I remember writing about smart homes for Wired nearly 20 years ago and the technology just never seemed ready for primetime. I know that X10 has its evangelists, but from a mainstream perspective it almost felt like smart home tech was moving toward the retro-futurism zone of robot maids and, yes, jetpacks. But perhaps the prevalence of Wifi and the reality/buzz of "connected devices" is shifting that tide. At Institute for the Future where I'm a researcher, one of our clients is the DIY retailer Lowe's. Last night, they gave me a demo of their new Iris smart home system.
Iris is a plug-and-play product based around a hub that's outfitted with WiFi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave radios. The idea is that by having those three specs, the system can theoretically talk to almost any wireless connected device, from a thermostat and outlet that monitors energy usage to an alarm system and videocameras.
The entire system is controlled by a customizable mobile app that appears to be dead simple to use. (A helluva lot easier than my current alarm system that required me to tape a cheat sheet explaining how to set zones, etc. above the keypad.)
Now, there are two really intriguing things about this besides its apparently simplicity: The first is that the starter kits are relatively inexpensive. For $180 you can get the hub and either a basic alarm system package or an energy system. ($299 and you get both packages.)
But the real kicker is that the folks I met with told me that Lowe's' near-term vision is to really open up the platform for anyone to hack on. Remember our friend Mikey Sklar who implanted an RFID chip into his hand and no longer needs to carry house keys? Get that man an Iris.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.