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Lowe's to add emergency dispatch service for Iris DIY smart-home systems

Smart-home gadgets look cool, but the services connected to them may be more valuable to many owners in the long run. Home-improvement chain Lowe's plans to make more of those services available to do-it-yourselfers.

By the middle of this year, owners of Lowe's Iris home gadgets will be able to buy professional monitoring, including dispatching of first responders in case of emergency. It will cost US$19.99 per month and will become available in select markets as licensing allows.

Security and life safety are two of the big reasons consumers are buying into the Internet of Things. Broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast install smart-home systems built around things like connected burglar alarms. For example, AT&T's website advertises professionally monitored home security and automation systems starting at $39.99 per month with a two-year contract.

Lowe's will offer a professional service for consumers who take a do-it-yourself approach to building a connected home or apartment and don't want a long-term contract.

The Lowe's Iris home automation platform, one of the early systems for linking such gear, lets different connected-home devices sold in the company's stores work as a system. It's built around the Iris Smart Hub and can include things like electronic door locks, motion sensors, glass-break sensors and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The company will demonstrate its latest Iris lineup at the International CES show this week in Las Vegas.

Lowe's already offers services for owners to manage their homes on their own. Its free Iris Basic Service can notify the resident if the system detects something that could be a problem, and the $9.99-per-month Iris Premium Service can contact friends or relatives. The professional monitoring service will connect the user's home network to a monitoring station operated by United Central Control, which can dispatch first responders to an emergency like a fire or break-in.

Customers who sign up for the professional monitoring service will also get all the features of the Premium Service, plus a cellular service to keep the home connected if the broadband or home Wi-Fi fail. For cellular backup, users have to buy a cell modem. To reduce false alarms, users will need to have at least two monitored security devices.

The service is available for both homeowners and renters, and customers can take it with them if they move. They can also move from one service plan to another month by month as their needs change, Lowe's said.

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