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Staples Connect vs. Lowe’s Iris: Home Automation Smackdown at CES 2014
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CES 2013 Shocker: Lowe’s Iris Home Automation Has Legs

Lowe's adds smart doggy doors, water heaters, screw-in ZigBee LED lights, Z-Wave Pella shades, home health monitoring to Iris home automation system at CES 2013.


Lowe's Iris Automation

One of the shockers at CES 2013 is that Lowe’s Iris automation system might actually have legs. At $9.99 per month, the system blows away what Verizon offers for the same price.

Lowe’s may well be the first retailer to succeed with home automation. That’s my verdict after visiting with the home improvement store at CES 2013 and revisiting the Iris solution that didn’t impress me a year ago.

What started as a modest solution based on the AlertMe ZigBee-enabled home control system from UK is now full-fledged platform compatible with ZigBee and Z-Wave. At $9.99 per month, the system blows away what Verizon gives you for the same price.

The Iris hub features ZigBee, Z-Wave and WiFi, and also boasts a slot for a $50 cellular module from Verizon. Using the cell service as a “back-up” for Internet-based access costs $5 per month. If you want cellular as your main access to Iris, it’ll cost $10 per month (but the cell service doesn’t support video).

Iris kits start at $179 for the basics, depending on the package. The security-focused kit gives you the hub, and a couple of sensors, a keypad and a window decal (!). A comfort kit gives you a thermostat and “smart plug” instead – pretty much the same stuff we saw last year (and the year before … and the year before from AlertMe).

Add cameras for $129 each, automated door locks for $199 and you get the same stuff everyone else is offering for the same price – whether standalone like Verizon Home Monitoring and Control, or on top of a professionally monitored security system, as with Comcast/Xfinity, ADT, Alarm.com and other mass-market providers.

RELATED UPDATE: Staples Launches Connect Home Automation; Teams with Lutron for Lighting, Shades

The fact that Iris offers three options for automation – ZigBee, Z-Wave and WiFi/IP – opens up some possibilities competitors don’t give you. Most Z-Wave devices should work off-the-shelf if there’s an Iris interface for it (lighting, thermostats and door locks, for example). IP- and ZigBee-controllable devices will require some effort on the part of Lowe’s.

The company wants to make sure consumers don’t have to worry about protocols, just that a product “works with Iris.” You’ll see that mantra throughout the stores, as you’ll see at the Lowe’s booth at CES, in the Venetian.

The Iris user interface is nice – about what the others give you.

The fact that Iris supports all the important control protocols also is nice, but what Lowe’s really brings to the table is its sway with home-improvement vendors.

Products for Iris Ecosystem

At CES 2013, Lowe’s is showing some interesting products – still under development – from some of its existing vendors. For example, there’s a WiFi-enabled water heater from Whirlpool that has energy-saving features, remote diagnostics and leak detection.

Lowe’s is also showing - by way of signage - other forthcoming products that it intends to integrate into the Iris ecosystem:

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View more CE Pro coverage of CES 2013 at www.cepro.com/ces

When you take all of these traditional home-improvement products, add some intelligence and make them work in the Iris ecosystem, it becomes quite a retail story.

You can imagine signage – like those shown in our photo gallery – sprinkled in various departments throughout the store wherever Iris-compatible products can be found.

“We’re trying to tie everything together with ‘Works with Iris,” says Kevin Meagher, Lowe’s vice president of Smart Home.

Originally, Lowe’s stated that a big motivation for launching Iris was to promote sales of some of the retailer’s staple home improvement products, alerting homeowners to change their filters, replace their tired old air conditioners, and the like.

Eventually, the Iris play will merge with “My Lowe’s,” the company’s initiative for helping customer manage all of their home improvement purchases and needs.

UPDATE 12/27/14: Lowe’s to Launch First Ever UL-Compliant Z-Wave Garage Door Controller

Currently, Iris is deployed in 500 stores, with more roll-outs coming. There is only a small section with a 22-inch touchscreen to educate customers and there are no dedicated Iris staffers manning the kiosks; however, Meagher notes that Lowe’s offers “associate training” on the product and “we are working on a dedicated department.”

Will Iris fly? It’s a good product and affordably priced. Home Depot, Lowe’s and virtually every other home improvement store has tried umpteen times to sell home security and automation but none has succeeded.

Maybe Lowe’s can pull it off.

Professional Install, Home Health Monitoring, No Pro Security

A couple more notable things about Iris. First, you can purchase an Iris Care application for $5 per month for monitoring the activity of elderly loved ones or others who require surveillance. The system lets you monitor sensor activity, and will alert you of non-activity per the parameters you set.

The one thing missing from the system is the ability to integrate with a professionally monitored security system. If you already have a security system, it’s much easier to just add automation features to the existing via Alarm.com, Honeywell Total Connect or a number of other providers.

Finally, Lowe’s takes great pains to insist the system is DIY-friendly and can be installed within an hour. I’m doubtful. People can’t even get their own networks to work, much less install a light switch.

Lowe’s is pilot-testing a professional installation service with a national install group, but it won’t say which one or how much the service will cost.



View the 19 photos attached to this entry
CES 2013 Shocker: Lowe’s Iris Home Automation Has Legs


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Article Topics

News · Product News · Slideshow · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Lighting · Security · Energy Management · Events · CES · Ces 2013 · Motorized Shades · Z-wave · Zigbee · Led Lighting · Lowes · Iris · Osram Sylvania · Pella · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

15 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Mike Orlowski  on  01/10  at  03:06 PM

Julie,
It would be great if you could publish a comparison between all of the major CI channel home automation solutions and these big box/communication service company solutions.

My guess is you won’t be able to, due to all of the perturbations and pricing options. If professionals can’t sort it out, the public surely won’t be able to. Does the company with the most marketing dollars achieve best market share in the end?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/10  at  05:04 PM

Good idea, Mike. CE Pro and our consumer publication Electronic House often explain what these types of systems can and can’t do (as we did and continue to do with tablets as replacements for dedicated touchscreens). It’s probably time for a little refresher course on macros and triggers and support, for example.

Posted by Ken Fogg  on  01/10  at  11:16 PM

Really?!?!?!  We’re going to cheapen the prospect of securing our families to a big box DIY system? The consumer is willing to spend upwards of $100/mo on cable or satellite TV yet they want to go on the cheap with a system from the big box guy who doesn’t know them from Adam so they can spend as little as possible?  Just another example of the backwards thinking of the American consumer…give me the cheapest home security possible, but make sure I have my 500 TV channels at whatever the cost. The values of the general population have definitely hit the toilet and are now being flushed!!! The sad part is, the consumer will get screwed by the big guy in the end and then get ticked off when the little guy charges them to come out and provide the customer service the big box guys fail to provide.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/11  at  01:44 AM

Sad, Ken, but true. There will continue to be more DIY systems hitting the market, so we need to do a better job of explaining why our stuff is better. The thing is .... the stuff has NEVER sold at retail and especially not at home improvement stores. We’ll see if Lowe’s can pull it off. Currently I give them the best chance in the DIY mkt.

Posted by Morgan Harman  on  01/14  at  09:44 AM

Even in distribution more complicated systems are returned at a higher rate by professionals.  A diy wireless security system is going to have a VERY high return rate.  When the customer can’t get the most distant door to connect.  Or whatever.  This is certainly the trend.  Look at Sonos.  I find another indicator to be the willingness consumers have to spend tons on flaky cell phones.  I have to pull the battery on my android daily and my experience is not uncommon.  If our customers had to do that with their universal remote - forget about it!  Why is that?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/14  at  09:54 AM

Definitely, TheTechSource. I anticipate this going into smaller homes of people who would otherwise not get a professionally monitored security system. This is NOT a security system, just a modest “convenience” system.

Posted by Seth_J  on  01/14  at  01:45 PM

I like how we are pretending that hooking up a panel and peal and stick wireless contacts requires an advanced degree in rocket science.

From my days in the PC industry—if a trained monkey can do your job you probably won’t have a job for long. When I started there it was tough to make a computer work. Then during the 90s things started being color coded. Anyone could do it. Now look at the PC industry.

We’re heading the same way too—the parallels are far to similar. Products like this (and Sonos, etc) is only the beginning.

Get ready for a wild ride.

Posted by John Lewis  on  02/02  at  02:28 PM

I’m an early adopter to Lowe’s Iris system, and it has been pretty good so far.  I’ve had a few issues, like any early adopter would, but the system has certainly met my expectations, and the quality is improving daily.  Lowe’s Iris customer care has been especially receptive of my feedback and suggestions for improvement, with some ideas already implemented.

I have a large home, and live way out in the countryside where it takes emergency services a good time to get to my door—the state police are fifteen miles away with nearly thirty minutes travel time.  My family lives within arm’s reach and have proven to be much more helpful in an emergency, especially when it comes to property security.

I’m in the 25-34 age demographic, an engineer in information technology, and nobody’s fool when it comes to consumer or commercial electronics.  Inviting solutions like Vivint into my home for $60 per month wasn’t a good idea at all.  Besides the price, the lack of versatility wasn’t worth being a slave to, and the extra hype on security didn’t beckon to me, either.  (I’m not storing the contents from Fort Knox under the couch or anything.)

So, probably wondering… Does it work, was it worth it, and was it cheap? Yes, yes, and kinda. I’ve spent $1100 already and I’m not done yet; I have a lot more to automate.  More devices are coming along soon (as you can see) and it’s an incredibly great system with even greater potential.  The best is yet to come, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.  Try it and see for yourself!

Posted by Scott  on  03/05  at  01:10 PM

I have the Iris system and love it. Gives me plenty of warning to get locked and loaded.

Posted by steven ransom  on  06/01  at  12:44 PM

Guys and gals, I have an Iris system and it works great… before i had no security system at all. So tell me what is better, no security at all, or this one? I imagine most people don not buy these for the security anyways, they are people like me who by them for the other features like controlling my thermostats, lights, and other cool features. I presonally cant wait for the irrigation stuff and the motorized blinds, that will be awesome

Posted by Andrew  on  07/23  at  11:57 AM

Had Iris for a year, don’t use the alarm much since I have monitored alarm wireless service with cell already.  It was ridiculously easy to setup!  My grandma could do it.  My box came with a bridge since our house is 3,800 sq. ft. and two stories but I didn’t need it.

The system is great even though I don’t pay the $9/month fee (yet).  Thermostat, doors, lights under control and I plan to add cameras and some of these new features (irrigation, doggie door, etc).  AWESOME THANK YOU LOWES.

Posted by Kevin  on  09/19  at  02:30 PM

I am baffled by some of the comments about a cheap DIY system and it won’t work. I like John Lewis am a tech person, and was put off by the $50+ a month monitoring fees for an alarm system. I build my own computers, networks, etc, so for me it made sense to be able to buy a “cheap” alarm system that I can put together myself and add on exactly what I want. I bought the starter kit for $300, then two cameras, a few door switches, and some motion sensors. Why a few people said the alarm portion isn’t any good I’ve no idea. If the trigger points work, and it runs on it’s own wifi channel so it won’t interfere with computer wifi throughout the house, I see no reason the alarm can’t be used as a complete alarm system along with the extra automation features. Even at $10 a month for the extra monitoring, it’s far cheaper over the course of 2 years than a typical alarm system. Plus, I can take it with me if I ever move, and replace parts cheap if anything stops working. My only concern would be a potential theif that has some sort of device that can interfere with the signal and prevent the alarm from working, but I am not even sure if that is possible, or if it is, if it’s something that many thief’s would know how to use, obtain and/or even bother with given that most home invasions are usually a quick 5 minute run through to find anything loose/ease to take and get out. We also live on the end of a long court yard and have tons of people home all the time, so I suspect that we won’t have any problems anyway.

I think all the new features coming out for it are nothing short of awesome. To be able to tie in irrigation, automated blinds, leaker detectors, water heater, etc into one system, with remote web access including cameras and such.. that’s so nice to do it all in one centralize manner instead of individual pieces.

Posted by James McNeil  on  10/25  at  04:21 AM

I have been looking for something like the Iris system for many many years.  Being somewhat of a construction geek, I have a lot of products developed by others that I have adjusted to meet my automation needs.  The iris system is so versatile and so inexpensive, it has met my needs of home automation.  I am working on merging my current security system( I purchased just before Iris) with Iris so it will turn on security lights, cameras, and my old system will call the police, fire rescue etc.

Posted by Sunish  on  01/09  at  08:49 PM

Just ordered my Iris Smart Kit after a quick study and research on an affordable home Security + Automation system. My desire was to have a Home security System which ..

1)  Doesn’t require a “Monthly Pay”;
2)  I didn’t wanted any automated call to 911 .. All I wanted is the system to alert me, so that I can call the police only of needed.
3)  I don’t want any third person to monitor my camera.
4)  I wanted a system that can be expanded as I wish, affordably.
5)  Should can be accessed remote via iPhone app.
6)  Cheap and Affordable.

And finally I ended up in buying this product. This is just a result of browsing and comparison. Will be posting the results of my hands on experience soon after I receive it.

A small plan of mine outside the scope of Iris is to add a UPS to my Router (iris hub is supposed to have a backup battery)

Posted by Jim Cocart  on  03/16  at  09:52 AM

I have had my system for several months.  No problems with installation but have encountered many software bugs that Lowe’s is slow to fix.  Tech support is strong on apologies and evasiveness but poor on resolving the bugs.

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