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|ISY-99i Review - Insteon control system|
|Written by Peter|
Home automation holds tremendous promise, however much of the excitement felt when installing the devices turns to frustration when dealing with the current array of software packages. Difficulties with software installation, hardware communication issues and steep learning curves for many of the packages leave the uninitiated with little progress after hours spent with configuration. All of this while the other members of your household are screaming at you to stop turning the lights off on them… Is the ISY-99i the answer? Read on to find out.
When it comes to home automation central controllers a dedicated computer is most people's first thought, and certainly the power offered by a decent scripting language is unparalleled, but for the majority of cases this power isn’t needed and simply confuses the installation to the point where “good enough” becomes the mantra and the perfect home automation setup is a continuous work-in-progress.
With the entry of dedicated hardware designed to control your Insteon devices, you now have the ability to do 90% of what can be done with a dedicated PC, with 5% of the frustration. While there are several of these devices on the market, including the SmartLinc (reviewed here) and EZSrve (criticized by the community), this review focuses on the ISY-99 and its variants.
The ISY-99i is offered in several versions at a variety of price points (listing of them all here) with the main differences being: inclusion of an infrared sensor to control events and devices using a universal remote (ISY-99 with IR), PRO vs regular (More devices and events with PRO, 1000 vs 300 for regular) and the inclusion of a PLM module if you don’t have one already (a PLM is required, so if you don't have one the package is slightly cheaper).
Apart from those differences, the core module is the same and setup requires three steps:
After this, the ISY should show up under your “My network places” (if using Windows) or can be visited in a web-browser on Mac or Linux (requires Java).
Using the ISY is generally intuitive, however some of the procedures aren’t as polished as the rest (for instance, resetting a forgotten password requires the MAC address and telnet) and may require a decent familiarity with technology to accomplish. For users who would prefer a simpler, arguably friendlier user interface and are looking for simple timers and lighting groups the SmartLinc may be a better choice. The ISY has a much more advanced feature-set than the SmartLinc, but with those features comes some added complexity (see the reference to the 5% frustration above).
Several key benefits exist to a dedicated hardware device such as the ISY over a computer. With a computer as your central Insteon controller, the computer must remain on around the clock, which poses several issues:
Within the ISY-99i interface you can layout logical floor plans, organize lighting devices into scenes with triggers, custom ramp rates and on-levels, query devices for status and use conditional “if, then, else” statements. Once you’ve taken the time to configure a device for your liking, the attributes can be copied to other devices, saving a tremendous amount of time. The ISY can also recognize if a current lighting level was applied locally or through another controller, and react accordingly.
Notification features exist, but are limited when compared to a dedicated computer. The functions to send an email or text message to a cell phone are available on the ISY-99i and can be incorporated into events and triggers, however more complicated messaging options such as growl aware network notifications or instant messaging are not available.
For an overall perspective of where the ISY fits in the spectrum, the following diagram shows the various Insteon controller products and associated complexity:
Conclusion: All things considered, the ISY-99i provides a lot of functionality for a very reasonable price. Reliability of hardware controlled events and flexibility of regular firmware updates make the ISY-99i a favorite in the community.