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First Alert, Somfy Plan Insteon Home Automation

12/05/2005 02:00:00 AM Eastern

More than 40 products being developed with Insteon home network technology include devices from motorization-system maker Somfy and Jarden Corp., which markets First Alert home-safety devices such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

The Somfy and First Alert products will be available to consumers early in 2006, and the other products are due by the middle of 2006, a spokeswoman told TWICE.

In mid-2005, Insteon inventor Smarthome began offering the first home-automation equipment built around the company's Insteon no-new-wires mesh-network technology, which combines powerline and 900MHz-wireless technologies. Smarthome's initial products include a tabletop push-button controller, a lamp-dimming module and an appliance-control module. All plug into existing electrical outlets to send and receive commands over a home's electrical wiring. The controller also fits into a double-gang wall box. A plug-in range-extending signal repeater transmits commands simultaneously over powerlines and 900MHz wireless.

With the Somfy and BRK announcements, motorized window shades and smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors will be tied into an Insteon home-automation system.

Jarden and Smarthome will initially work together to connect First Alert's ONELINK smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to Smarthome's lighting-control modules to illuminate an escape path when a detector goes into alarm mode. The module will plug into electrical outlets to control connected lamps.

ONELINK products equipped by Insteon will be sold through Smarthome's distribution channels and the distribution channels of First Alert manufacturer BRK Brands, which sells into the builder market.

For its part, Somfy will work with Smarthome to develop an interface that converts Insteon commands into the Somfy-proprietary RF commands used to control motorized shades and blinds. The interface will be Somfy and Smarthome co-branded and sold through both companies' channels. Somfy builds the motors and remotes that control interior and exterior window coverings, awnings, draperies and projection screens, among other products.

Somfy and Smarthome will also collaborate on marketing activities.

Because it combines powerline with wireless, two-way Insteon technology is promoted as improving reliability, extending range and reducing costs compared to other two-way powerline- and wireless-network technologies. Unlike other powerline technologies, it's compatible with existing X-10 powerline-network devices.

The network is also said to become more reliable as it expands because each device also operates as a signal repeater in mesh-network topology.

A package of Smarthome devices, available on Smarthome's site at a suggested $129 retail and everyday $99, consists of the tabletop controller, two lamp modules and two repeaters. Additional lamp modules and controllers are $29 each. The controller transmits over five channels, each channel capable of controlling 417 devices. The package delivers control throughout a 5,000-square-foot house.

Smarthome's sales channels include its Web site, lighting-specialty retailers, HomeDepot.com, Amazon.com and its distributor base, which includes national distributor Ingram Micro.

More than 300 companies are part of the Insteon Alliance.