It’s not a good idea to buy smart devices for your home without a plan. What you need to get started with home automation is a proper hub to connect all your smart devices. But what’s even better is ahub that already comes with some of the most widely used smart devices that are guaranteed to work together. And that’s what you get with the Universal Devices 12237K2 ISY994i Home Automation Starter Kit.

What is the ISY994i Starter Kit?

The ISY994i is an Insteon controller. Just in case you don’t know, Insteon is one of the most reliable protocols being used today which enables smart devices to communicate with one another. It’s not always guaranteed that smart devices can work together even when they use the same protocols. But with this Starter Kit, you have Insteon devices that have already been pretested for the ISY994i. You’re certain it’s going to work.

Included in the starter kit are the following components:

  • 2 Insteon LED bulbs. These are the LED bulbs that rally should replace your traditional light bulbs. It saves you a lot of energy, as its 9W bulbs shines just as brightly as a 60W incandescent bulb. You’ll get to enjoy its warm white incandescent color and bright 737 lumen output for up to 52,000 hours. Use it for 8 hours a day, and that’s 17 years (and about 9 months).
  • 2 Insteon Remote Control Dimmer Switches. Now each of your LED bulbs can go with this dimmer switch, which offers 32 different ON levels when used locally and with increments of 1% when you use software (like an app). It can go to full ON to full OFF (and vice-versa) instantly in just 0.125 seconds or very gradually at 9 seconds, if controlled locally. When you control it remotely, it can take as much as 8 minutes for it to go to full ON or full OFF. (This is great when you use the light to help you wake up on schedule, as it simulates a rising sun in its slow and gradual brightness.)
  • Insteon Mini Remote Control Keypad, 8-Scene. This offers you 8 buttons for 8 “scenes”, which are settings for your smart devices (including your lights) that activate for certain situations. So you can have a different light setting when you wake up, reading a book, watching a movie, having a normal day at home, going to work, or falling asleep.
    You can use this wireless remote as a portable handheld remote, or you can mount it as a keypad on a wall beside your bed or your favorite spot on the couch. It doesn’t need to be near a wall socket, as it is battery-operated and its battery is rechargeable. It also doesn’t need any communication wiring, as its wireless range is about 50 feet from the hub so it can control all the other smart devices attached to the hub. It’s white, nice-looking, and designed simply.
  • Insteon Serial Modem Interface. This is the 2413S PowerLinc Modem without which the entire kit doesn’t work as a single system. This is the device that enables you to control the system with an automation controller or a PC. And that automation controller is the ISY994i.

Features of the ISY994i

The ISY994i can configure and program your Insteon devices through the Insteon native protocols. You can control up to 256 devices and scenes and for most homes that’s a high enough number of devices to fully automate an entire house.

Here are some of its features:

  • You can use a Java-enabled web browser to gain access to your Insteon network. You don’t really need a special program other than your browser, as all you have to do is to type in the URL of your Home Automation Controller. It involves a secure web server with certificate management (up to 2048 bits), and there’s support for any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.
  • You can also use the Mobilinc app that’s available for the iPhone or Android smartphone. This app allows for geofencing, instant push notifications for special events or emergencies, voice control plugins, IP camera plugin for live streaming from your cameras, and supports energy monitors for real time energy consumption. Another similar option is the eK ISY app for the iPhone.
  • The ISY994i has an expansion slot that you can use to support other devices that use the ZigBee or Z-Wave protocols. It can also be upgraded to the PRO version, which can support up to 1,024 devices and scenes. As is, there’s already X10 support built in, although you should enhance this with the optional X10/A10 Module.
  • It also comes with a built-in real time clock, which supports daylight saving and automatically syncs with the Internet time sources so it’s always accurate. So when you schedule your devices to activate at a specific time, it will do so at precisely the time you set. It can even calculate the actual sunrise and sunset time, so that your lights can turn on at sunset and turn off at sunrise.
  • If you already have several Insteon devices installed and programmed, the ISY994i can “crawl” your network and automatically link with your current devices.

Using the ISY994i

Linking any Insteon device to the ISY994i is quite easy, as it supports the vast majority of Insteon items. You just need to use their Insteon address, or you can just press the SET button on the device. You can then use the built-in web server and the Java-based admin console to manage, monitor, and control all your devices with a laptop or PC even when you’re far away. You can also download 3rd party apps so you can have smartphone control as well.

1. Management of Devices. You can manage your devices more easily just by organizing your devices and scenes in separate folders and subfolders, and these you can create without any difficulty. And you can easily solve any potential problems along the way. If your modem malfunctions, you can just get a new PLM to replace it instead of getting a new ISY994i. If a device breaks down, you can just replace that too. And if you for some reason mess up the settings or the programming, you can start from scratch with a factory reset to get the correct settings.

2. Scenes. Creating a new scene which combines several devices working together isn’t a problem either. All you need to do is to drag and drop various devices for your scenes to define which devices are involved. Then you can set up a trigger-responder relationship between your devices, so that if an alarm goes off, for example, your video camera starts recording and sends you an alert. You can also change the attribute of any device for each scene.

Once you’re done setting up the scene, the devices work together directly without needing the ISY994i. This makes it more reliable, and the response time is quicker.

3. Programming and scheduling. This you can do with just simple mouse point and click. You can set specific times, or specify a time frame or specific day. You can also schedule for sunrise and sunset. Any event noted by the ISY994i such as the opening of a door or an alarm blaring can trigger various responses, and you can use variables as well to control your program flow. And you can define when you (or the people you specify) receive the SMS and email notifications.

Pros

With this Home Starter Kit, you get several key advantages with your home automation. We start with the price, as here you get the entire package with a discount of about $50, when compared to if you buy each separate component separately. What’s more, this saves you time since every gadgets is delivered to you immediately.

Then you also enjoy the almost unbelievably easy installation. This wireless network is a piece of cake to install. There’s absolutely no wiring needed, aside from the power adaptor for the controller. You can do this all by yourself. If you’re technologically adept enough to know how to connect your smartphone to your Wi-Fi router, then you have enough know-how to install this setup yourself. And if you already have several Insteon devices installed, the ISY994i already recognizes and integrates these devices virtually automatically.

So you can install this, and then as time passes and you want to expand your home automation system, it’s just so easy to proceed.

And in regards to expansion, this ISY994i can accommodate your growing need. You can grade a field upgrade to the PRO version, so you can set up a system of up to more than a thousand devices and scenes. You can also make use of the expansion slot so that you integrate devices that use the ZigBee or Z-Wave protocols. That allows you to choose among an extremely vast range of smart devices.

Then there’s the extremely easy way to use and program the ISY994i. Beginners will appreciate just how simple it is to create schedules and scenes with this setup, and even experienced home automation users will welcome such an uncomplicated system.

Cons

The main problem is that many of the advantages of the ISY994i are just potential benefits. For the moment, you’re starting out with just this kit. And as is, it really doesn’t do much at all except give you smart light bulbs. Granted, you have extremely sophisticated light bulbs which you can program in so many varied ways. But there’s no escaping the fact that with your 2 light bulbs you’re just taking the first step in a very long journey.

To really make full use of the ISY994i, you will have to upgrade and add more devices. That means spending more money. And if begin to add more ZigBee and Z-Wave products, you may also begin to encounter more problems with installation. That’s the curse of not having a standard protocol with smart devices. Sometimes devices just won’t work together. It’s like buying a console game for your PlayStation and you find out later that the game you bought is for the Xbox.

Conclusion

So what’s the point? Well, the point of the ISY994i is the same as the point of any starter kit: it’s to get you started. And it does that really well. It’s very affordable, so price is not an issue. And this system is very easy to install, and again you don’t need a lot of technical DIY know how to put it up in your home. And then it is very easy to use.

That’s the ISY994i in a nutshell—a beginner’s course. It’s meant to offer you a hands-on introduction to the wonderful world of home automation. By using this system, you will realize firsthand just how advantageous a network of smart devices can be for your home. It saves you a lot of money in terms of energy consumption, it allows you to control your lights (and all your other smart devices) remotely, you learn how to program your light bulbs according to a schedule, and you also take your first steps into learning how to activate them through various triggers. You also learn all about scenes and how different devices can work together just by pressing a single button.

And what’s really great about this is that this “first step” doesn’t need to be discarded when you take your next steps in your home automation adventure. It’s not like a first car or a first home that you sell when you have saved enough money to buy a better car or house. Instead, it acts as the foundation of all growing network of smart devices. You can upgrade the ISY994i in various ways, and add more devices as you go along.

So the conclusion here is that if you’re new to home automation, the Universal Devices 12237K2 ISY994i Home Automation Starter Kit can give you an introductory course to a whole new world of home comfort and conservation. Everything about it (price, set up, usage) is made easy for you, so you don’t have any hurdle to overcome.