After three years, Lowe’s is giving its Iris home automation hub a facelift, reducing the price, and expanding its capabilities.
On Monday, it introduced a new hub to let people automate the lights, locks, cameras, and even pet doors in their homes.
The chain store also wants to rebrand “from a home improvement retailer to a home improvement company,” says Mick Koster, who leads Lowe’s Iris home systems. That means the company plans to focus more on installing connected home products, as well as focus on providing recommendations to consumers related to home services like electricians and plumbers.
The latest version of the Iris hub costs $59.99, down from $99.99. The price is $10 more than the corresponding Wink hub sold at rival Home Depot stores.
Lowe’s is also reducing the number of premium plans it offers for the Iris hub from three to two. One is a paid plan costing $9.99 monthly that allows users to notify up to six people when an event occurs, create conditional rules for the devices (if my garage door opens, turn on the porch light), and store video for up to two weeks.
The other is a free plan that lets users get notifications sent to their own phone, let users remotely control their gadgets, and stores video for 24 hours.
Lowe’s was early in the home automation when it introduced the Iris platform in 2012. Since then, the company has pulled together a compelling array of connected devices that work with the hub.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Iris platform because the free features and the number of compatible devices felt too limited. Other options from SmartThings and other Do-It-Yourself hubs out there offered more.
With the upgrade, Lowe’s has addressed some of those concerns. It works with 75 devices that are branded with the Lowe’s Iris name, up from a couple dozen. It also operates with Bluetooth, which means that it will likely add coming Bluetooth light bulbs and some of the new connected locks over time.
The hub also supports the AllJoyn standard ,which means it should work with a surprising array of other devices outside of the hub. For example LG TVs support AllJoyn so an Iris hub might be able to one day send a message that an Iris water sensor noticed a leak to an LG TV in the house, letting someone get a message that their home was in danger of flooding even while immersed in watching the big game.
And from a functionality and use perspective, the Iris platform does have good customer support and fairly intuitive software.
What’s more interesting, is where Lowe’s intends to take the Iris platform and its retail strategy as consumers become more willing to purchase connected products. “Obviously we are a DIY focused retailer, and we continue making Iris more intuitive and simpler to manage on your own,” said Koster.”But we want to integrate more smart tech into other categories where it is relevant.”
That might start with the addition of more obscure devices outside the Iris platform such as Wi-Fi enabled water heaters.
Lowe’s plan is to sell services in addition to the Iris hub like home security monitoring, which costs $9.99 monthly. The idea is transform Lowe’s beyond its roots as a home improvement retailer into a company homeowners can go to directly for fixing problems with their homes.
Koster cites Lowe’s involvement with Porch.com last year, as an example of this mindset. Porch.com offers recommendations to homeowners seeking services like plumbers or electricians.
As more complicated devices such as water flow measurement sensors are offered, they require professional installation which Lowe’s could offer through Porch.com. Koster views connected devices, not as whiz-bang gadgets, but as devices that improves the home itself.
“As connectivity becomes omnipresent, that becomes just another check in the box of features, so we have look at how it adds to the value of our brand and the device,” Koster says.
He declined to say how much money Lowe’s currently makes from Iris or from selling connected home devices. But he clearly thinks it will rise considering his interest in the market.
Overall, he said that he expects prices for connected products to decline, so consumers won’t have to spend $250 for a connected thermostat forever. That’s good news for mainstream consumers who are interested in the technology.
Of course, it’s also potentially good news for Lowe’s, which wants to help install and manage connected devices for customers.
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