Summary: While I’m not convinced that the newly released NetLinc is a replacement for the PowerLinc Modem and a good software package, it likely fills another role in that it provides incredibly easy access to view your house cameras on a wide range of devices including the iPod Touch, iPhone or any computer with internet access. The fact that it offers Insteon control and is relatively cheap is a bonus.
Smarthome just sent out an email talking about the release of the new NetLinc product, as well as an Insteon motion sensor and an outdoor 220v switch. I follow the home automation scene fairly carefully, and in the past lack of devices has been one of the few downfalls of Insteon so when several new products are released I’m curious to find out how they compare.
First, the NetLinc – This device is primarily designed as an interface between your home automation devices (lights, appliances, sprinklers etc) and any web-enabled device. Smarthome seems to think the most popular use for this will be using your iPhone or iPod Touch to control your appliances, since they now have several packages which include a free iPod Touch. While I think it’s great that the NetLinc supports mobile technologies, and the interface on the iPod/iPhone looks quite usable, I’m just not sure how much use most people will get out of this beyond the cool factor.
I personally enjoy my home automation being a seamless extension of existing processes – For instance, you turn on the tv like you normally would and the lights dim automatically, the fireplace turns on and the curtains close. Logitech was very successful with the Harmony series of remotes because they focused on simplicity of use rather than trying to do everything. Insteon produces some very responsive, simple to use remotes that can control individual devices or trigger scripts that run using your computer and the PowerLinc Modem. I have an iPhone and I just can’t see pulling it out of my pocket, unlocking it and launching the browser, opening the bookmark, finding the light and finally clicking ‘off’ each time I want to shut off a light. Much easier to have several Insteon remotes lying around or use whatever device is in front of me (tv, computer etc) to control it.
On the plus side, the NetLinc does offer IP camera support. This can be a nice thing for peace of mind when away from your house, and something I could see pulling out the iPhone to check on. Having lighting control while I’m viewing the cameras makes sense in this situation. The ability to download timers into the NetLinc is also worth mentioning, however the level of complexity for scripting is limited. For the traditional “lights on at 7pm, off at 10pm” type scenarios, the NetLinc will work perfectly – Don’t count on having a change in the weather forecast or motion sensor event trigger a series of actions however, you’ll still need the PLM and software for that.
Setup seems insanely simple, essentially just plugging one end into the wall power and the other into your router or hub via an Ethernet cable. For access outside your house, a simple change to your router (a port forward – many guides on the internet about how to do this) and you now have access to your Insteon and cameras from anywhere.
To summarize: while I’m not convinced that the newly released NetLinc is a replacement for the PowerLinc Modem and a good software package, it likely fills another role in that it provides incredibly easy access to view your house cameras on a wide range of devices including the iPod Touch, iPhone or any computer with internet access. The fact that it offers Insteon control and is relatively cheap is a bonus. If you don’t want to fiddle with webcam software and hosting pages, but still need more than simple on/off events to run, consider having both the NetLinc and a PLM with software, each handling their own areas of proficiency. Don’t worry…they get along just fine. ;)
Check back soon for reviews of the new Insteon Motion Sensor and 220v Outdoor Switch.
Update: As of August 12, SmartHome has decided to rename the NetLinc as the SmartLinc. Not entirely sure what the product manager is thinking changing the name after launch, but keep in mind as you shop that it may be called by either name.