You know that the connected home is going mainstream when Lowe's offers its own modular, affordable system, with basic packages starting at just $179. The Iris Home Management System offers a wide range of functions for different kinds of families and homes, and they all seem to "plug and play" easily.
Iris probably should be worried about the Nest's plans to become the hub of connected homes by making a toolkit available to anyone who wants to develop a new connected device, but for now, the following review excerpted from CNet (see the complete review here) is a thorough and useful reflection of the consensus.
"The Iris Home Management System is compatible with a larger variety of sensors than most of the competition, making it an intriguing option for smart home multitaskers.
"For certain uses, like home security, Iris lags behind its competitors. Also, the website you'll use to control your system isn't as well-designed or easy to use as it should be. The smartphone app isn't much better.
"The Bottom Line
"Iris charges $10 per month for full system functionality, making it difficult to recommend over fee-free competitors like SmartThings, iSmartAlarm, or Insteon.
"Most of today's home automation options come in the form of old-guard systems like Insteon or crowdfunded Internet startups like SmartThings. The Iris Home Management System, a descendant of the UK-based AlertMe, is a little bit different, as it has the full backing of US retail giant Lowe's. You can order Iris online, or pick it up from one of the hundreds of Lowe's across the country that showcase the system, along with the multitude of compatible Z-Wave switches and sensors you can add to it.
"As a system capable of working with such a wide range of devices, and with multiple kits available starting at just $179, Iris shows a lot of promise. It's a flexible system, too -- use it for home security, use it to track and lower your energy costs, or just use it for simple conveniences like motion activated lighting and smart lock controls. Whatever your automation needs, Iris should be able to get the job done.
"However, that multifunctionality doesn't come without a price. In the case of Iris, that price is $9.99 a month, which is what you'll need to pay to unlock the full potential of your setup. You can go fee-free, but you'll be giving up the ability to set rules, schedules, and preset modes for your devices, along with countless other key features that would justify using Iris in the first place.
"While not totally unreasonable (Iris starts you out with two months of full service for free), the fees are still a little hard to swallow given that worthy competitors like Insteon and SmartThings don't charge a thing. If you need a system that's capable of meeting several different home automation needs all at once, Iris probably deserves your consideration. For more focused automation needs, you can find a system that fits better into your home -- and into your budget.
"With most home automation systems, the variety of starter kits available won't be terribly different from one another -- at least not in terms of functionality. You'll likely get extra sensors with certain options, or maybe the addition of a cool peripheral accessory, like a camera, but the way you'll use your system and the things that you'll use it for will remain largely the same.
"This isn't the case with Iris. The $179 Safe and Secure Kit offers a motion detector, entry sensors, and an alarm control keypad, while the equally priced Care and Comfort Kit offers a smart plug module and a connected thermostat. As the names suggest, the former is intended for security-minded consumers, while the latter is intended more for budding hobbyists and for those looking for a higher level of convenience at home. The only common denominator between the two is that they both come with the Iris Hub used to control every Iris system. Your third option is to go with the $299 Smart Kit, which combines the other two options and adds in a range extender.
"No matter which kit you go with, you'll have the option of adding additional sensors and devices to your system on a piece-by-piece basis, most of which are reasonably priced. These device options range from wireless IP cameras to leak detectors, smoke alarms, and everything in between. Your options also include many third-party smart-home products, things like Schlage deadbolts and Honeywell thermostats....
"It's hard not to be impressed with the scope of Iris' coverage. No matter what specific subsection of home automation interests you, Iris will have you covered, and this is especially nice if you're a smart-home multitasker with a variety of uses in mind for your system. I also appreciated some of Iris' unique features, things like "Care," which is a mode within Iris designed specifically for caregivers and family members of the elderly.
"The problem is that Iris just doesn't seem focused enough. It's a wide system, but not a particularly deep one. It does a lot of things, but it isn't the best at any of those things. Users who want a little bit of everything from their system will undoubtedly appreciate the wide approach that Iris employs, but I think that most consumers have at least one specific, primary function in mind for their home automation system, and that's where you want depth. That's where you want the best system for the job. As well-rounded a system as it is, there just aren't a lot of situations where Iris can say it's the best system for the job -- not in terms of performance, and not in terms of value, either."
Learn more at Lowes.com.