Last week, Julie Jacobson had a nice piece on the the FCC docs they uncovered for the new Iris hub.
As per the piece, there will be Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth LE.
As I wrote nearly a year ago when then Iris head Kevin Meagher told me about the forthcoming device, I think probably the most interesting addition about Iris 2.0 will be the addition of Bluetooth.
Julie also speculates about which cloud the new Iris hub will use, as it's fairly common knowledge that the company was looking to move away from the AlertMe cloud. She points to a number of cloud providers and takes a shot at ranking them, but I think she probably should have considered the Centralite cloud as a more likely contender given that they've been busy creating a smart home cloud over the past year to tie to their hardware a la Electric Imp.
According to the Centralite Kickstarter page for its Jilia hardware/cloud platform, the cloud is going into early release with partners in August and will be released in full in October. The company will release a Jilia API and a software developer's kit to those building on their platform. All of this makes sense and is in line with the trend we've seen from many of those providing ingredient technology for smart home gear: it's no longer enough to simply offer modules and reference designs; companies are looking for a turnkey model that also ties in the cloud, software and development tools.
Beyond what we know about the new hub, it's worth asking what else Lowe's needs to do in order to find better traction for its smart home offering. A few suggestions:
- Consider completely reinventing how they sell this stuff. What does this mean? First off, more concept stores/experience centers. It's clear that consumers need to be immersed in a smart home experience to truly understand it, and traditional retailing will not work. More of the same will only mean more tepid demand, so loading up the store with experiences and telling a better story is paramount for the reboot.
- Make Iris HomeKit compatible. I know this is unlikely for a number of reasons, including Apple likely sees Iris as competitive and the new box would need Wi-Fi (which it doesn't appear to have), but I think a HomeKit enabled Iris hub would be a nice alternative to Apple's headless/Apple TV only approach.
- Speaking of integration, I think both Amazon and Lowe's would benefit from first party integration with Echo and even native integration of Alexa into the Lowe's box.
- Once they get their technical house in order, they need to tell the story of Iris in a well orchestrated, well financed marketing campaign. Sure, they can let big tech spend the money and define the conversation, but if Lowe's ever expects to get significant traction, they'll need to get the word out.
- And to that end, they also need to invest deeply in in-store expertise. They need Iris "geniuses" on the floor, acting not only as a resource but as evangelists. In other words, like in politics, they need a good ground game in addition to running ads.
There are lots of other possible ways to move the needle such as courting service providers to standardize on Iris, embracing new and innovative categories like connected kitchen products, etc, but I think first and foremost they need to think about creating a compelling story. Smart home retailers have done a poor job so far, but it's early in the game. Only time will tell if Lowe's has a better gameplan for this next go-around.
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