, and outside cameras. Several kits are available so you can choose a bundle that meets your needs. You can tailor the system to be as simple or complex as meets your needs. They are also working on increased interoperability with other systems, per this recent article on cnet.
The website has helpful videos and documentation, and I’ve read good reviews of the telephone support.
So if you are looking to dabble in home automation and security, without spending a fortune, Insteon lets you start small and add on as needed. There is a lot of information available at insteon.com, and several helpful articles a cnet.com.