HCA Technical Note: Using the SmartHome Insteon Hub

HCA Technical Note: Using the SmartHome Insteon Hub
HCA Technical Note: Using the SmartHome Insteon Hub
The Insteon Hub and the older 2412N are interesting products but they are not a 2413 PowerLinc with a
network connection in a box. They are much different products. While they work well in some
environments they don’t offer the level of function needed for some of the core features of HCA Insteon
One issue is that the Insteon Hub doesn't report to the computer when Insteon signals are received on
the power line. It records them in a buffer that forces HCA to poll periodically to determine if receptions
have arrived. This buffer is very limited in size. These two limitations – the need to poll and the buffer
size - create problems in many areas.
The HCA features that let you create and examine links between Insteon - what HCA calls the Visual Link
Editor - are very driven by message transmissions and receptions. Depending upon the version of the
Insteon device and the number of links in its linking table, HCA may need to send hundreds of messages
to read the linking table completely. Insteon messages are repeated around the network as the message
is received and retransmitted by the network devices. In this way, one message sent by HCA though the
Insteon Hub may result in many messages being placed on the power line and the one reply can have
many repeats as well. Each of these messages – original or repeat – is received by the Insteon Hub and
can easily fill the Insteon Hub’s buffer and cause some messages to be lost.
During testing of the HCA support for the Insteon Hub, we saw that these limitations caused HCA to fail
when reading and writing the internal linking tables of devices. This resulted in having to retry reading
and writing many times.
Another issue is asynchronous messages. If you have HCA linked to a keypad button, for example to
have a program started when you press that button, HCA only receives that message after it polls the
buffer to see if any commands have arrived. This slows down processing of those messages since they
may land in the buffer just after HCA last polled to check the buffer and that message will remain unread
in the buffer until HCA polls again. Also, if the buffer is already full, the message may be lost entirely.
Because of all these problems we recommend using the 2413 PowerLinc and not the Insteon Hub. The
2413 provides the connection that HCA needs to the Insteon Network without the limitations of the
However, there is a group of users who have no option but to use the Insteon Hub - those not in North
America with 120 volt 60hz power systems. At this time the 2413 PowerLinc is not available in those
locations and the Insteon Hub is the only solution. We are not satisfied with the HCA support for the
Insteon Hub but the developers have done their best given its inherent limitations.
If you can use the 2413 PowerLinc and you still want to use the Insteon Hub – perhaps to use the
SmartHome mobile application – that’s fine. Both can co-exist on the network. Just identify only the
2413 PowerLinc to HCA.
Insteon Hub
Using the Insteon Hub
Unlike the PowerLinc interfaces the Insteon Hub is a network accessed interface. It has a network
connection rather than a serial port or USB port and so requires additional configuration. After selecting
the Insteon Hub as the interface type in the HCA, press the Configure button.
The IP address of the Insteon hub and the port number it uses must first be set with the SmartHome
Insteon mobile app. HCA does not do that. Just take note what the address is when you use the
SmartHome application.
The Insteon Hub, like the 2413 PowerLinc, supports both X10 and Insteon. Enable either or both
protocols that you want to use the Insteon Hub with.
In order for HCA to access the Hub in the same way that the Insteon Mobile App does, the user name
and password for the Hub must be entered in the configuration dialog.
To find out what the user name and password currently is, open the Insteon mobile application, click on
the settings icon to “Edit Settings” and then choose the “House” settings.
Insteon Hub
The user name and password are at the bottom. If you have not previously selected a user name and
password a default hard to type one was selected for you. In this case you want to enter your own user
name and password. You should write these down, especially the password as the Insteon app hides it
from view. A good place is on a piece of paper that you tape onto the Hub itself.
The application doesn’t make it clear how to change these. Click on the triangle at the right side of the
user name line and an edit page opens.
Insteon Hub
After you enter the new user name you must press the “Save” button at the top before you use the back
button to return to the main settings page or your change is lost. Then use the same procedure to
change the password also.
Enter the user name and password you entered in the Insteon mobile application in the HCA
configuration dialog.
Insteon Hub
Auto Disconnect
The Insteon hub like other network addressed interfaces allows only a limited number of connections at
a time. This can be a problem if HCA opens the connection and leaves it open forever. Doing that may
prevent other users of that interface from connecting to it.
If the Disconnect option in the interface configuration dialog is enabled, then HCA connects to the
interface when it needs to use it, and then leaves it open for the specified number of minutes and if not
used again during that time then it disconnects. The next time it needs to use the interface then it
If you use this option then you will not receive Asynchronous messages from the interface! Suppose you
connect to the Insteon hub and send an ON command to a device. HCA sends the Insteon message and
receives a reply saying that the operation was completed. That is a synchronous message protocol - you
send something and it replies. The message from the interface (its reply) is always preceded by a
message sent to it (your request).
Now suppose you have a keypad linked to HCA (actually, linked to the Insteon hub address) and
someone pushes a button on that keypad. The keypad sends to HCA a message to report what occurred.
This would be an asynchronous message. You didn’t ask the Insteon Hub to do anything; it just sends
you a message. The message you received (the report) isn’t preceded by a message you sent to it. That
is why this is an asynchronous message.
If HCA is not connected to the interface when the interface has something to report it will not get
received since HCA doesn’t have an open connection to it. If you want to receive these kinds of
asynchronous messages – reports for actions that HCA didn’t initiate – then you can’t use the disconnect
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