One of the biggest inhibitors to going to a VM environment (more in a later post) are USB devices. The worst of these devices are the Insteon Controllers. Whether using Hyper-V with a USB to IP adapter, or ESXi, I was unable to “reliably” get the these USB devices to work correctly or consistently. Add to that the issue that unless you already have a PC always running, you will be forced to have a computer on 24/7 to control your home automation.
Enter the ISY-994i which is a stand alone controller that does not require a PC to be on. The base unit supports 300 programs and 256 devices. The premise of the device as you can see in the chart, is that it becomes the all in one controller with direct access to the internet, your network, and of course to your devices via the the serial PLM Dual Band Controller which is included in the kit. Considering the kit price of $269.99 which includes the controller, it costs more that the $99.99 price for software and USB controller, however the feature difference is quite large and flexibility and performance are also significant.
Setup of the actual device is extremely simple. Everything can be done from the web interface and you do not need to install any software which allows you the flexibility to make changes from any computer. All you have to do is plug it in to your network, power it up and go to your browser. You point your browser to http://www.universal-devices.com/99i and follow the on screen prompts. Assuming you have Java installed, you will in the main screen where you can load the “Admin Console” where you will do most of your setup.
Setting up Insteon device is also pretty simple. With the exception of wireless/IR devices such as motion sensors, and remotes, all you have to do is go into link mode and go around the house pressing the pairing button on all your devices. To add or modify a wireless device, you go to the device and manually put it into a pair mode so that it will communicate properly, then click on add “Insteon Device” and manually type the address that is labeled on the device. When you are done, it should look something like this. Sounds tougher than it is so after you do one it will only take a bit of time to add the balance of you devices.
At first this screen is a bit confusing but if you look at closely, they have guided the creation of simple programs for you and gave you an environment where sophisticated custom programs can also be created. If you look at the program I did for a simple timed feature, you will see that it is actually pretty straightforward for basic items. Obviously, you can take it to whatever level you want to.
Mobil Apps (MobiLinc HD with IP Camera Plug In)
Carrying this power with you is critical and that is where the ISY shines. It works directly with powerful apps like MobiLinc HD. For the cost of $1, you can add a software add-in to the ISY-994i that syncs all your settings to your mobile devices (except IP camera settings). Make a change in one place and it is reflected everywhere. There are mobile apps for Android and IOS.
Host Type shows the MobiLInc Connect which is what syncs your mobile devices to the controller.
In addition to the synching over the internet, things like IP camera setups can be quickly sent to other mobile devices so you do not have re-invent the wheel.
Email Notifications are built into the ISY-994i without any setup other than the recipient. You can setup notifications or triggers in your programs to let you know when an event took place such as a motion sensor being tripped, garage door opening, or a light turning on.
Summary and Results
In short, this is an awesome way to get into home automation. It is faster, more responsive, more reliable, and more flexible than the PC based solutions I have used. The device can be tucked away almost anywhere and draws only a few watts of power. I have been running a PC based solution for more than 3 years and after using the ISY-994i, there is no going back. Although I actually did this so I could unplug a PC to port to VM’s, I got a great surprise by gaining more a more robust approach with better features and better performance than I had before. Looking back there is no question that if I had to do it over again, I would never go the PC route. If you are thinking about home automation, consider going the route of ISY-994i in lieu of the PC based solutions as I think you will be much happier.
To purchase click here: ISY with Controller at Smarthome