Insteon products mysteriously came back to life on June 6th, prompting users to ask if the company had been purchased by some nasty corporation (or even a malicious group). Now, former SmartLabs VP and General Manager Ken Fairbanks says he acquired the company with a “small group of passionate users.”
While details on this story (and the future of Insteon) are still unknown, Ken Fairbanks isn’t exactly a stranger to the Insteon brand. SmartLabs was the former owner of Insteon—before it went out of business last March, of course.
According to his Linkdin, Fairbanks oversaw Insteon development and marketing from 2004 to 2007. These were arguably the brand’s most ambitious years. With Fairbanks’ involvement, Insteon transitioned from the world of old-fashioned home controllers to modern wireless “smart” devices.
Journalists at The Orange County Register documented this transition in 2006. After visiting Fairbanks’ home, they were stunned by the idea of integrating “Insteon logic” into individual products like light bulbs, thermostats, and doorbells. (Home automation certainly existed in 2006, but only if you gutted and rewired your house. Basically, a home’s electrical system was the smart home controller. Such projects were prohibitively expensive, for obvious reasons.)
Unfortunately, we don’t know what Insteon’s new owners plan to do with the company. Fairbanks says that “responsibly re-building the Insteon business” is the goal, but we’ll have to wait for more details.
The new Insteon asks that customers keep an eye on their inbox for new information. Additionally, Insteon has expressed interest in a Reddit AMA, which could help clear things up a bit.
Here’s my concern; turning Insteon into something profitable is a huge undertaking. The company’s technology is effective and reliable, but it’s several years out of date. Plus, the Insteon brand has been stagnant for at least half a decade, and a large number of people only learned about Insteon because of its death spiral.
But customers seem optimistic. So, at least there’s that.