With Iris, Lowe's Has Its Eye on the IoT Market

The retailer sees tremendous IoT opportunities for its smart-home platform—and it's not just about boosting sales.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 23, 2014

Kevin Meagher, VP of home-improvement retailer Lowe's, is also the general manager of Iris, the retailer's smart-home product and services platform. Consumers can use Iris to control devices such as thermostats, or to receive alerts from sensors that monitor doors and windows—all managed wirelessly over the Iris hub connected to the homeowner's broadband Internet service. On Tuesday, Meagher told attendees of the Gigaom Structure Connect conference, in San Francisco, that these Internet of Things products and services are selling well—but not necessarily to homeowners.

"We've seen a ton of small business owners buy what is essentially a home-security system," Meagher said, referring to the Iris Safe & Secure starter kit, which contains the Iris hub and sensors for doors and windows. It can be set up so that whenever a door or window is opened when an alarm is set, the system sends a text alert to the user's smartphone or computer. "A small business might want to make sure an employee arrives at the store to open it by 8 a.m.," he explained, as well as have basic security services for the business, without paying for a full security system service.

Lowe's Iris Safe & Secure starter kit contents
Meagher also noted his concerns regarding smart thermostats, lighting controls and other Internet-linked products that are "insular," in that they are controlled via product-specific applications. "Consumers are not going to control their door lock with one app and control their thermostat with another," he said. "The value of the IoT is not controlling one device; it's devices talking to each other."

Toward that end, Meagher told attendees, Lowe's is strongly supporting the development of open standards for IoT devices.

"We are pushing our vendors to pick an open standard," Meagher stated. "That is our power in the marketplace—we buy $50 billion worth of stuff [from vendors]."

Lowe's plays an important role in advancing IoT devices, Meagher said—whether consumers are buying them to smarten up their homes, or to affordably monitor their place of business. Although Lowe's is leveraging its own brand by selling the Iris platform, he said, the company would be just as happy to sell smart products developed by, say, a telecommunications or a cable company. Cable provider Xfinity and telecom giant AT&T each have smart-home product offerings, for example. Because Lowe's serves as a place to learn, test out and then purchase IoT products, as well as return them if they're not what consumers want, the retailer could save these companies—which are traditionally focused on services rather than products—from having to develop their own sales channel. "Retail is actually pretty hard," Meagher quipped.

Looking ahead, he said, the emergence of the IoT, particularly in the consumer market, will mean that the differences between "products and services are not going to be discernible. Everything is about data: taking it from sensors and turning it into services."

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