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Smarthome Ships Insteon Powerline, Wireless Network

Smarthome has begun offering the industry’s first home-automation equipment built around the company’s Insteon no-new-wires mesh-network technology, which combines powerline and 900MHz-wireless technologies.

The initial products control home lighting and small appliances. Future products will control HVAC, security, and motorized shades and drapes.

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 company launched sales on its Web site, targeted lighting-specialty retailers, and began selling through its distributor base, which includes one national distributor, Ingram Micro. Ingram’s IT-industry dealers are entering the home-automation market, CEO Joe Dada said.

Smarthome also signed a deal with a major retailer to offer a less expensive line designed for big-box stores, said Dada. Later this year, he added, select Fortune 500 companies will offer Insteon-equipped devices under their own name.

The first products include a tabletop push-button controller and a plug-in lamp-dimming module, both of which plug into existing electrical outlets to send and receive commands over a home’s electrical wiring. A plug-in range-extending signal repeater transmits commands simultaneously over powerlines and 900MHz wireless.

A package of 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, which also fits into a double-gang wall box, transmits over five channels, each channel capable of controlling 417 devices.

The package delivers control throughout a 5,000-square-foot house, Dada said, through a combination of mesh-network technology, powerline/RF repeaters, sensitive receivers and automatic retries.

In July, Smarthome planned to follow up with wired in-wall dimmer/relay switches at a suggested $69 each. Beside controlling local loads such as ceiling lights, they will control lamp modules in any room and in turn be controlled from tabletop controllers, other Insteon dimmer switches, and PCs in other rooms. In the third quarter, Smarthome will ship a single-gang in-wall wired keypad that will control lighting and appliances in multiple rooms. It will retail for about $79.

In the late third quarter, Smarthome plans availability of an Insteon-equipped PC-interface module that incorporates USB, serial and Ethernet ports. Users would download lighting-control programs from Smarthome’s Web site, use the PC to customize the program for their house, and store customized programs in the module, which would execute the programs even while the PC is off.

A wireless-RF controller might be available before Christmas.

In 2006, the company plans Insteon-equipped electrical outlets to eliminate the need for plug-in modules.

To promote Insteon adoption by other companies, Smarthome offers an off-the-shelf chip loaded with Insteon’s software. Next year, it will offer an ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) to integrate more components, such as caps and resistors, into the IC, thus reducing the product’s footprint and price.