While smart and connected home technology has become popular in just the past few years, the technology has existed for decades. Today, most connected home devices run over one of a few licensable protocols, the early ones worked on proprietary communications. One of the early leaders in the connected home industry was Insteon, but that lead has seemingly ended in a whimper, as the company seems to have vanished over the weekend.
What happened to Insteon?
Just before last weekend, Insteon customers started reporting that their devices were not working correctly. The company's app, which is used to set up and control devices, was completely useless, plus automation and schedules had stopped functioning entirely. These features all run on the company's cloud infrastructure, rather than on the company's in-home Hub device.
This downtime suggested that something was wrong with the cloud servers. However, the company's system status page indicated that all was up and running. It was the only explanation for what users were experiencing. But, simple downtime didn't quite explain what was happening around the issues.
How it got weirder
Customer support on Twitter went completely silent. The company's forums seemed to be missing (and still is). Certainly not good signs while the service is down. Fortunately for users, they could come together on Reddit's /r/insteon to compare notes. But, things got significantly weirder as the weekend went on.
Insteon's executives began removing the brand from their LinkedIn profiles, including Rob Lilleness, CEO of the company (whose profile is now missing completely). The company's website removed a blog post from 2017 announcing their acquisition by Richmond Capital Partners, but the internet never forgets (archive.org).
All of this suggested that the company had actually shut down completely without telling anyone or giving them a heads-up. As the week has gone on, the company has admitted to what is happening. The website now has a letter from the company saying,
Dear Insteon Community,
In 2017, after many successful years, Smartlabs, Inc found itself in financial difficulties and the path forward was unclear. That year, Smartlabs took in additional capital and brought in new management to turn the situation around. These efforts resulted in new investment into the fortification of the technology and development of new products. The future was looking bright.
In 2019, the onset of the global pandemic brought unforeseen disruption to the market, but the company continued to move forward. However, the subsequent (and enduring) disruption to the supply chain caused by the pandemic proved incredibly difficult and the company engaged in a sales process in November, 2021. The goal was to find a parent for the company and continue to invest in new products and the technology. The process resulted in several interested parties and a sale was expected to be realized in the March timeframe. Unfortunately, that sale did not materialize. Consequently, the company was assigned to a financial services firm in March to optimize the assets of the company.
The pioneering work in smart lighting and world-class products have created an extraordinary following and community. Clearly, all Smartlabs' employees who have worked so hard to produce such world-class products and technology hope that a buyer can be found for the company.
Although incredibly difficult, we hope that the Insteon community understands the tireless efforts by all the employees to serve our customers, and deeply apologize to the community.
So, the problem is even bigger than we thought. Not only is Insteon in trouble and not in operation, but the parent company is also non-functional. The biggest takeaway from the letter is that the company fully knew a month ago that this was coming and decided not to let anyone know - they just shut down and hid under a rock. They could have open sourced their software. They could have published a transition plan for users. Instead, they just ran away like cowards.
How to handle the shutdown
First and foremost - do not reset your hub. The process of setting it up requires the company's servers, so once you reset, you're out of luck. But, the good news is that there are ways to add some open source technology into your ecosystem to bring back much if not all of your functionality.
Home Assistant is the most popular transitional path. It allows you to create a local server for the system to prevent relying on remote technology. Another popular option is OpenHab, a platform with a plugin for Insteon technology.