IRIS 300-200By the end of this year, analysts forecast there will be nearly five billion connected “things” in use across consumer, business and automotive segments . And as that number quadruples in the next five years, consumer applications and manufacturing will be among the top drivers. And for good reason.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and its advancements in connectivity and intelligent cloud services have become a powerful force in its ability to transform how products are designed and what they are capable of. By turning consumer products into smart, connected ones, manufacturers can provide new value-added and personalized services and experiences that go along with them.

Industry leaders in manufacturing and retail are already looking at ways to harness the opportunity of IoT to provide those rich, connected experiences. A great example is FORTUNE 50 home improvement company Lowe’s.

Lowe’s says it was the first company to target the consumer market with a broad home automation solution to help its customers better monitor, manage and maintain their homes, and the first to introduce a truly open platform – allowing devices across its stores to connect with one another.

And it just got even easier.

Earlier this month, Lowe’s introduced the next gen of its Iris smart home solution, built with Microsoft Azure’s cloud technology.

According to Microsoft’s Sam George, partner director of Azure Internet of Things, “By utilizing Microsoft Azure IoT technology, Lowe’s was able to realize more business value with less effort, all while dramatically improving scalability and time to market for Iris.”

This latest version of Iris enhances Lowe’s smart home offering with new functionality and faster performance and includes updated software and hardware that make Iris simpler, more intuitive and more personalized. Redesigned from the ground up, Iris now also works with more than 75 devices and more seamlessly blends the digital and physical worlds, giving users an intuitive interactive way to communicate with their home and make their lives easier.

It’s an exciting example of how IoT and the cloud can create new, personalized experiences and long-term relationships with customers in ways never before possible.

To learn more about Iris’s new features, you can visit IrisbyLowes.com. And check out the Microsoft Azure IoT page for more on the technologies behind this customer engagement transformation opportunity.

LinkedIn: Rebecca Needham

Twitter: @ReNeedham