It is 2012 and home automation may not be quite what we thought it would be 20 or 30 years ago. Though we don’t all have a household iRobot, our homes are becoming more automated as the technology continues to go mainstream. Lowe’s Home Improvement has introduced a new cloud-based smart home solution called Iris. The Iris home system allows you to monitor and control system devices from your smartphone, computer or tablet.
Though Iris is not new technology, and home automation is not new to the big box stores, Iris is one of the first home automation systems offered by a big retailer. In addition to offering the hardware, Lowe’s provides a free basic self-monitoring service.
Iris Home Automation Kits
Iris helps make home automation simple and affordable for more consumers than ever before. It can be customized to fit your lifestyle needs and is available in three different starter kits.
Iris Safe & Secure Kit ($179) - Safe & Secure gives you a basic level of home security including a motion detector, contact sensors for doors, windows or cabinets, an Iris Hub and keypad.
Iris Comfort & Control Kit ($179) – Control & Comfort is perfect if you already have an alarm system and want the affordable options and convenience of home automation and energy management. It includes an Iris Hub, programmable smart thermostat and a smart plug for lighting or electronics. Both the thermostat and smart plug can be controlled remotely. Smart plug also reports current usage and historical energy use on the device plugged into it, both help you save energy.
Iris Smart Kit ($299) – The Smart Kit combines the Comfort & Control and Safe & Secure kits into a single solution. This kit includes an Iris Hub, motion detector, 2 window, door or cabinet sensors, a keypad, smart thermostat, smart plug and a range extender.
Iris is not just for homeowners, but would be good for condos and apartments too. Since the system is wireless, there’s no need to worry about running wires and wall holes can be kept to a minimum. Each kit is designed to be installed in about 30 minutes with minimal tools.
Iris can be expanded with additional sensors based on your specific needs. The more devices you add to it will require the use of a range extender, which boosts the network’s ability to communicate to all devices on the system.
Lowe’s is working with many of its vendors that have agreed to provide individual products based on the Iris platform. Some of the companies that will be offering Iris-compatible products include First Alert, Schlage and GE Jasco.
The free service Lowe’s offers sends text alerts when an alarm is triggered, remote control of thermostats, smart plugs and locks. With the addition of Iris-supported surveillance cameras, you can access remote video streaming from your computer or smartphone.
For $10 a month, you can subscribe to Premium services with no long term contract. In addition to text, email or voice message alerts, premium services include Iris Magic. This gives you the ability to “program” your home through the use of cloud-based customized rules and home “modes”.
Lowe’s gives you 2 free months of Premium services and advanced controls after you install your Iris Hub. At the end of the free period you can continue using Premium or change to the free service. Be aware that Iris services are NOT centrally monitored by Lowe’s and is designed exclusively for you to control and monitor the system on your own.
Homes can be managed remotely from any location. Control Iris from your bedroom via your smartphone at night or while away on vacation. Schedule devices to activate or deactivate in certain areas of your home at night; turn on lights and air conditioning or heating before returning home in the evening.
How does Iris work?
Each product in the Iris line has a built-in wireless transmitter that communicates to the encrypted Iris Hub, which gets connected to your home router. The Iris Hub transmits signals from each device to the Iris Cloud where you then access and control the system.
The system is secure, using 128-bit SSL security, the same level of encryption used by banks and other financial institutions.
Iris supports three proven wireless home technologies, Zigbee, Z-Wave and WiFi, utilizing the wireless technology best suited to each product. The Iris cloud remembers the devices connected in your home and sends instructions based on the signal needed. You only need to look for the “Works with Iris” logo when selecting compatible products.
The Iris control application is available for iPhone, iPod, and iPad and Android users. Customers can also sign in to manage their systems by visiting the Iris portal on Lowe’s web site. Iris home automation solutions are available now at Lowes.com and will be stocked in 500 Lowe’s stores at the end of August.