home automation - home theater - pc integration 

UDI Insteon ISY-99i/IR PRO

Posted 12/16/2007

The ISY-99i is an updated version of UDI's popular ISY-26.  For general information on what this device is and what this device does, please refer to my ISY-26 review.  In short, the ISY-99i is an ethernet-based device designed to allow easy programming and control of Insteon devices.  The user can program events, triggers, etc. that will run without requiring a PC running 24/7.  This writeup will focus on what NEW features the ISY-99i brings to the table.

Please keep in mind that the ISY-99i, at the time of this writing, is in beta.  The information in this article applies only to the beta unit I have, and parts may not apply to the finished product.

Here are some general first impressions;  The ISY-99i is considerably smaller and lighter than the ISY-26.  The unit has slots on its underside for easy wall mounting.  There is no longer a need for a separate AC adapter - all required power is received from a single cable connected directly to the PLM, saving you an electrical outlet.  The connection to the PLM is made with a standard Cat5 cable - much better, in my opinion, than the less common RS-232 to RJ-45 cable that is included with the ISY-26/PLM kit.  The IS-99i does still sport a second 9-pin RS-232 serial port.

Upgrading to the ISY-99i was fairly painless.  Simply take a backup of your existing ISY-26, power down your PLM, plug your ISY-99i in place of your ISY-26, power everything up, login, and restore your backup.  Once the backup was restored, the ISY-99i rebooted and converted my old database for use with the 99i.  After a few minutes, the conversion was complete and the ISY-99i was ready to go.   

Probably the most anticipated new feature of the ISY-99i is IR support, available in my beta test unit (the ISY-99i/IR PRO).  Basically, the ISY-99i/IR PRO can take a received RC5 IR code and use it to trigger actions within its programs.  Programs can simply turn on a light, turn on several lights, activate a lighting scene, etc.  Programs can also contain conditions - they can do different things based on time of day, the status of a light or lights, and much more.  The flexibility within the ISY creates almost endless possibilities, and IR support increases that even more.

The IR receiver is built-in to the front of the ISY-99i and has a very wide range - I had no problems receiving IR commands from anywhere in my room during testing.  Using the ISY configuration page, the 99i can 'learn' IR codes by simply pointing a remote at the IR receiver and pressing a button.  I used an older Philips TV remote I had kicking around for my testing.  I also tried a couple other remotes that did not work (an iLO TV remote and an Onkyo receiver remote), but I did not spend much time on them, and I believe they were not RC5 compatible.  My understanding is that just about any Philips device is RC5 compatible, so keep that in mind when trying to find a code to work with your universal remote.

The ISY-99i can trigger based on several different IR commands:

  • Pressed:  a normal press and release of a remote control button
  • Double Pressed:  two quick presses and releases of a remote control button
  • Held:  a press and hold of a remote control button
  • Released:  the release of a held remote control button

Using these commands in conjunction with multiple buttons on your remote control, you can trigger a wide variety of things on the ISY-99i.  For very basic use, I was able to create programs that will turn on, turn off, brighten and dim a light with a single button on a remote control - similar to how a KeypadLinc Dimmer works.  Of course, you could divide these functions out to different buttons on your remote if you'd prefer.  A button for on, another button for off, and maybe a channel or volume +/- for brighten and dim for example.  IR commands are received and processed by the ISY very quickly and reliably - no complaints. 

While the IR receiver is built-in to the front of the unit, you can use an inexpensive hardwired or RF IR distribution system to route IR commands from anywhere in the home to your centrally located ISY-99i.  I used a Niles IR distribution hub during my testing, which worked extremely well.

The ISY-99i also includes more memory than the ISY-26, allowing for additional Insteon devices/scenes and a greater number of programs.  Support for additional devices/scenes will also require an upgraded PLM from SmartHome, which is rumored to be released early next year.  The current PLM is limited to 417 links.

In short, I am very impressed with the ISY-99i - even in beta.  Adding IR capabilities to Insteon and the ISY opens up a whole new world of control possibilities, without the need for a clunky or slow X10 interface! 

Native IR support for Insteon is finally here.



Universal Devices
ISY-99i/IR PRO IR Tutorial
Insteon PLM