Last Updated: August 5, 2016
How Smart Home Retailers Can Streamline Your Connected Home
Looking to wire your home with smart technologies on the cheap? Your smart home retailers could become your best friend.
Three big-box retailers offer their own proprietary smart home ecosystems: The Home Depot's Wink, Lowe's Iris and Staples Connect. All have in-house people ready to walk you through the steps to a connected smart home. (Note: Staples had pulled the plug on its priority smart home collection, Staples Connect. The smart home products will be transitioned to Z-Wave, another wireless platform that allows smart home devices to speak to each other.)
Local, smart home retailers can offer person-to-person advice — plus a physical location to swap-out products — bonuses to buying your smart home locally.
Devices from each of these brand smart home systems can be controlled off a single app, much easier than managing a series of ad hoc devices each needing its own program. A single app not only gives you one-stop control, it lets you combine devices to work together with a single action or command.
All three of these retail smart home ecosystems feature a "hub," a plastic box or cylinder that plugs into AC, and then connects via cable or wirelessly to your home network and your devices on your smart home network. That's all on one app.
Which store brand smart home system you choose will be a personal choice, depending on how much you trust the retailer, the number of its compatible devices, and how easy the control app is to navigate for you.
Lowe's advantage is its expertise. The company uses nearly 70 years of home improvement experience and input from its 15 million shoppers a week to design more than 75 smart home devices in its Iris system, also compatible with ZigBee and Z-Wave networks. (Read our Iris review here.)
- Home Automation Safe and Secure Kit ($79) includes Security Alarm Keypad, motion sensor and two door/window sensors.
- Home Automation Comfort and Control Kit ($109) contains a smart button, a motion sensor and two door/window sensors.
Designed by the aptly-name innovative gadget maker Quirky, Wink's smart home ecosystem includes "hundreds" of products from 35 partners, such as Aros, the first smart air conditioner. (Clheck out our full review on Home Depot's Wink: Home Depot Wink: Pros and Cons.)
Home Depot sells a number of application-specific Wink bundles, each of which include a Wink hub plus home environment control devices, home security devices or lighting controls and bulbs. Or, you can start simple with a Cree 60-watt connected light bulb ($15).
The Staples Connect system, designed by a company called Zonoff, includes 127 gadgets from 28 partner companies, and claims three advantages over its smart home retail rivals.
First, no Internet connection is needed. If your online connection goes down, either the Staples Connect D-Link cylindrical hub ($59.99) or the Linksys hub ($99.99) continues to connect all your Staples smart home network devices via Wi-Fi Direct.
Second, since Staples Connect gadgets communicate directly with its hub, as opposed to those that rely on an Internet connection, the company claims there's no delay, or latency, between tapping a smartphone command and the resulting action – such as making a light-on command and the light instantly lighting.
Third, the Staples Connect system is “closed." Like Apple, the company curates all its devices, which means they guarantee they operate, as advertised, within their ecosystem. And just like its store-brand rivals, your Staples Connect network can be operated from an Apple iOS or Google Android app.
Staples sells five bundled kits for dumb device connection, two for lighting and two for home monitoring, to get you started.
If you need help installing Iris by Lowe's Smart Home System, you can visit HomeAdvisor.com to find a local trusted professional.