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Lowe's wants to be your smart home gateway

Matt Hamblen | Sept. 12, 2014
For home improvement retailer Lowe's, the ongoing explosion in the Internet of Things has created a few challenges.

Lowe's Iris will support any smart home device that connects over Wi-Fi, Zigby or Z-Wave.

Because Lowe's is in the retail business, Meagher argued it is closer to buyers wanting smart home products than the wireless carriers and cable companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. "They find it is really hard to do retail...," he said. "It has taken us 70 years to get where we are."

Meagher said "there's a real battle going on" as to who will be the biggest smart home provider. Major retailers like Sears, Home Depot and Best Buy also sell smart home solutions. But those retailers are lined up against network technology providers entering the smart home marketplace.

"We sell things and that's all we sell and everything in the future is going to be connected," he said. "The question is whether technology companies can do retail faster than the retailers can do technology."

Despite his insistence on an open API, Meagher said Lowe's is willing to work with any vendor, and has already heard of some futuristic smart home applications from actual manufacturers.

For example, lawnmower makers are talking to Lowe's about using Iris to inform a homeowner when the oil in the mower in the garage needs to be changed. An inexpensive sensor in the lawnmower could monitor each time a sparkplug fires and for how long, to detect how many hours the mower has been in use.

Lowe's already sells 50 connected devices for its Iris system, but supports hundreds of others that run over Zigby, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi. "We have water leak detectors, Nest thermostats, GE light switches, Hunter ceiling fans. We're the big boys and we're creating a doorway for it all to happen. Next year we'll have air filters connected for your HVAC system."


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