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Lowe's Iris welcomes affordable, contract-free monitoring to its DIY smart home at CES 2016

Starting later this year, you'll be able to add professional monitoring to your Iris smart home system.

The Iris Security Pack.

This story is part of CES 2016. Our editors bring you complete CES 2016 coverage and scour the showroom floor for the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Lowe's Iris just turned the tables on the competition for DIY smart home security. I've long found the $10 monthly fee for simple functionality like rules and grouping devices too expensive, when others like SmartThings offered all of that for free. But most DIY security systems don't offer professional monitoring. Starting this spring, Lowe's Iris will. Better yet, it's only $20 per month, which includes not only the premium app service, but also cellular backup for the system normally priced at $5 per month.

This is a good deal. $10 per month for getting your smart home to work together with rules is a lot, but $20 per month with cellular backup and professional monitoring added in isn't. By comparison, AT&T's Digital Life costs anywhere from $40 to $65 per month, and ADT has comparable prices to AT&T. SimpliSafe compares more directly to Lowe's Iris, and is one of the only other DIY options with monitoring available. You'll pay $25 per month for the all-inclusive option with SimpliSafe, though you can keep monitoring and forego any app controls for $15.

The UL-listed United Central Control (UCC) will do the monitoring for Iris, and customers will be able to use the service without a contract. You'll need Lowe's Iris hardware so UCC has something to monitor, but that's always been reasonably priced.

To get started with monitoring, you'll need the $60 Iris hub, which recently launched its supposedly smoother second iteration. And you'll need at least two compatible devices to limit potential false alarms from just one triggering. Adding more than two to your system doesn't increase the cost.

Here's the hardware you can set up with your Iris system for monitoring via UCC:

  • Iris contact sensors
  • Iris motion sensors
  • Iris keypads
  • Utilitech glass break sensors
  • Iris garage door controllers
  • First Alert smoke detector
  • First Alert smoke and CO detectors

Lowe's is still clearing licensing hurdles in some US states, and hasn't specified which markets need to be finalized or when it expects to have clearance everywhere, just that it will launch monitoring in some states starting sometime this spring. If this launch turns out to be drastically limited, that'll dampen my enthusiasm a bit, but it's too soon to tell at this early stage of the announcement. I'll update the piece if and when I hear more.

I've been impressed with Iris since it launched its second-generation system with a slicker interface and gave existing customers the new hub for free. Generation one was fine, if slow and unexciting. But with affordable, contract-free monitoring that includes a cellular backup, generation two might become the DIY security option to beat -- if, as promised, version two of Iris works faster and more in-depth.

Check out the rest of CNET's CES 2016 coverage here.