This week, Lowe’s released the next generation of its smart home platform, Iris. The upgraded offering is more mobile-friendly and is designed to address the (often mundane) issues homeowners face related to comfort and security.
The hub and core devices have been redesigned and split apart. The hub was originally sold along with security or smart energy packages, but is now a standalone offering priced at $59.99. The hub, which has always had various communications protocols like Z-Wave, ZigBee and Wi-Fi, now also has Bluetooth.
Lowe’s also brought development of the technology in-house after using U.K.-based AlertMe for earlier iterations. The platform is now hosted on Microsoft Azure.
The change was made so that Lowe's could control the roadmap more tightly and move faster, said Mick Koster, vice president and general manager of Iris Home Systems.
Lowe’s is trying to bring together as many products as possible so consumers can grab whatever smart device they want from the store and not have to think about whether it will work with Iris. By bringing the platform development in-house, Lowe’s expects to be able to on-board products faster.
“It’s about letting them choose the brands they trust,” said Koster.
Iris currently supports more than 75 devices. The platform has both a free version and a subscription service for $9.99 per month that allows for more functionality, such as custom groupings of lights and the ability to record video based on commands.
The store’s safety offering monitors not only carbon monoxide and smoke, but also water leaks. “We think there’s a great opportunity for items like a shut-off valve,” said Koster. “There are a lot of things where we can help people turn what would have been a $20,000 loss into a $200 cleanup.”
Security isn’t just about tracking a broken pipe or preventing a burglary. There are cabinet sensors to keep kids from going under the sink or getting into the liquor cabinet. There’s a “No More Smelly Cat” option that uses a motion sensor to trigger a fan near the litter box to dissipate smell.
This approach is different from offerings like Apple's HomeKit and Google’s Nest, which are still mostly about individual products, such as a camera or thermostat, and less about solving specific issues, like a stinky litter box. Lowe’s is a home improvement store. It wants Iris to help people improve their homes.
“Lowe’s purpose is to help people love where they live,” said Koster.
Lowe’s faces stiffer competition today than when Iris first launched three years ago. But it's positioning itself to capture segments of the market that other tech brands might be slow to win over -- such as middle-aged, suburban customers shopping in a big-box store.
Koster welcomes the increased visibility for smart home platforms, even if it means more competition from cable companies, security providers and well-known tech vendors like Nest.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” he said.