X-10 (&Insteon)

(Solardave1) #1

In another section, a user lamented that a few years ago there was a commercially available ZigBee or xbee interface for the x-10 wireline and Insteon wireline/wireless systems of which there must be millions in circulation at this point.

I’m actually looking at a few potential solutions right now for a specific customer requirement. In short, its an adaptation of how Vera integrates x-10 using an Insteon bridge. The interface is rs232/serial so the issue becomes interfacing z-wave to rs232 and being ale to pass z-wave commands/state changes bi-directionally through the interface. The latter will likely be easy through coding in a smart app although most of the x-10 stuff isnt bi-directional (wont report status). The hardware is somewhat iffy – a recent on-site visit by an associate to some of the factories in China revealed a ton of product that claim to “seamlessly” act as protocol converters but only a handfuls that “possibly” would work in the real world. I have some sample units in route to me from China for testing. There are several published ways to execute x-10 protocol command using an Arduino and the ZigBee shield would provide the wireless component. A fully compliant z-wave shield would likely provide the best and most reliable/flexible way to accomplish the interface. (Im still not clear on how to interface zigbee with smarthub but i just started this adventure). While your mileage may vary, my personal preference would be for a commercial product as opposed to something I would have to build although that may be a viable option, especially with something like like an atmega or mini-arduinosomething so the sketches would be easy. The china option afford some flexibility but would require engineering time and the typical Chinese supplier/supply chain management issues (been there-done that) but its doable. A bigger issue is economics, it looks like we would need to run a minimum of 1K units or the numbers don’t make sense. Anyway, there’s millions of x-10 and Insteon devices out there and by extension, millions of rf, ir, cameras and just about everything you can think of x-10 compatable devices out there and companies like Smarthome and others that might be interested. Obviously I need to get past the hardware engineering part first to determine viability. I’m sure the smart folks here would solve any software issues. Anyway, I’ll report progress as it develops. BTW – I have 1 Radio Shack branded x-10 plug in switch (brown case and all) that has been in continuous operation since 1979 that simply refuses to die. It’s also worth noting that the x-10 motion sensors (outdoor/weatherproof) are insanely cheap and extremely robust. I have bunches of them all over my property hooked up to a simple x-10 module that has a relay closure that’s hacked into a z-wave magnet/door contact and a few lines of code in my vera to chime and flash some lights if it detects motion. Just sayin…. It’s a 10 buck solution to a 60 dollar problem but obviously a homebrewed hack with the corresponding limitations. Still, it would cost a small fortune to replace all those cheap sensors with aeon’s so maybe protocol conversion wouldn’t be a bad idea. I’d appreciate any feedback from users of legacy x-10 and/or Insteon systems to gauge interest. Thanks.

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #2


I am following any topics related to X10 integration (actually, I started a SmartThings “Project” on the topic of X10 bridging).

Here is the Project Link (you are welcome to join and continue discussion there or whatever…).


There were some retail-level X10 to z-wave bridge products out there, but are now discountinued.

(Solardave1) #3

Yup, yours was the posting I referred to at the start of the one above. Like I said, there may be some retail level current production/available bridges from China and the ones that showed some promise are en-route from China so I can test them so all hope is not lost. I need about 2 dozen for a commercial project and I’d rather buy than build if possible. Not sure how to “join” a project.

(Solardave1) #4

If you do a search on Alibaba and keyword z-wave you’ll get back hundreds of hits, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with z-wave or ZigBee in any way. While it took a lot of time, we narrowed down A small bunch and since I had my partner in China to check on 2 in-production products of ours status, he did the research and we found 4, possibly 5 that actually had some potential - those are the ones we are getting sample units for. They all need to use an Insteon power line transceiver but otherwise they “appear” to be potentially viable. We also did get quotes for PCB design (and the associated engineering) as well as full PCB/enclosure/certification - essentially quotes for a full fledged retail product for US and US/European models. The preliminary (everything is always preliminary in China) quotes ranged from about USD 40 ~ USD 100ish / unit FOB mainland at minimum quantity of 1000 units. One company actually had an old PCB CAD file in their files that was ordered by someone about 8 years ago - might be the product you posted. Using US manufacturing and going with the Arduino solution that’s well published in various favors with an xebee shield ends up being closer to $100/unit plus the cost of a wireline modem from Insteon. Like I said, we have a funded project to supply an integrated system that would essentially be a Smarthub with x-10 device capability for about 24 units max initially. I’m trying to gauge interest so I can figure out the most cost rational path to peruse. The only shinny light here is that all the Chinese suppliers can add GSM for a few bucks more which was left out by Smarthings in the initial release and that would make my project easier than adding fallback using a third device (were looking at BRCK for that).

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #5

Great research, thanks.

re: “Join my Project” … I think you can just post Comments there (they may be moderated by me, but I think I can open it…). I’m still not sure how good the Project system is on SmartThings (i.e., might be better to use Git or whatnot). But try posting a new comment thread on the Project if you wish.

Meanwhile, from a ROI perspective, it would be wise not to build something that is specifically tied to SmartThings. Frankly, SmartThings is a long way from proving they have a viable business.

So an X10 & Insteon bridge that can come up with reasonable conversion to/from Zigbee, Z-Wave, and maybe other protocols (Bluetooth BLE, IP) will have a much broader market.

The wireline modem – it does both X10 and Insteon? Is this proprietary… or could it be replicated inside the bridge, legally?

(Solardave1) #6

The wireline modem that I’m using to test is a standard Insteon transceiver and I assume its proprietary but when we had one opened p by one of the design firms on the mainland, they assured our local rep that the functionality could be replicated (actually improved simply because of som advances in chip and component designs since the original was built) and in a smaller form factor. Totally agree that locking into ST would be a mistake at this stage as you pointed out. The original reason for this is a very narrow, very specific request from a group of customers that have existing legacy x10 (and my own house which is x-10 & every other conceivable HA system hell) and Insteon hardware (or where an x10 device would be dramatically lower in cost that an equivalent z-wave <x10 PIR/motion sensor vs Aeon, an x10 universal module is another> as an example) and an ST hub would be a good candidate because of the inherent connectivity via the cloud and the phone app. The goal is to make finite budget dollars go as far as possible. I’m a particularly big fan of the x10 universal and alarm modules - you can see how many posts out there are looking for simple relay control for z-wave; so a bridge to the Insteon/x-10 world makes sense. It’s a stock item/feature in Vera, just load up the code, enable/define the house code for x/10 and get a serial cable with an RJ connector on one end and you’re golden. The only issues are the typical power line noise issue which sort of/kind of can be mitigated with Insteon going both wireline and RF but a filter cap is your best friend. I built one, although its not pretty, with an arduino following the adafruit hack and added a ZigBee shield so if I Can do it, it can’t be that hard. Like I said, there seem to be a couple, maybe 3 off the shelf solutions from China that work on paper so I’m just waiting for samples. Plugging an x-10 device into a z-wave switch becomes a ridiculous solution cost wise. It would have been nice to see native x-10 support in the ST hub (and cellular as well) but…

(Solardave1) #7

Now that I’m over the “gee whiz/new toy syndrome” with ST and the lack of availability of the ST shield and I can see it for what it is I’m slightly less excited but still a happy camper. The support staff are great - whee Vera is non-existent so hat’s a plus but I still get grounded when I can’t get the frigging hub to stop adding 4 hours to my local time even though its got my physical location nailed -and- its just silly not to have a web interface. I make a change in the IDE and have to pull out an iPhone to trip a device - epic fail on that one IMHO.

(Solardave1) #8

Looks like the folks over at Almond+ may have a solution path that would be easier to implement. I await their take on the problem.

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #9

Right… I was quite surprised that someone had the sense to put ZigBee and Z-Wave right into a WiFi router.


But it doesn’t have built in X10/Insteon/wireline bridging, right?

My question remains: Aren’t those protocols (and OEM hardware…) proprietary and illegal to reverse-engineer? Just assuming that is the case… am I wrong?

BTW: How did you read the time from your hub? Mine is failing to fire scheduled App (Sunset), and guess that is an obvious place to check.

Meanwhile: Can’t you use the simulator directly in the IDE to “trip a device”? Seems to work for me, though I haven’t use the simulator more than a few times.

(Solardave1) #10

The folks at Almond tell me that there’s provision for USB connectivity which with some hacking should translate into being able to be able to use an off the shelf Insteon transceiver which has native x-10 support -or- in the alternative, if I could get my hands on an Arduino shield from ST, I already have the code for x-10 control. Patiently waiting…

(Solardave1) #11

I can read the time but its ST’s server time which in my time zone is +4hr. Actually, I can see my physical location in he app on a map and read the time inherent hub/device logs. ST support says heir working on a fix somehow.

(Solardave1) #12

I take back my claim about USB on the almond. It’s from an old - pre-KS email question I sent. Almond explicitly says they don’t support x-10 or Insteon. So it’s back to either Ethernet to Insteon or z-wave/ZigBee to Insteon.

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #13

I have a USB interface from X10 Smart Home (Windows & DOS)… And ST shield.

Do you think you have Arduino code that will work with tgat USB controller? (I have to dig up its model number…). Did not have really good range… but not too bad.

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #14

re: Hub/SmartCloud time: Verified that mine has correct time (in UTC) in logs,… So Apps just look up my TZ (Pacific) and offsets work fine… so far.

(Solardave1) #15

I’ll dig up the sketch (which is buried somewhere in my old mail) and the instructions for the hack or you can head over to adafruit and do a search for x-10 - that’s where I got all the ifno including the wire hack for the Insteon transceiver. Also try adrduino +x-10 google search, there was a guy who was on a mission a year, year and a half ago - did a sort of instructable on the whole thing.

(Solardave1) #16

I’m fighting with it (well, technically it’s fighting with me) but it finally occurred to me that hooking up a Vera3 as a secondary might be a way to go. I have 26+ x-10/Insteon devices working close to flawlessly on Vera. Not quite sure how it will work out but it should (I think) be fairly painless (of curse it won’t be) and make provide an interim solution pending the arrival of a shield thing (maybe). Has anyone setup secondaries? How do they show up in the ST app on IOS? And… If off.

(Solardave1) #17

There’s this if you want to go the RF route (needs correct serial interface)
And this:
http://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/x10 which explains the wireline hack
And lastly, this:
With a small hack to a standard RJ cord it’s been tested extensively with TW523/PCSO5/XM10 or PL513/PCS04 interfaces.
Which explains my obsession with getting my hands on a smartshield. I’ve been succcessfully controlling 25+ x-10 and Insteon modules through Vera3 and a TW523 since I first became a Vera dealer so about 18 months ago. I also have a bunch (how many actually equal a bunch) deployed in the field. The setup is actually more stable than I had anticipated.
A smart shield would offer the best path since you could easily offload scene/device handling to the Duino but, lacking any info on how the shield appears and functions in ST’s app, I’m guessing here. Once I get a shield (or 4 Andrew), I’ll happily post the Arduio code (several variations) that have proven to be successful. One issue the shield would solve is getting reliable device state status back to the UI.

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #18

I have a GE 45601 Remote as a Secondary.

The SmartHub detects it, but doesn’t figure out its type. I used the web API to set the type; but there is no functionality associated with it (just a tile that says “normal”).

I am not sure what messages can / are sent by this Secondary that are capturable by the SmartHub … I am guessing (and actually experimenting with this idea using a virtual device) that it may be able to produce EVENTS which SmartApps can subscribe to.

The problem: SmartThings seems to have quite a latency problem (highly inconsistent) responding to subscribed events (e.g., a motion sensor triggering a light can take 1 second or … 10 seconds, … or, I’ve heard, longer, or never (event missed entirely)).

Probably just buggy at the moment?

(Solardave1) #19

The latency issue is a strange one - sometimes it’s virtually instantaneous, other times it can run as high as 60 seconds. Happened today. I walked past an Aeon outdoors and when I sat down on the couch, the chime sounder went off. Usually it trips almost immediately after the aeon senses motion.

(Trynyti) #20

I am also interested in seeing X-10 work with ST. Please keep posting as you learn more about possible solutions. :slight_smile: