About two years ago I moved into a new house and discovered that when I park in my detached garage at night, I can’t see where I’m going because the light switch is in the house and I’m in the garage. So I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if when my garage door opened that my alley, garage, and porch lights turned on for a few minutes so I could see where I was walking. Two years later and now I have about 16 automated switches in my house, but unfortunately it came with lots of headaches. The problem is that I choose to use Insteon Lights from Smart Home and although they feature some very advanced grouping configurations, there was no easy way for me to configure it. I tried a few open source projects, as well as three Insteon plug-ins from my current Home Automation controller provider Main Lobby; and I even tried Smart Home’s software HouseLinc. Upon evaluating mControl and discovering it couldn’t master Insteon either, I was telling my new friend Ted Singh from Embedded Automation that I was thinking about ditching Insteon altogether — and the over $1000 I had invested — for something that actually worked. Ted recommended that before I do, that I try out a device from Universal Devices called the ISY-99i. Basically it is a small embedded Insteon controller — they have plans to support UPB and Z-Wave as well — that has a very useful management utility. At first I was reluctant because of the cost. The ISY device I was interested in was $339 and also required me to buy a Ethernet adapter for my Elk M1 Gold alarm system for about $200. So while I was trying to figure out if it was worth another $540 to make my over $1000 investment actually work — more if you include the cost of the Elk — I added up how much it would cost me to switch to Leviton’s Vizia RF and as you might have guessed, it was way too much.
Over the weekend I installed the ELK M1EXP and let me tell you, I should’ve of waited so long, the Ethernet interface is so much better than the serial I was using and well worth the $200 on it’s own. But the real magic happened last night when I received the ISY-99i. In about 4 hours, I achieved lighting bliss and created groups that I’ve fought with for 2 years and never accomplished. The device is an absolute joy to use and besides a few hiccups that UDI’s support was quick to respond to, I couldn’t hardly go to sleep last night because I was so excited about what I’d accomplished — yes, I’m that much of a geek. You have no idea how many hours of heartache I have invested in trying to get even the simplest group created and the ISY can do it in minutes and perfectly every time. Smart Home should bundle this with every Insteon PLM as it makes their hardware an unbelievable solution.
Now for the only problem. As great as the ISY device is, it isn’t very useful if I can’t integrate it with the rest of my system. It integrates pretty well with my Elk, which is my number one priority, but it also needs to integrate with my controller and since Cinemar makes their own plug-in for Insteon — you remember, the one that doesn’t work — I’m not sure I’ll get much help from them. Luckily their architecture is pretty open and my friend Dave has written a few plug-ins already, so with a little help and a little research of the UDI WSDK, I should be in business.