This post in the ReadWriteHome series, which explores the implications of living in connected homes, is sponsored by Iris from Lowe's. As a promotional post, it reflects the views of the sponsor, not ReadWrite's editors.

You might be anywhere on the planet—but you can still know all is well on the home front, thanks to consumer appliances that connect to the Internet.

These smart home technologies allow homeowners to monitor and control their security systems, lighting, heating, cooling, and entertainment systems—and that's just the start. Since they are connected to the Internet, the systems can be monitored and controlled anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Early attempts to automate home functions required you to purchase and install separate components—you had to be your own household IT manager. But now many retailers are offering connected systems in bundled packages with service and support available. One retailer leading the home automation bandwagon is Lowe’s and its Iris Smart Home Management System.

The Iris system, which debuted in July 2012, is a combination of hardware and software that's do-it-yourself easy, yet as efficient as some high-end luxury installations.

How Iris Works

Homeowners can easily install Iris devices such as camera monitors, outlet plugs, thermostats and other security sensors around their home in a few minutes. The devices are then synchronized to a central Iris Hub, which sends and receives information captured from these sensors and then takes appropriate actions.

The basic level of monitoring service is free. When alarms are triggered, the Iris system sends text alerts to the homeowner. Some alarms will activate connected devices, thermostats and locks; and provide access to remote video streaming from cameras in the home.

Iris from Lowe's comes in three different starter kits:

  • Iris Safe & Secure uses motion and contact sensors to monitor the home when away. You can receive an email, text or call when alarm events happen at home or when the children arrive home from school. The kit includes an Iris Hub, motion sensors, a keypad and door, window and cabinet sensors.
  • Iris Comfort & Control kit combines the convenience with energy savings. In addition to the Iris Hub, this kit includes a thermostat which makes programming simple with an intuitive user interface and remote control of home settings through the Iris app. The kit also includes a smart plug that can remotely control devices in the home and report back on the specific device’s current and historical energy usage.
  • Iris Smart Kit is a combination of the other two Iris systems. The Smart Kit includes an Iris Hub, a motion sensor, a smart plug, a keypad, a range extender, a smart thermostat and two window, door and cabinet sensors.

Lowe’s also offers a subscription service for Iris at $9.99 per month with no long-term contract. This Premium service allows additional messaging to the homeowner for home events and includes a unique feature called Iris Magic.

Magic allows customers to “program” their home through the use of the Iris modules. The homeowner can then manage their home at night or while on vacation by scheduling when devices will turn on or off as well as making devices turn on and off randomly while the homeowner may be on vacation.

The Iris mobile app is available for free download for both iOS (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) and Android users. Customers can also sign in to manage their home and view their user interface by visiting the Lowe’s Iris site on any computer.

The Biggest Thing In Home Automation

Smart home systems are also creating a major market opportunity for technology and service providers. Over the next five years, analysts believe revenue growth will be driven by the adoption of these interactive, professionally monitored security systems.

Iris from Lowe's is a significant player in the home automation game. The growth of the market in the coming years is expected to be remarkable, with revenues expected to reach $30 billion by 2018 and $52 billion by 2020, according to Research and Markets, an international research firm.

The availability of connected devices like Iris in stores like Lowe’s should help elevate public awareness and break these products out of a niche—and into your home.

This post is sponsored by Iris from Lowe’s. As a promotional post, it reflects the views of the sponsor, not ReadWrite's editors.