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Lowe's Iris: Moving Towards the Dream Home of the 1950's

Customize your home automation system with alarms, thermostats, even doggy doors!

Remember those old cartoons from back in the 90's that were set in a quaint, Leave it to Beaver style home replete with quirky, futuristic gadgets? Well, Lowe's clearly remembers them; with the new Iris system (available both in stores and on their website), you can outfit your home with the next generation of technology inspired by the infamous Clapper.

This do-it-yourself home automation system offers a wide array of individual devices, allowing every consumer to create the system that works best for them. Two kits, both of which come with the central hub, are available for $179 each: the "Safe & Secure" package offers up a home security system composed of an alarm keypad, two motion sensors, and a motion detector; the "Comfort & Control" kit sports a thermostat and "smart plug" which allows you to cut or activate the power on a device.

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The $279 "Smart Kit" combines items from both for the biggest bargain, while each individual product (including some that aren't found in either kit) can be purchased on their own. Some extra items include cameras that record onto a Cloud server, panic buttons, and a sensor that attaches to your dog's collar which locks and unlocks a pet door.

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The whole system, regardless of how many or how few devices you decide to purchase, is controlled via the Iris Smart Hub, essentially a wireless router designed specifically to work in conjunction with this system. Have shaky wireless service at your home? No worries: the hub is compatible with Verizon's portable USB modem. Basic functionality is free, and all the devices are controlled from a downloadable app that will let you do things like adjust the temperature, make sure your lights are off, and turn on an alarm.

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There's an optional Premium service which costs $9.99 per month and, according to the Lowe's representative we spoke to, has no binding contract: it's a month-to-month service which can be activated or discontinued at any time. For that extra fee, you get the convenience factor of multi-device control (instead of manually turning off each individual light, for instance, you can turn them all off at once) and can add up to six contacts to your service. This is useful for devices that send out alerts, such as the panic button or burglar alarm; if your elderly parent falls and pushes a button for help but you're not near your phone, you can add neighbors or siblings to ensure extra connectivity. The third Premium feature is something called "Magic Rules", which allows you to program your devices to react to different scenarios. Is it cold enough for your pipes to freeze? Set the thermostat to automatically turn on once the internal temperature hits a particular low. Is the alarm on your front door triggered? Have all the lights turn on so whoever is there thinks someone is home, and then have them turn off five minutes later so you don't wast electricity.

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When you consider that the Basic service is free, the pricing for Lowe's Iris system is actually quite accessible. Its easy usage makes for a gentle learning curve with tons of customization for those who really want to get creative with how they set up the overall system. Unlike many of the other gadgets we've seen so far, it's a piece of technology that is actually practical and not—in our opinion—an overpriced gimmick. Partnerships with other manufacturers means this is a service that we only expect to see grow and improve, which makes it that much more exciting.

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