With cable and phone companies diving headlong into wireless home security and home automation, often with mixed results, other less predictable players are also poised to enter this highly competitive and growing sector of the economy. Today we add one more well-known name to the list: Lowe’s Home Improvement. Of particular interest to the alarm industry is the fact that the Lowe’s offering is not a fully functioning alarm system – there is no central station monitoring available. Even so, the alarm industry is watching all of these new entrants closely, as this recent article from an industry publication demonstrates.
Lowe’s, the world’s second-largest home improvement retailer, announced July 19 that it has launched Iris, its new home automation/home security service. The do-it-yourself, cloud-based service currently is available on Lowes.com and will be offered in the company’s 500 stores nationwide late in August, Sarah-Frances Wallace, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s, told Security Systems News. “It’s a DIY system. It’s something that can literally be pulled off the shelf at our store and installed directly by the homeowner, and also it is self-monitored,” Wallace told SSN.
We love the DIY home alarm concept – in fact, it was FrontPoint that paved the way with the first true “plug & play,” 100% wireless and monitored alarm system that was easily set up in a half hour. Others had tried, but it took FrontPoint to demonstrate how it should be done. But as for a “cloud-based” and “self-monitored” home alarm system? That just may be a contradiction in terms!
Details on the Offer
After homeowners buy one of three Iris “starter kits,” which range in price from $179 to $299, “the basic level of [self-] monitoring service is free,” the company, based here, said in a news release. “This includes text [or phone or email] alerts to the homeowner when alarms are triggered; remote control of connected devices, thermostats and locks; and access to remote video streaming from cameras in the home via smartphone or computer.” Wallace said homeowners “can respond appropriately” when they get an alert for a triggered alarm in the home.
“Respond appropriately?” Let’s think about that for a second. How do you feel about calling the police when you are away from home to tell them that your alarm system has recorded an alarm event? Do you have the right number to dial? Will they even take your call? Or the fire department? Oops – no worries there, since the Lowe’s web site offer does not include fire or carbon monoxide detection devices, two of the most important reasons to have a home alarm system in the first place. Now that’s what I call a big miss…
Why No “Real” Monitoring?
Wallace said, “This kind of gives the homeowner more control over triggered alarm events in the home.” The company also is offering a Premium self-monitoring service for $9.99 per month. Wallace said that with the service, “you can set it up so if there’s a triggered event in your home, it would email [or text or call] your neighbor … [or a] a small network of people you’d want to receive notification of events.” Such a service is ideal “if you’re on vacation and you receive a notification that there is an event in your home,” she said. “You could contact your neighbor—because they’ve also received [the notification]—and they could look into it for you.”
This just gets better and better. Now I’ll ask my neighbor to investigate an alarm event at my house, where some hopped-up meth-head just kicked in my back door, and happens to be armed. Sorry, I don’t think so… but perhaps I’ve just been around the alarm industry too long!
Others Weigh In
Of course, when a company the size of Lowe’s introduces a significant new offering, plenty of folks pay attention. Here’s some analysis from another recent article.
The launch of Iris does put Lowe’s ahead of its big-box store competitors on the low-cost home automation front. But the biggest competition may be against homeowners’ lack of interest. Though Google and Microsoft bowed out of home energy management in 2011, Greentech Media predicted that those exits would ultimately be less important to the market than the entrance of big-box stores. Whether the new Iris platform from Lowe’s proves to be the first step in a mass movement by the retail chains into home automation, or a misstep in judging what its home improvement customers want, remains to be seen.
From a security standpoint, the main weakness in this kit is that all monitoring is done via the internet. If you rely on cable/DSL and your cable/telephone line is down/cut or your power is out, you won’t get any alerts. Also, alerts are only sent to you via phone call, text, or e-mail through their automated computer system. The police are never directly notified, and there is no “central station” monitoring with real humans.
Overall, I like the concept of this system and it can provide a certain amount of security for a reasonable price and no ongoing monthly fees. However, I wouldn’t consider it a full-fledged security system. Most burglars may not be smart enough to cut your phone lines or shut off the power before they break into your house, but I don’t feel comfortable relying on that.
Actually, burglars are increasingly cutting phones all over the US, which is why FrontPoint relies only on 100% cellular monitoring – and all of our service plans do include 24/7 professional monitoring with police and fire dispatch. We welcome these new entrants like Lowe’s to our industry, since they are spending heavily to reinforce the benefits of the interactive services we have already been selling and supporting for years – as a “real” alarm company that is focused on protecting homes and families. We fully expect that the more people research their options, the more they’ll choose FrontPoint. As the leader in wireless home security, we specialize in the best protection: that’s why we’re the #1 ranked alarm company in the US for systems that are safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. Just check our reviews: then you’ll know where to buy a piece of lumber, and where to find peace of mind.