Recently I started to look into ways to make my home a “smart home.” I’ve been wanting to do it for awhile, but had never taken the time to research how easy or complex it was. For some odd reason I had it set in my mind that it would require a lot of additional wiring in my house to get it done, but boy was I wrong.

I started at the SmartHome.com site where they have a large array of devices that were suited for exactly what I was looking to do. Over the past two months I’ve been toying with setting everything up, ordering more, and in general just having a lot of fun watching everything come together. Below I’ve outlined my journey so that you can hopefully learn from some of my mistakes, and share some of your own tips if you’ve set up this stuff before.

–Briefly How it Works–

I’m not going to dive into the technical side of how this all works (despite having spent several hours reading up on it myself), but I do want to tell you that it’s probably not as complicated as you may think it is. Most of the “smart” devices are able to send communication across the power lines in your house, and some use RF frequencies to do the communication.

There’s not really anything special you need to do for the devices to communicate across your power lines, which is why this is so nice.

–Starting out –

Keep in mind I had no idea what I was doing at this point, and I didn’t realize all the different alternatives that were out there. For people looking for an extremely basic set up I’d have to say it doesn’t get much easier than this.

smartlinc.pngIn the first round of purchasing, I bought a SmartLinc device for $130 and seven ApplianceLinc for $34.99 each. The SmartLinc was nice because it plugs into your router, and instantly makes a web-based interface available for controlling your devices. Be warned that the interface is highly optimized for the iPhone/iPod Touch, and that viewing the same site in a desktop browser results in seeing grossly oversized buttons. It would have been nice if they had a desktop and mobile interface, but they apparently decided not to go that route.

The Appliance Modules actually look the same as the SmartLinc, but are there to compliment the unit. With them you’re able to plug a device into the module, and then plug the module into the wall. Once you do that the SmartLinc unit will be able to send on/off signals to toggle the power being passed on to what you have plugged into it. If you plan on hooking up a lamp you will want to dim, you may want to consider getting a LampLinc unit instead, but in my case I was hooking these up to non-dimmable compact florescent lights.

Does the SmartLinc just recognize when you add something to your house? Almost. You have to put the SmartLinc into a listening mode which can be done through the web interface or by holding down the small button on the unit itself. Then you hop on over to the box you want to link, and hold down the button for a few seconds. The SmartLinc will flag the device, and you’ll instantly be able to control it. Here’s a nice overview diagram of how it all works:

smartlinc diagram.png

micasa-1.pngIn the end I had all seven Appliance Modules hooked up and controlling lamps around the entire house. The simplicity of it all boggled my mind, but I quickly started to feel the limitations of the SmartLinc unit. The web interface is the only way to manage everything, and as a committed geek I was wanting to do a lot more. Then when I began looking for a native iPhone app everything went downhill. I found one called MiCasa (iTunes link) that synchronizes with SmartLinc, but in the most basic sense of synchronization. It would grab all of the devices I had added, but I had to go through and manually rename each device I had added despite already naming them through the web interface. The real killer, however, was that the SmartLinc API doesn’t allow more than one connection at a time. For the iPhone app, that meant both Ashley and I couldn’t be running the app at the same time, which rendered the system pretty useless to me.

If you plan on sticking with SmartLinc’s web interface you won’t have to worry about how many people actively have the page open because it’s a software restriction of the API that third-party developers are given to use. Having the web interface was cool and all, but just didn’t feel practical for heavy use. So I moved on.

–Geekification–

Where did I go next? Well, I returned the SmartLinc and was pleasantly surprised at their truly “no hassle” return policy. It took like two minutes for me to get an RMA number from them, but the “upgraded” unit I went with was significantly more.

isy-99i.png

I decided on an ISY-99i kit that was $430 for my particular model after reading some really positive things that people had to say about the unit in general. Universal Devices makes different models of the ISY-99i based upon how serious you plan on getting with the whole set up, and I didn’t want to shortchange myself only to come back later on wishing I grabbed the model capable of handling more devices and programs (I’ll explain these later on). The ISY-99i unit does all of the hardcore processing, and then sends the signals to a “PowerLinc Modem” that passes them through the power grid in your household. My particular ISY-99i model can receive commands from network-connected devices and IR devices, such as a Logitech Harmony universal remote control.

What makes this so great? For starters it has an amazingly powerful iPhone app, called MobiLinc (previously called iLinc), that’s developed by a third-party. Thankfully the ISY-99i has a much more robust API, and it can support having multiple devices connected at the same time. Not only that, but they take it to the next level. The iPhone will show the status of all connected devices in real-time as demonstrated by this YouTube video. This feature alone impresses people to no end. Here are some screenshots of MobiLinc:

(Click to Enlarge)
IMG_0004.PNG IMG_0005.PNG IMG_0006.PNG IMG_0007.PNG IMG_0008.PNG IMG_0009.PNG IMG_0010.PNG

With MobiLinc I’m able to access everything that I have configured on my ISY-99i both on and off my network. That means I could, for example, adjust my thermostat from halfway around the world as long as I have an Internet connection.

Here are some of the other niceties of the ISY-99i:

  • Manage everything from one place – Your changes are reflected pretty much everywhere when you alter names for connected devices, organize them in folders, and just about anything else. All of this info is open to developers to use, and iLinc makes great use of it. Most of the changes are shown in iLinc in near real-time.
  • Create Scenes – You can group multiple devices/switches into a single scene that can all be controlled with one button. With a little bit of work (more so on the hardware side) you can toggle all the lights in your house at the exact same time… by pressing just one on/off switch.
  • Create Programs – With the ISY-99i you aren’t able to do full-fledged programming, but they have a simple if/then/else structure set up for creating programs that can run when certain conditions are met. I’ll have some examples of how I use these later on in the article, but one thing you might like is the fact that things can be triggered relative to when the sun is supposed to set or rise… without any light sensors!

The application used to manage the ISY-99i is Java-based, which is something I normally despise to no end. In this case I made an exception because of how darn cool the device is, and that it being Java-based means that it is also cross-platform (runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux). I should also forewarn you that it isn’t the most fashionable app you’ll find, but it is extremely functional. In a case like this I put functionality ahead of aesthetics.I would much rather see development resources go towards new features rather than pretty graphics.

isy-99i admin-1.png
(Click to Enlarge)

–Light Up the Place–

At this point I had a bunch of lamps being controlled by my iPhone app, but after seeing how cool those were I just couldn’t stop. I purchased a bunch of other devices so that I could control even more aspects of my house.

The main purchase this time around consisted of on/off light switches ($46 each) and dimmable light switches ($46 each). At first I bought just one (at the same time I bought the ISY-99i to help save on shipping) so that I could test it out around my house to see if it would even work. The thing that some people may have trouble with is that the switches need a small amount of power, and they draw that from the neutral wire. Some older houses may not have neutral wires in the switch/junction box, but if your house does, chances are that it will be a white wire that is not attached to anything in your junction box. Even though mine did have the necessary neutral wire I still wasn’t sure if the switches would work. I figured I’d test the waters with the one switch, and then get more if it was successful.

Lucky for me it all worked out, and I purchased several more for all of the main light switches located through the house (excluding ones located in places like closets). Using the ISY-99i software I was then able to group some of these lights together in “scenes” so that I could toggle the lights in an entire room with the press of a single button… on my iPhone! The coolness still hasn’t worn off for me, sorry. :)

–Virtual Switches–

I’m sure you probably have at least one light in your place that can be controlled by two different switches, right? I have a few of those as well, and so what I decided to do is wire it up so that one switch is the primary, and the other is merely a virtual switch. What do I mean?

The secondary (virtual) switch is tied into my electrical system, but doesn’t directly control the lights that it previously had. For example, we have overhead recessed lighting in our kitchen that can be turned on or off from either side of the room. One of the switches is still tied directly into the lights to control them, but I wired the other one so that it has no affect on those lights. I then tell the ISY-99i which lights I want the virtual switch to toggle when pressed by using programs (there are some other methods to do this as well). In my example our virtual light switch for the kitchen turns on both the overhead lightening and our under-the-cabinet lights.

These switches quickly become second nature as you start to use them to highlight common paths you take throughout your home. Maybe you set up a bedroom light switch so that when it’s pressed it turns on all the necessary lighting to get you safely to the kitchen for your midnight snack. There’s an endless number of possibilities.

–Bringing in More Gizmos–

Why stop at controlling just lights? There are so many other things that you can manipulate with a powerful system like this. Here are some of the other things I’ve bought:

  • Garage Door Controller/Sensor ($72) – Never ask yourself again whether you forgot to put the garage door down again. You can check right from your iPhone, and if you did forget just go ahead and close it from anywhere in the world.
  • insteon motion sensor.pngMotion Detectors ($35 each) and Magnetic Open/Close Sensors ($35 each) – I use a combination of these two items around the house, and they’re easy to place since they are both 100% wireless thanks to RF communication and battery power. In particular I use the magnetic sensors to detect when our doors accessible from the outside of the house are opened so that nearby lights can be turned on. Using this in combination with the motion detectors means that I can have lights already on when I have arms full of groceries that I’m carrying into the house late at night. Or, I can even have an email sent to me if any of these things are triggered when I’m not at home.
  • Thermostat ($200) – Remotely adjust the temperature in your house from wherever you are. With the right set of sensors you can even create a system that is pretty good at telling when you’ve left or entered the house, and adjust the thermostat accordingly. There’s also a $49 (one-time fee) software module you can purchase so that you’re ISY-99i can fetch weather data from WeatherBug for your area, and you can build programs that utilize that information.
  • RF Access Point ($40) – The RF access point doesn’t actually trigger anything itself. Instead it bridges RF-only devices like the thermostat, motion detectors, and magnetic sensors with your home’s power grid. That way commands/status updates sent from these devices can be properly communicated to the ISY-99i.
  • Door Locks ($138) with RF Communicator ($100) – There are door locks available that can be accessed with RF remotes, and with the right accessory you can lock/unlock all the doors in your house with one button on your iPhone. If you pick up one of the 3-in-1 locks you’ll also be able to unlock the door right from the keypad that is on the unit. Do you forget to lock the doors a lot when you leave? With a little logic you can set the doors to automatically lock behind you (using programs, which we describe in our next section).

These additional accessories is really where things can start to add up, but at the same time these help you make the most out of your system.

–Creating Programs–

In my eyes programs are the heart of any ISY you decide to go with. Once you get all of your devices added to your ISY-99i you can start performing actions based upon events. You can set lights to turn on/off at certain times of the day, use motion sensors to turn lights on, lock your doors when you’re leaving, and so much more.

The nice thing is that you don’t have to be a programmer to create these. The structure is a basic if/then/else statement where you fill in the blanks. This can be both nice and frustrating depending on how complex you decide to get. Since you’re confined to just if/then/else statements performing even simple tasks may require several programs to get things working just the way you want, but you’ll quickly grasp how they work.

isy-99i programs-1.png
(Click to Enlarge)

So what kind of programs can you make? Here’s a few of the things I use them for:

  • Detect when I’m leaving/returning – This is a pretty complex system I have set up to detect whether we’re leaving or returning. Basically it uses the garage sensor in cahoots with some motion sensors to determine whether we’re leaving the house or returning. If we’re leaving it turns off all the lights, locks the doors behind us, adjusts the thermostat, closes the garage door if we forget to close it, and enables a security mode that will both email me if any motion sensors pick up movement in addition to randomly turning on lights throughout the house. When returning all security modes are disabled, the thermostat is adjusted again, and the garage door is closed if we forget to close it.
  • Turn lights on where I’m headed to – With some strategically placed motion sensors I’m actually able to determine which direction you’re walking in and turn on lights in rooms that you’re likely headed towards.
  • Adjust the thermostat – I already mentioned that our thermostat is adjusted when we leave or return, but I also have it on timers so that the temperature settings are updated when we also go to bed or should be waking up.
  • Time-based light switches – I have a few light switches that actually switch their action based upon the time of day. For example, our kitchen lights can be turned on/off from two different entrances we have. One of them gets configured to do different things depending on what time it is. For most of the day the switch will turn on the main overhead kitchen lighting which is pretty bright. From 1AM to 6AM, however, it will only turn on the under-the-counter lights. Why? Well, at that time of the day it’s nicer to turn on lights that aren’t so bright since we’re likely getting up from bed to get a glass of water.

You’ll truly start to see the value of the system once you get into make programs on the ISY. Things like email notifications can alert you of certain events, or you can cause lights to blink as another notification method. One good example of that is putting a motion sensor outside your front door would mean that you could flash lights in rooms where you may not normally hear someone knocking. That way you’ll always know when someone is at the door.

If you decide to purchase some of the add-on modules, such as the one that fetches WeatherBug data for your area, that information can also be used in your programs. One nice thing that I use the WeatherBug data for is to help determine whether our humidifier should be running based upon the outside temperature and the inside humidity level reported by my thermostat.

Programs are where you’ll spend a lot of your time configuring and tuning your set up, but in the end it is all worth it.

–Controller Units: Think Before You Buy–

insteon touchscreen.pngSo how can you control all of this stuff from one central interface? It’s funny you should ask. There are some large and what appears to be clunky touch-screen controller units available at some hefty pricetags. The one pictured to the right will run you about $530, which is pretty damn crazy if you ask me. Well, thanks to the MobiLinc app my iPhone has an awesome interface for managing all of this stuff, but I wanted some units that were a bit more “dedicated” so that I didn’t always need to have my iPhone on me. The solution? I went out and bought two of the 8GB iPod touches for $150 each (on sale the day after Thanksgiving) along with two docks, which is not only significantly less but is also much more aesthetically pleasing when sitting on a counter. Plus the iPod touch is so much more versatile with the wide arrange of third party apps available.

Keep in mind that I haven’t tried out the Insteon touch-screen unit, and so there’s a chance I may be missing something, but the iPod touch is able to do everything I need plus some. So if you plan on using the same things as me rest assured that the iPhone/iPod app works very well… and will likely only get better as the developer receives more feedback.

–Getting Support–

I’ve met all kinds of people that go way above and beyond the kind of support I ever expected. The developer of MobiLinc, Wes, has been very welcoming of feedback and is always fast to respond. Plus the company behind the ISY-99i, Universal Devices, has a dedicated community that are always there to jump in and provide tips/advice whenever they can… not to mention the fact that the company itself is very active in their forum. And if you still haven’t found the help you need there’s always the SmartHome forum.

The point I’m trying to make is that the community for these devices is rapidly growing, and there are all kinds of outlets available to answer any questions.

–Conclusion/Disclaimers–

At this point you’re probably thinking that I got a lot of this stuff for free in exchange for writing this article. Well, you’d be wrong. Every single thing I wrote about I researched and purchased on my own, and received no compensation of any kind for writing this article. The reason I wanted to write about it is because a lot of people I talk to think that systems like this cost well over $10k to set up, but in reality you can set up a really versatile system for a fraction of that.

There Are 104 Comments

  1. This is ridiculously awesome. Very cool article!!

  2. Very thorough, very informative and very cool! Nice job and a real motivator for anyone interested in getting around to taking on a project exactly like you’ve described!

  3. Glad you guys like it! If you’ve got any questions feel free to ask.

    • Hello,

      Do any of these hardware options require a monthly subscription? Thanks

    • No, there are no monthly subscriptions.

    • I have the Mobilinc Pro. it works fine in my house with WiFi. However it says it can not make internet connection. What do I have to do to make internet connection?

      Thanks,

      Bud

    • Hi Ryan

      I am planning on writing an iphone app for controlling my home lighting

      can you please guide me

      as to where I can get help on using the Apple SDK to write such an app

      also I want to ask what all hardware I need to have .

      I am just trying to switch on and off lights and dim them when necessary.

      So I am interested in writing the software by myself and buying the required hardware.

      Please let me know.

      Thank you for your help . I look forward to hearing from you.

      Regards
      Vaibhav

    • awesome article. i have 6 tvs that are the same sony. will this control them seperatly?

    • my wife tends to leave her hair straightener on and worries she is gonna burn the house down. I have had to return to the house countless times to shut it off. Can i control that from my phone with this system?

    • Yes, you can plug it into one of the outlet switches that are available.

    • Hi,

      The article is great. I have been looking for a business to do and you have just open up a new business ideas for me to start.
      I sincerely hope that I can succeed in this. I believe all landed and condominiums may be interested in this.

      I will approach house developer to introduce and integrate into their projects to provide this innovative and sophisticated technology which inturn makes their upselling to increase in value.

      Can I post you queries about the products ?

      Firstly, where can I purchase these devices ?

      And these devices are supporting 110Watts and 230Volts power ?

      Thank you.

      Daren Koh

    • Hello, Your project is amazing.
      I hope you might be able to help me. I live in France and am off grid but we do have internet when our generator is on.

      My question relates to how I might switch the generator on and off from within the house using an iphone or a remote device of some sort.

      The generator has a simple on off switch which I guess operates a solenoid to start the motor with a 12v battery so there is no continual power.

      Will understand of you are too busy to respond but it would be very helpful fi you have any ideas.

      Thanks

      John

  4. i want to consult this product seller.
    tell me the address

  5. How about the security? I’m sure it uses TCP/IP Protocol.
    does it bothers you if someone monitors your house remotely?

    anyway, this can be done also by the usual computer interfaced using
    parallel or usb port.

    • Well, it uses a secure SSL connection when connecting over a network. There are some alternatives to using this, however, where you don’t actually need to hook it up to your network. Doing so just provides a lot more options.

  6. Would it be possible to hook up a stove? My wife is always worried that she left it on.

    • If it’s an electric stove I’m sure it would be possible, but may not be very straightforward.

    • there would be a few different ways to control the range, either gas or electric. the use of a relay, either in the control wiring, or a contactor to kill the entire stove, would be 2 of the “easier” ones..i am a licensed master electrician, and any “good” industrial journeyman should be able to help.
      really cool article,kudos to the author and all the comments.i have included my email addy in the header, but i have no idea if anyone can access it,lol…will be glad to help if i can

  7. SMARTHOME is not ready to sell this product in INDIA. So can you suggest me a similar product to control LIGHTS, TV, AIR CONDITIONING, BLINDS, MOVIES DATABASE…ETC.

    hope to hear soon from you.

  8. I am curious if you could set up a tv with this system and if so can you get all the same functions you would with the manufacturers remote?

    • I have not seen anything that would let you do something like that. I know you can set it up the other way around where you could use a universal remote to control your lights via infrared commands.

    • Check out control4 home systems. You can control everything in a house with it but you have to have all their stuff.

  9. On the Garage Door Controller/Sensor, I just wanted to verify that you can view the door’s status via the iPhone app. On the SmartHome page you linked to it says “IP camera required to check status”. Can you clarify?

    The wife and I constantly turn the car around to check the door and run down stairs before going to sleep to see if the door is in fact closed. This would be terrific for us!

    Thanks for a such an informative, easy-to-read article on home automation! I am now hooked!

  10. Hi Ryan

    I am planning on writing an iphone app for controlling my home lighting

    can you please guide me

    as to where I can get help on using the Apple SDK to write such an app

    also I want to ask what all hardware I need to have .

    I am just trying to switch on and off lights and dim them when necessary.

    So I am interested in writing the software by myself and buying the required hardware.

    Please let me know

    Thank you for your help . I look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards
    Vaibhav

  11. hi ryan

    i have read your article with interest, could you tell me how you went on the the 2 pin inteon and 110 v aganst the uk 240 3 pin were there any issues and do you think having a 110 devise plug it will last over time.

    cheers

    ian

  12. WoW!

    Whets next? Do you think you can get this voice activated?

    BTW your article is priceless

    • I’m sure it’s possible to get some voice activation in there, but there is no “affordable” hardware for that sort of stuff yet. It would have to be custom tailored to meet your needs, which gets crazy expensive.

  13. Excellent guide to getting started with this type of equipment. You’ve saved me a lot of pain, frustration and money!

  14. Hey Nice stuffs,

    Can you tell in more details about the hardware. If some developer want to work on it, how should he go about.

    Thanks

    • If you’re looking for free stuff in exchange for development I don’t really think they are doing that. I would contact SmartHome and Universal Devices though to see what they say.

  15. Ryan,
    great summary ! Thank you for sharing this.

  16. Hey Ryan

    I actually just installed whole bunch of insteon switches with isy99i and Elk M1 for security. I was tninking about getting refurbished ipod touches as well but Im really not thrilled with Mobilinc interface. Have you tried Elk Pro ( it suppose to work with isy99 ) plus it has DVR cameras support ? Please let me know

    • I have not tried the Elk Pro yet. I actually like the Mobilinc interface though, and was a lot nicer than some of the dedicated controllers that were available.

  17. Great article. I am kinda hazy on the ins and outs of Routers and I am wondering if I could use a router that is not connected to the internet and have just a local wifi system? I see them for cheap at garage sales all the time. I would not be able to do anything remotely but at least I could turns some lights on before I walk down a dark hallway and step on a kids toy.

    • Yep, that will work just fine. You don’t actually need Internet access for anything to work. It can all be accessed and configured using local addresses/IPs.

  18. Hi ran
    1st of all: Awesome was looking for help on this subject and your’s is perfect thanks a lot.

    2nd I live in Denmark and the 3 wire cord thing i just didn’t get. If I buy a ISY-99i do you think it is going to work for the 220 V wires here and will I need ekstra wires to power the swithes not sure about that

    again thanks a million Ryan great job :)

    regards from Denmark

  19. Hey Ryan,
    I am a university student at Wilfred Laurier (in southern Ontario) in the business program and we were given the project of creating a New Venture Business idea. We ended up with something similar to this, however, we only want to produce software (this is hypothetical, we are focused on the business side, we do not want to actually create software) that will work with this. Do you know if there are other companies other that Universal Devices that make the control boxes? Also, do you know if other Home Automation Companies use the same standards (RF)? and finally, do you know if it is possible to replace the existing software on the ISY-99i?

    Thanks
    Sam

  20. I wish I had free time to get something as awesome as this going on my own house…

  21. this by far has just saved me 40,000.00. Everyone that comes over here is a million air when it comes to home automation.What a fantastic article. He should be commended!!

  22. Hello,
    It’s the article which I was searching for one month, and it summed all in one page. I’m an electronic engineering student, I’m doing my senior project and I need some help. Instead of controlling the AC & Light through iphone, I will use the ipad. So, Can I have your email, so I can ask you some question :) ..

  23. this is awesome, but am in nigeria and lots of people need cool stuffs like this, what do i do?

  24. WOW thanks a LOT! This article is so enlightening.
    All i need to do now is to beg my husband to make it a reality in the new house we are building.
    That would be really a dream comes true for me!
    Thanks again for your kind sharing heart and time;) gbu

  25. Amazing Artice! So informative and easy to understand.

    I have a quick question:

    I have a double switch at home: Looks like this ([homedepot.com])

    What do you suggest I do for this set up? I would like to control both switches with a Smarthome SwitchLinc Relay (non dimming). Would I have to put two Smarthome SwitchLinc Relay’s side by side?

    • Yes, you would have to put two of them side-by-side if they both needed to be maintained. I had a few switches like that as well, but they were essentially there to duplicate another switches functionality (e.g. two different switches that turn on the same light). So I just made one switch control the light instead of having the same switch on both sides of the room. And then I configured the switches so that a double-tap would trigger the secondary light to come on. So I basically get the same functionality out of using just a single switch.

      It’s kinda confusing to explain, but it of course make sense in my head. :) The best advice I can give you is to just buy a few switches and play around with the configuration. Unless of course implementing dual switches is easy in your situation.

  26. Hi Ryan,
    Best article on this stuff that I have found! Just curious, I am building a house and wondering if there is anything I should do while I am wiring it up to make it easier to install this stuff? Or is it as easy as just changing out the light switches I already have?
    Thanks!
    Rob

    • You just want to make sure the neutral wires (generally colored white) are run throughout the house. I don’t think you should have an issue with this since I believe it’s required by the electricians these days, but I know that wasn’t always the case.

  27. i was wondering if this affects the origianl hard wire switch at all. would i be able to still manually control the lights or appliances with a switch?

  28. Ryan, I live in Lebanon so I need all these equipments to be 2 pin and 220V

    I contacted INSTEON and they said they have none (220V) yet

    could you suggest any replacements?

    thank you in advance

  29. Great article! Thanks for all the information!

  30. This is a terrific article. I only wish I had found it last summer when we first started trying to set things up as I may have done some things differently. We bought a Smartlinc adapter and started installing switches first to control outside lights and then inside lights. It has never quite worked as we hoped. I think in hindsight we should have used an electrician to install switches and used the ISY-99i referenced in this article. I suspect the Smartlinc would be great for a smaller home/apt.

    For now, the main thing we use the Smartlinc for is to control our outside lights to turn on sunset and turn off at sunrise. This alone is pretty awesome and I would say it works with around 95% reliability.

    In the coming weeks/months hopefully we will have more time to take a second shot at getting things set up.

  31. I think I see what you mean by virtual switches, where the light switch may not actually control things in the same room (or maybe it does, but also controls other lights as well. Essentially creating a physical button to control a “scene”, right?)
    My question is whether you need complex wiring to make this happen. In your article you mention your overhead kitchen lights not being wired to the virtual switch at all. I assume this means the primary switch is directly wired to the overhead lights, and the virtual switch just tells the primary switch to turn the light on. How then, do you have the under-cabinet wiring connected to your system so that the virtual switch can talk to it? It doesnt sound like it is hard-wired to the primary kitchen switch because if it was, that switch would turn on both overhead and under-cabinet, but you say in your article that it only does overhead and the virtual switch does both. Am I understanding this correctly? Is there other hardware I need other than the ISY-99i and an Insteon light switch? Thanks

    • No, there is no other hardware needed. The overhead and under-cabinet lights are on different physical switches. They can be programmed, however, to tell the other switch to turn on when one of them is activated.

  32. Ryan
    where can i purchase these items.. can you send me a website please..

  33. hi

    this all sounds very good but do you know if it would work in the UK ?

  34. This is a great article! I have a second home and I would like to use this system to control the thermostat in the house. What additional equipment do I need to have to control the thermostat? My thermostat is a basic digital thermostat and does not have any LAN connection or WIFI connection whatsoever. Thanks. Armin, NY.

  35. Oh awesome! I always wanted to do this since I was a little kid watching that movie where the house traps the family inside!

    :)

    One of the inspirations to be a computer engineer. I will, one day, when I have my own house or apartment, do the same thing!
    I can’t wait to see how much better the interfaces will be though when I finally get a place of my own. Window blinds, lights, toilet, locks, garage, thermostat, laundry machine, toaster, refridgerator! :D I’ve already been yelled at by my father for leaving the garage door open b/c I simply drove away and didn’t check to see if it was closing. Bad news, I lost a 300 dollar BMX bike that way.

    Well, in the future, (if he’s still alive) I’ll show him this system and it’ll make him happy. :D awww sad, we’re all mortals.

    Awesome write-up. Hope, will follow you from now on. (in a non-stalker sense)

  36. sir, i have some confusion about my project. sir i m developing one i-phone apps. by this apps we cn lock door using blutooth but now i want implement this apps to using wifi to lock the door so cn u help me how to set up this feature in my i phone application plz reply as soon as possible…

  37. Ryan,
    Now that the mobiLinc ipod app controls the Smartlinc 2412N directly is there any advantage for the much pricier ISY-99i at all? What benefits would the ISY-99I unit give you. Please let me know as I am trying to save as much money as possible while still having as much functionality as I can afford.

    -Greg

    • Depends how advanced you want to get. I don’t believe that unit can be used to write custom programs to do some of the more advanced things I mentioned above. The 2412N is mostly for turning things on/off.

  38. Hi,

    Firstly this article I amazing and has inspired me to try and do something similar.
    Two questions, firstly I am currently doing a complete refurbishment of my new house (wiring included) that in mind is there anything specific I should be asking the builders/electricians to do to aid using a similar system?
    Secondly I am currently in the UK which uses three pin plugs, are you aware of anything for this market?

    Many Thank

    Kaz

    • Unfortunately I’m not aware of what items work in the UK, but it would be worth looking for some items and contacting the company to see what electrical requirements they have in order for the items to work. In the U.S. the neutral (often white) wire is required for this to work, but is generally something you’ll only find in homes built after the 1960′s or 70′s.

    • Kaz,

      I’m also in the UK looking into this sort of setup did you manage to find what works with our power limits?

      James.

  39. Ryan- Love your article.

    I am renovating my home. I just put in Lutron swtiches, will they work?
    Will it be a problem that I have some Lighting zones that work at 3 switch locations? (1 4-way and 2 dimmers)… thoughts.
    I could really use some help, my father is helping me wire and he is stuck in 1950 and demands simple switches because he thinks it will cost me 10K to do all this.

    Vanessa

  40. Ryan,

    I assume that when the power goes out everything comes back online with no problem?

  41. Ryan,

    Can I use this system to control my tv and stereo?

  42. Hello. I was wondering (as this system seems to be very functional but seems to miss this component unless I missed it somewhere) if there was any plans to also add a universal remote system (using IR) to your platform? This seems like a very logical (and even missed opportunity) way for this to go so that you control the entire home this way and not just lighting, garage door, and temperature.

  43. Hey Ryan,

    Awesome article.. I was wondering if you could provide samples of some of your programs? I am interested in how you managed to detect coming to and leaving the house.

    Regards,

    Brian

    • Well, I have around 200 programs I think so it would be confusing for anyone else to look at. I recently updated my system to use variables that are in the Beta version of the firmware for the ISY. Basically what I do is keep a status variable of whether I’m home or away, and that variable changes each time the garage opens. I then have a KeypadLinc by the garage that I can use to force the status to home or away in case I’m opening the garage without the intention of leaving the house.

  44. Your article is so far above what I could have dreamed of and hope to make happen for my son. He is getting his first house and we will be doing ALL KINDS of new wiring in a soon to be FINISHED BASEMENT. His brand new Iphone on it’s own is incredible. Me being the old guy I can’t wait to try LOTS of the things u have talked about in your article. Top notch job nd if you want a part time gig helping us, please email- ha if you have any input on where we should start HELP, I’m the Dad from the 60′s

  45. Hi this is a great article, however anybody reading it from the UK about how we go about getting the components and would they work from the other site with a simple convertor.

    Many thanks

    James.

  46. Hi Ryan firstly wanted to thank you for writing such an amazing article and am so impressed with the way you have brought all the little details of a smart-house.

    1.Just need a suggestion on this one>>
    So for example i have 6 big switches which controls my 6 different rooms to turn all the lights ON/OFF.
    1.a) Now apart from configuring them on and off from online – Can I also turn them on/off from RF device ? or am I suppose to be online to make them on/off

    2.What if I need to configure more than just on and off.
    ex: I remotely switch on my TV and projector. Can I than actually control TV controls with the mobilinc or do I need another app to use it (which I know can be done)

    • Mobilinc isn’t really focused on being a TV remote, so I wouldn’t try to use it for that. It would not be optimal. But you would be able to send out IR commands from the unit as well as receive them (if you get the ISY that supports IR). That means you could control the lights using a universal remote.

  47. hello , I have an questions for you, my boss bought a smartlinc and when I connect this caused a short circut and now I need an electronic diagram of this product please I ask if I can facilitate to fix it. I hope your answer thanks

  48. Don’t you think having more and more remote and internet controlled devices could open up your house to a lot of security threats?

    • Well, it all depends on how well you secure the connection and how good your password is. If someone wanted to break into my house they wouldn’t take the time to hack my network, they would just smash a window. :)

  49. Hey Ryan,

    Thanks for the amazing article!

    I am going to duplicate your system in my house. On the smarthome site, there are a 2 different ISY994i. There is the a “regular” one and the IR Pro. Which one should I buy?

    Thanks.

  50. hi,my name is nick.i am actually building a 2 storey house .and already spend so much on a lot of latest gear on the market,and now this all home automation comming out of the blue, i would really wanna be able to be able to control all my light into my house and all my home av receiver and projector,my home server ,media center,ect.i got cat 5e running in every single room into the house,i also want to control my pump for my spa,and the all lot.money is not an issue there,only knowledge is,as i’m not that thecnical.i would be really great if i could get some guidance here,thank you very much.

  51. SmartLinc – INSTEON Central Controller were can i buy for australia

  52. Can I use this piece of equipment instead of the isy-99

    ISY994i INSTEON Compatible Automation Controller with Dual-Band PLM

  53. That is really Amazing. Now we can control the Electrionic Equipments with the help of the Iphone. Will all of my household appliances be compatible with Insteon?

  54. Great innovative product its the kind of products we want to see. For colder climate s a boiler or heating control unit will be fantastic. We selll a similar range called Lightwaverf on wireless lighting store however they do not have a heating control module at present.

    Is this product available in the UK?

  55. Have you been monitoring the state-of-the art? Is this still a good way to go ya think?

    Great article!

    • It still works great for me, and I continue to expand my system as needed. Many of the devices I reference in the article are current… meaning they haven’t changed much if at all.

  56. How much did this end up costing you?

  57. is the a uk outlet

  58. Philips has already developed app called Hue – that way you can control the lighting in your home via your iPhone, for example.

    [meethue.com]

  59. pleas i just wanna know if i can control the air conditioner
    and also if i had sound system

  60. hey, I am making a application for touch screen phones that will by pass the wireless router but I am unaware of the potential insurance I will need to sell the product. If you could get back to me it would be great so I can work out how you have your house set up. Any info on potential insurance way that I will need will be appreciated.

    Thanks, Hamish

  61. Hi Rayan
    I want a solution for connecting 1- iphone 2- access point 3- wifi remote/CBS
    Perfebly NOT web based, we should find a standard to connect to any wifi device and its command!!
    Can you please help me?

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