As we discussed at length on the latest episode of Home: On, Lowe’s is shutting down its Iris smart home service and hubs on Sunday, March 31, 2019. While this doesn’t come as a great surprise, it is disruptive to Iris customers. The good news is that Lowe’s has done a lot to do right by its customers, offering generous redemptions for Iris-compatible smart home products otherwise unsupported by other systems. If you have an active Iris account, be sure to claim your redemption before the shutdown on the 31st (technically you have until the end of the day on the 31st).
Lowe’s Iris was one of the few remaining consumer-grade Z-Wave/Zigbee smarthome systems available to homeowners through traditional retail outlets. And while big box home stores seem like the perfect outlet for smart home products, retailers have been struggling to tap that market for years. Lowe’s approach, as an example, has been evolving, but disjointed.
Besides dedicated—though often bare and neglected—Iris display areas in most Lowe’s stores, many stores featured additional smart home product displays. Lowe’s also undertook an impressive store-in-a-store program that featured interactive smart home product displays built on b8ta’s retail-as-a-service model. The co-founder and President of b8ta, Phil Raub, says they supported over 70 such Lowe’s locations at one point, but the companies jointly shut down the program earlier this year.
Where Can You Turn Now?
So where’s this leave you if you’ve been a Lowe’s Iris customer? You probably need a new hub. Or maybe this is an opportunity to consider some newer technology. Whatever road you’re taking, you have some options.
If you want to stay in the Z-Wave/Zigbee world, your retail options are basically SmartThings and Wink. We’re not recommending Wink these days, though, until we see a more clear roadmap for them. Samsung, meanwhile, seems to be all in on SmartThings, even if they haven’t quite solved some of the underlying user experience issues yet.
If you want to “dig in” a little more, companies like Hubitat Elevation want your business! That company, in particularly, has aggressively positioned itself to support orphaned Iris users, including support for the heretofore proprietary Gen1 Iris smart home devices. Hubitat also integrates with other third-party products like Hue and Lutron Caséta, controlling many of these through local communication, rather than depending on the cloud.
Want to get your hands even more dirty? Lowe’s has open sourced the Iris codebase, and there’s already talk of a project to create a Raspberry Pi-based alternative to Iris. Or you could consider one of the powerful platforms, like HomeSeer or the ISY, that appeal to hobbyists.
You may not even need a hub anymore. You will need one, of course, if you want to re-use your Z-Wave devices. But nowadays many alarm systems (including Alarm.com and Ring’s new system) even support Z-Wave devices. Otherwise, many of the voice platforms have evolved to support robust scheduling, including routines for more complex automations. Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Cortana all offer these capabilities. Google and Amazon even support some Zigbee and Bluetooth devices now.
What About This Messy Retail Landscape?
It’s worth noting that Lowe’s isn’t getting out of the smart home business altogether. They “remain committed to carrying the breadth and depth of smart home products and brands to meet [their] customers’ needs now and in the future.” I’d liberally interpret that as “we want to remain in this space, but we’re still figuring it out.” Which is fair. The market is evolving, standards are proliferating, and consumers are having a hard time seeing the value in much of this technology.
And, of course, there’s still Best Buy with its shelves of plastic mock-ups and boxes obscured by security wrappers. Or Home Depot, where you can select from a wide range of product displays cards. You just take one to the customer service desk, stand in line, then wait for someone to find the product in their locked product bins. Such is the state of smart home retail today.
Meanwhile, b8ta continues to expand its footprint, with stores in 16 cities now. But b8ta’s retail-as-a-service model is different. They offer a highly experiential alternative to traditional retail where you can play with and learn about the products in the store. According to b8ta’s Raub, “product education and brand awareness is critical to the success of new and emerging brands/products.” And b8ta’s knowledgeable team members provide that. You can learn more about b8ta from our episode of Home: On featuring an in-store interview with Phil Raub and others.
Don’t want to deal with brick and mortar retail? OK…fine. You can also go to Amazon. Just be sure to use our affiliate link, OK? 😉