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Insteon smart homes resurrected as abruptly as they were bricked


Kitchen with lamps and Insteon logo

As suddenly as it disappeared, Insteon has returned. The smart home company’s services started coming back to life this week, and on Thursday, Insteon announced that a group of customers had purchased and are resurrecting the business.

In April, Insteon made news when it abruptly shut down its cloud servers without telling customers, bricking their smart home devices in the process.

Days later, Insteon explained that supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic led to the company looking for a buyer in 2021, but none materialized. The goodbye message said that a financial services firm was appointed “to optimize the assets of the company” but left a window open, expressing “hope that a buyer can be found for the company.” It turns out the buyers were right under Insteon’s nose.

As reported Tuesday by Stacey on IoT, customers noticed that the company’s servers were back online, and features, including the app and Amazon Alexa integration, were working again. This applied to people who kept their hardware. Insteon’s products run on a wireless radio protocol, so they had been able to partially function, albeit without the ability to access or program the hub via the app or integration with cloud services.

New CEO Ken Fairbanks explained the situation on Thursday. The company has reopened for business and started relaunching Insteon hubs before announcing the return. Fairbanks wrote:

We are a small group of passionate Insteon users that have successfully acquired Insteon. Like many of you, our homes are powered by Insteon’s amazing dual-mesh technology and highly configurable products.

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.

Insteon Hub account holders will receive an email with more information “in the coming days,” Fairbanks said. Insteon apps are available for download again, including through Google Play and the Apple App Store.

The blog post didn’t provide many details about the company’s plans or new owners. However, Fairbanks’ LinkedIn page shows that he worked for Insteon from 2004 to 2007; he was “responsible for the development, marketing, and business development of the INSTEON home-control networking technology and products.”

Insteon didn’t explain how it will overcome its financial obstacles. As noted by The Verge, the company could potentially introduce a subscription fee for once-free services.

It seems that Insteon’s revival is focused on returning services to customers who already own gear. Its hardware offerings are currently almost completely sold out.

Insteon has a lot of work to do to win back customers, starting with those who haven’t already ditched their gear after the company seemed all but dead. Customers were met with closed forums, unanswered social media messages, and a misleading status page saying that all services were offline for days before Insteon provided any explanation.

Potential customers will also surely be wary after seeing how suddenly and silently Insteon is capable of rendering its products useless.

And it appears that despite new ownership and leadership, Insteon still hasn’t sorted out its communication challenges or learned to give dedicated customers who rely on its products timely updates to make decisions about their gear and avoid confusion and security concerns.



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