Smart locks is the latest home automation technology craze that is growing in competition thanks to Bluetooth low energy (AKA Bluetooth Smart) found in many of the latest mobile phones and devices. First there was the popular Lockitron, which slips on the back of your existing dead bolt making setup a breeze, see my previous article, and now there are three new smart locks coming later this year that are expected to bring unique styles and new features. Those brands are named Goji, August and Kevo.
Each smart lock pairs with your latest iPhones and Android devices over Bluetooth 4.0. The purpose of the smart lock is to then communicate with your phone to grant you access without using a traditional key to open your door as you approach it. As you pass-through the door and close it behind you, the smart lock will auto-lock for you. Meanwhile, you will still be able to use your traditional keys to unlock your door.
It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making the decision to buy this new type of automation, because the cons could be a bit tricky for you to adapt as I explain below.
Pros to a smart lock:
- Detects when your door is unlocked and sends an alert to your mobile device even if a physical key is used. Why is this useful? Lets say you will finally know when your children arrive home from school.
- Share digital keys with friends and family from anywhere. Why is this useful? You no longer have to be home to lock up behind them or race home to let someone in.
- Lock or unlock your door remotely should you forget to do so. Why is this useful? If you’re on a business trip or on vacation and you’re worried if you forgot to lock your door.
- No longer fumble for keys in the dark just to enter your house since it will detect your proximity and unlock automatically for you. Why is this useful? Keys are meant to keep everyone else out, but now you can just walk right in.
Cons to a smart lock:
- The auto-lock and unlock mechanism could interfere with your ability to make multiple trips into your house quickly. An example comes to mind would be bringing in groceries from the car.
- Should you pass by your door, you may not want your door to unlock unintentionally.
- You may not want your door to unlock unintentionally should you simply want to check who is at your door.
Although the auto-unlock feature is optional and can be disabled at any time, rather than take such a drastic action to disable a useful feature, you could simply change your behavior a little bit in support of all this new control.
Con work around examples:
- When entering your home with groceries, your phone will be in your pocket to auto unlock your door. Simply leave your phone on your kitchen counter, then physically unlock your door to proceed outside.
- Should you casually walk passed your door while your phone is in your pocket and your door unlocks, the range at which the auto-unlock feature operates is configurable by the user. I’ve also read there are proprietary techniques with these devices to mitigate false unlocks from the interior side of the door.
- Should your door bell ring and you want to see who is at your door without alerting them, simply leave your cell phone on the counter that way the door does not unlock unintentionally.
Meanwhile, the auto-lock feature is not a standard with all brands. For example the Kevo by Kwikset, my personal favorite, only unlocks when you physically touch the lock with your finger from the exterior while your phone is in range. Also, the other three locks that support proximity are able to detect the side of door you are on therefore you should be able to deactivate the auto-unlock/lock functionality from the interior side while still maintaing the auto-lock/unlock functionality on the exterior side. More on this as the products become available…
To help break down all the smart lock features brand by brand, I tried to create a custom matrix below (scroll left and right to see more information) so you can quickly compare each feature. To learn more about each feature, please see the definitions below the matrix. Note: This list only compares models that support Bluetooth 4.0.
|Price?||Availability?||Replaces Existing Dead Bolt?||Smart Phone App Activity Alerts/Logs?||Works if Wifi Disabled?||Built in Camera?||Knock Sensor?||Smart Phone Remote Unlocking?||Proximity Detection to Auto Lock/Auto Unlock?||LED Lock Statuses?||Minimalistic Design?||Multiple Colors?||Key Fob compatibility?||Physical Backup Key?||Share Digital Keys w/ Others?||Schedule When Digital Keys Work?||Website to Erase Digital Keys?||SSL Encrypted?||Compatible with BT 4.0?||Battery Powered?||Battery Life?||Battery Life Indicator?|
|$179||July 2013||No, but slips over inside dead bolt||yes||yes, but not does not send remote status||no||yes||yes||yes||no||no (see video)||yes||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||1 year||yes, but only in app|
|$235||December 2013||yes, inside and outside||yes||yes, but not does not send remote status||yes||no||yes||yes||yes||yes, on the exterior||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||24/7 phone # support only||yes||yes||yes||1 year||yes|
|$199||Winter 2013||yes, inside only||yes||yes, but not does not send remote status||no||no||yes||yes||yes||yes, on both sides||no||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||1 year||yes|
|$219||October 2013, order here||yes, inside and outside||yes||yes, will have network access at launch||no||no||Unknown at this time (check back)||no, requires lock to be touched||yes||yes, on the exterior||yes||yes||yes||yes, $1.99 per key||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||1 year||yes|
Definitions for each column within the matrix:
- Price? How much it’s going to cost to purchase.
- Availability? When you can order from the vendor’s website.
- Service fees? Any additional fees to monitor, schedule keys or erase keys.
- Replaces Existing Dead Bolt? Good to know if you’re renting an apartment and are not allowed to switch out the dead bolts.
- Smart Phone App Activity Alerts/Logs? Each of the locks comes with a smart phone that logs the time and date each user enters and exits through the door. You’re able to see whether they showed up on time, and how long they actually stayed in your house.
- Works if Wifi Disabled? If WiFi is unavailable, what features will not work.
- Built in Camera? Take a photo of guests who activate your lock. Note: A smarter feature would be if the camera would snap a photo within two feet from the lock therefor this feature would function like a remote door peep hole. That way you could see who is at your door even when you’re not home to answer.
- Knock Sensor? If someone were to knock, you would be alerted.
- Proximity Detection to Auto-Lock/Unlock? Detects when you leave or enter for it to auto-lock or unlock for you.
- LED Lock Statuses? The ability to check if your smart lock is locked without opening your phone to check.
- Minimilistic Design? Bulk/size of the lock system.
- Multiple Colors? Different color styles.
- Key Fob Compatibility? Should someone in the house not have a smart phone, for example a small child, the ability to attach a fob to their sets of keys would provide them with access to unlock/lock functionality as if they had a smart phone.
- Physical Backup Key? The ability to use a traditional key to lock/unlock for backup purposes.
- Smart Phone Remote Unlocking? If you are not home and want to unlock your door for someone immediately who needs access.
- Share Digital Keys w/ Others? To grant keyless access to friends, family and visitors by inviting them through the app. Then you can customize what days a person has access to your home, even during what hours, and revoke access whenever needed. Note: Kevo costs $1.99 a key.
- Schedule When Digital Keys Work? To schedule when your guests should have access and schedule when to revoke access.
- Website to Erase Digital Keys? The ability to log into a third party site to delete digital keys if your phone is stolen.
- SSL Encrypted? If the locking mechanism is encrypted.
- Compatible with BT 4.0? If it will work with your bluetooth 4.0 mobile device.
- Battery Powered? If it require batteries to power the smart lock.
- Battery Life? How long will the batteries last before they need to be replaced.
- Battery Life Indicator? How you will be alerted when to change batteries
I hope you found this article useful, which I plan to update with more accurate and new information as each of the models hit the market. I look forward to hearing your responses in the comments if you’re interested in any of these smart locks.
Meanwhile, below are some promotional videos for each of the models.