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Smart Home

Lowe's Iris brings professional monitoring to your DIY smart home

In a long awaited change, the smart-home system now offers contract-free monitoring.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Don't call it a comeback, but Lowe's Iris is repositioning itself in the smart home with a $15 per month, contract-free monitoring service.

I wasn't a big fan of Iris by Lowe's Second Generation Smart Home system. The $10 monthly fee for basic app-enabled smarts was a strong sticking point in my review, but Iris is now reshaping their whole payment structure for the better to coordinate with the launch of their professional monitoring service.

The Lowe's Iris hub plugs into your router and talks to a variety of smart home devices such as door/window monitors, motions sensors, cameras and smoke alarms -- allowing you to control and monitor them all from an app. Iris also integrates with Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant -- enabling voice controls through the respective smart speakers of those companies.

The monitoring Iris

The new monitoring service comes courtesy of United Central Control -- an established alarm monitoring company based in Texas. Lowe's initially announced this upgrade back at CES 2016. Starting today, it's finally live, and Lowe's Iris is offering a deal on its hardware to entice customers to jump on board -- buy the $100 security pack today and get the $70 hub for free.

The new app lets you track the progress of your alarm.

Lowe's

The $15 per month plan also includes cellular backup to your Wi-Fi system -- though you have to buy your own cellular modem to take advantage of this. The monitoring service covers your security devices, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and panic alarms.

Lowe's Iris monitoring is contract free and competitively priced. Professional services like AT&T's Digital Life and ADT tend to cost between $40 and $65 a month. Simplisafe's DIY smart home compares directly to what Lowe's Iris offers, and the matching plan costs $25 a month.

Shifting what's free

Along with the launch of monitoring, Lowe's Iris is moving some app functionality -- such as creating rules and scenes involving multiple devices -- from its $10 premium service to its free basic service. File that one under "better late than never."

Iris still has a $10 a month premium service without monitoring. The premium plan adds a few extra bells and whistles to the app such as customized rules for monitoring your elderly parents -- called Care service -- and charting the history of your various sensors. The $10 plan also lets you store up to 3GB of footage from your security cams in the cloud. The free service is limited to live streaming.

Searching for relevance

The $10 plan still doesn't sound like a good deal to me, but the $15 monitoring definitely does. With hub-based smart homes fading from relevance as a whole, Lowe's Iris has a long road to climb to be a recommendable smart-home platform. That said, the move to combine the professional and DIY smart home is a good one, and a step in the right direction.