Updated on Thursday, June 9 with the name of the buyer and an update from Insteon.
Insteon’s smart home hub is back online.
Users have contacted me about their hubs working again while the Insteon Reddit thread indicates that sometime Tuesday afternoon Insteon’s servers came back online and various cloud integrations such as Alexa have started to work. So what has happened to bring the once-popular smart home system back online?
In mid-April Insteon’s servers shut down with no notice to users after its owner Smartlabs apparently shut down. Insteon relies on a local and proprietary wireless radio protocol to control light switches, outlets, sensors and other smart home devices. All of those stayed operational, but users couldn’t remotely access their hub through the app or program the hub. Cloud integrations such as those with Google and Amazon Alexa also stopped working.
Smartlabs has struggled to sell the business since November of last year, but after a potential sale fell through the company said it had passed the Insteon IP over to a company to sell its assets. Smartlabs announced all of this several days after the servers shut down. Users were frustrated by the lack of communication and abrupt ending of a platform long touted for its reliability. They flooded forums seeking alternatives to run their smart homes and keep their existing Insteon gear operational.
The servers likely are back on because someone purchased the Insteon IP and started paying Amazon Web Services or is hosting the code on their own servers somewhere.
But who? It turns out that a group of Insteon users purchased the assets and that Ken Fairbanks will lead the newly funded operation. Fairbanks appears to have a history as an investor and business consultant. Universal Devices CEO Michael Kohanim said in June that his company, which makes a popular hub that works with the Insteon system, made a bid but was rebuffed.
It seems odd that a company that spent money buying the Insteon assets wouldn’t want to communicate its plans to users in advance, as opposed to randomly turning on gear that has been dormant for almost two months. Maybe this was a glitch or an error that sent test code to production early.
As of 8:30 ET on Tuesday night, the Insteon Web site still has a letter on the home page describing why the company shut down.
A note pasted on the Insteon web site Thursday says:
Most of you discovered that the Insteon Hubs began coming back online. Our first priority was getting the hubs online immediately before we had access to this site, the email service provider, social accounts, etc. Every day more customers were giving up hope so it was critical to get that restored as soon as possible. We are aware not all functions are back online but we are actively working on it. We hope you understand this urgency and appreciate your patience.
I’m trying to find out more, but in the meantime, rejoice in your newfound cloud access for your Insteon gear — if you haven’t already given it up.