Is X-10 an Obsolete Technology?

The big decision facing anyone looking to venture into home automation for the first time is, “which technology is the best?” The choices can seem overwhelming with X10, A10, UPB, INSTEON, Z-Wave, and ZigBee to name the most popular technologies. A novice user may be inclined to lean toward X-10 because it has been around the longest. Although X-10 was useful in its day, it has been slowly replaced by more reliable protocols.

Wired Technology at the Beginning

X-10 led the way with powerline communication and could easily be considered the father of modern home automation. Plagued with problems of poor performance, distance limitations, power phase limitations, and sporadic reliability, several manufacturers picked up the gauntlet and worked to improve powerline communication reliability. Some manufacturers, like Advanced Control Technologies’ A10, sought to improve the X-10 signal while others developed their own proprietary powerline protocols, like Powerline Control Systems’ UPB protocol.

Wireless Technology Emerges

The easiest way to overcome the inherent problems associated with powerline systems was to go wireless. Protocols like INSTEON, Z-Wave, and ZigBee challenged X-10 systems with higher reliability. As the popularity of wireless technologies increased, third-party manufacturers rushed to join the expanding market.

X-10 powerline systems faded further into the background.

Hybrid Systems Also Developed

Although few pure X-10 systems are in use any more, hybrid systems consisting of X-10 devices used with wireless INSTEON, Z-Wave, or ZigBee products are still popular. The reason is simply that many X-10 devices still exist and few home automation enthusiasts are ready to toss them out yet.

Anyone following the release of new home automation products will be quick to notice that the bulk of new product development is in the area of wireless devices. It will probably not be many more years before X-10 devices join 8-track players as the newer wireless technologies replace these aging devices through attrition and system upgrading.

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