A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph
This article has been updated to better reflect the current state of smart locks. Changes include price updates and new information gathered after the release of some of the smart locks. A few products from the original post have been removed and replaced with more relevant devices.
Locks have existed as long as things have needed protection. Since then locks have evolved and changed as production and engineering feats have created the need and possibility for change. Now the internet is unveiling a new need and a new desire. Consumers want to use new tech only to turn their houses into smart homes. We have begun to move into the digital age of personalized security. With the dawn of smart devices, our technology can now be integrated. Everything in a home controlled from anywhere at any time. It is definitely an interesting phenomenon, but is it secure? Smart locks have started to appear in the marketplace, with much more on the way. We are going to take a look at where the technology has been, where it is, and where it is going. Do you need these new locks? What makes a lock smart? What are these products really offering?
Kwikset and Unikey have partnered to create the Kevo. This device will replace your current deadbolt, which will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to install. Slight modifications might need to be made on the door to accommodate for the Kevo. This is a smart lock that replaces your current deadbolt and uses Kwikset’s SmartKey cylinder as a manual override. The Kevo can also be opened with a small fob if you do not have a smartphone. Once whatever device you are using is within the correct proximity to the lock, you must tap the deadbolt to have it open. Along with the manual key, there is also a thumb turn latch on the inside. With Kevo, you can also give people smartphone access. It is free for 24-hour limited keys, but for anything more than that will cost an additional $1.99 per digital key.
The Kevo will also be able to tell if the user is inside or outside of the home. With this information, the Kevo system will attempt to prevent unauthorized users from gaining entry. That way if your key is just on the other side of the door someone will not be able to tap the deadbolt and have the lock open. Access history of your lock will also tell you when the lock was opened and closed, and by who. To open your lock by tapping it, your phone can often be in your pocket. The Kevo Plus that will allow the device to use Wi-Fi and be accessible from anywhere. For the use of the fob, it does appear that the device will need to be placed closer to the lock in order for it to register. You will receive updates to your phone informing you on who has used the lock and when. Further updates that will inform you when the device is beginning to run out of energy.
The Kevo is available on the market at this moment. It is made by an established brand that will most likely continue to exist for some time. That allows some assurance that the product will be improved on and at the very least maintain a customer service line. The Kevo comes with 2 physical keys, 2 electronic keys, 1 fob, 4 batteries, Kevo deadbolt, and the interior locking mechanism. A large issue for many users is that the Kevo will not function with every type of smartphone (see site for details). The largest failing of this product, however, can be found all over the internet, and that is the use of the Kwikset SmartKey cylinder. This type of lock has a widely publicized method of forced entry despite its claims of being high security. With a key blank, a screwdriver, and a pair of clamps, any one of these doors can be opened.
Schlage has made a smart lock with certain unique characteristics. Chiefly, it has a touchpad that enables the door to be opened with a number code. The Touchpad Deadbolt also has an alarm system that will engage when the lock is tampered with, similar to the features of a monitored home security system. The volume of the alarm can be adjusted along with the sensitivity of the system, so it could go off if the door is rattled. Along with the alarm going off to startle the burglar, you will receive a message sent to your smartphone. The Schlage has the capability to be integrated with your home security system as well. To do this, and to use the Wi-Fi feature, you will need to purchase a Nexia Bridge or simply use your Apple TV. The Schlage Sense does have a Bluetooth reader built in, but in order to control the lock from anywhere in the world, it will need a Wi-Fi bridge.
With the bridge, you can receive updates on when the door was opened and by what code. The lock will also be able to be locked and unlocked via the phone. This can be done from anywhere as long as you have a device that can access the internet and the internet in your house is functioning. It does also come with a keyed cylinder that will override the combination and the need for a smart device. Now the cylinder can, of course, be picked, but if you adjust the sensitivity on the alarm it should go off, and send a message to your phone. In total, this lock gives you three unique ways to open it that account for Wi-Fi failure and battery failure.
The August does not replace your deadbolt entirely. It replaces the thumb turn on one side and leaves your existing keyed outside cylinder untouched. The August is built with Bluetooth technology but like many of the other products the company sells a Wi-Fi adapter, August Connect. The August Connect adds a few seconds to the time that it will take to open your lock, but it allows the lock to be controlled from anywhere in the world. The August will also use GPS to tell when you are approaching the door so that the deadbolt is unlocked by the time you turn the knob. Guests do not get the auto unlock feature. In order to have this ease of access, you need to have administrative power on the lock. Unfortunately giving someone administrative power would also make it impossible to limit their control. Further automation is offered with August’s everlock feature, where you can set the device to lock after an expressed time of being opened.
It is in a fairly wide release and it can be found in stock at several major stores. This allows the customer to see the product in person before buying it. Another plus of being found in stores is that you will deal with the store’s return policy if you are unhappy with the product. That is a good thing since many people seem to have difficulties with it. The pop-up notifications have been generally very glitchy, and in some cases not working at all. The lock cannot tell when the door has been shut, and thanks to the everlock feature this means that the bolt may be fully extended by the time you wish to close the door. Two claims that are made by the commercial are that you can use the app to give keys to people that are servicing the home, and that people that have keys will not be able to enter.
The first claim is shown by users to be quite difficult in practice. In order to give people smartphone access to your home, not only do they need to have a smartphone, but they also need to download the app. Getting a contractor to do this might be difficult because they are most likely not going to visit your house after the initial inspection. Less frequent services such as plumbing, cable repair, etc. will be almost impossible to coordinate. This might work if you have a dog walker or a maid, but it does rely on them owning a smartphone. The second claim the commercial makes is more troubling. They say that there is no need to “ask for keys back”. But you still would. The August Smart Lock does not replace your outside cylinder so you would need to either ask for your keys back, rekey the lock, or buy a new deadbolt cylinder. August is not the solution to any of these problems.
The Bolt is the newest model in the Lockitron line. It is no longer made to fit over an existing thumb turn deadbolt latch. Instead, the bolt will replace the hardware on one side of the door. On its own, the Bolt uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone. Once the Lockitron Bolt is in use you can share your keys with other smartphone users. With the Lockitron Bridge, you can also access Wi-Fi. With Wi-Fi enabled you can also get real-time updates on your lock’s usage. These updates are also sent when the lock is opened by the use of the key or manual manipulation of the latch. Your door will also unlock as you approach the door, similar to the August, but it does not lock automatically. The co-founder of Lockitron has disputed PCMag’s claim that the Bolt does not integrate with other smart products, citing the connectivity between the Ring Doorbell. Still, it does not integrate with thermostats or security cameras.
Despite Lockitron’s previous record, this product has come out and it is functional. Apigy, the company that makes the Lockitron, had several stumbles in their previous product, but they seem to have learned their lesson. Very similar to most smart locks on the market, there was a complaint about the low battery life. The software on the locks was found to be very buggy, with the notification system not working at all for some users. The lock needed quite a bit of time to wake up, as it would try to save power by going into a sleep mode. The best part about all of these hurdles is that Apigy will have seen what it takes to produce this type of product. It is also very encouraging to see that the company is still trying to refine their product after all of this controversy. The unfulfilled orders from the original product have now been changed so that backers of that Lockitron will receive the Bolt and Bridge. I think that supporters of the first Lockitron will be glad to get this device, even if it cannot do everything they were promised.
The Danalock is yet another lock to enter the security market from a new company. Similar to the August Smart Lock, the Danalock has a squatty cylinder (hockey puck) shape. This is yet another project that is installed on the interior side of the door, replacing the pre-existing deadbolt thumb turn. On the company’s website, they have several video tutorials that explain the subtle variations in the installation processes, which depend on the style of lock you already have installed. This smart lock advertises its ability to be installed with a Euro cylinder lock. However, the installation does seem to require more work than most of these thumb turn replacement smart locks. In some cases, you will need to measure a new tailpiece for your lock and cut it to the correct length. Other products such as key fobs and keypads (not yet released) can also be purchased to work with your Danalock.
Once the Danalock is installed, the lock can be controlled manually by either turning the smart lock or by touching the center of the device. The app allows only one user to give out keys and set restrictions. Changing the smartphone that holds primary ownership will require the existing owner to delete their app and begin the setup process with the lock over again. User experience with this lock has been pretty negative. Between the 2.3 stars on Amazon, the 2.5 stars on Cnet, and the 2-star review from PC Mag, it is fair to say this lock is not being received well. In general, people have issues with the auto lock feature, which opens and locks the door without provocation. The Knock to Unlock feature is also generally reported to not work at all for people. It works with both Bluetooth and Z-wave technology, but the issue seems to be that it does not work all that well.
Yale plans to release the Smart Living some time in 2016. The Yale Smart Living will also be compatible with the growing list of Nest Products. This smart lock comes from one of the most trusted lock brands on the market, so there is a proven track record for the company’s security and manufacturing abilities. Special consideration is being paid to data collection and storage, as using a smartphone to control your security does raise some new concerns for users. The focus of the device is really on the integration aspect of smart technology. If connectivity and convenience are your main reasons for wanting to invest in a smart lock, it may be worth it to wait and see how this product comes out.
In terms of the network protocol that will be used for smartphone control, the Smart Living is planning to use Nest’s Weave connectivity. This uses a very low amount of energy, so the projection is that four double A batteries will not need to be replaced for a full year and a half. Much like the Nokē padlock, there will be a slot on the lock to touch a live battery to a receptor port, so that the lock can be temporarily operated (assuming you carry a live 9-Volt battery with you). As far as the lock hardware, Yale does make high-quality products that can be relied on for good security, but there will be no cylinder. The lock cannot be overcome by traditional surreptitious forms of entry because there will be no keyway. There is no available price, and there is also no way to preorder it. The inability to preorder is a plus in my opinion and speaks to the professionalism of the company.
Mul-T-Lock is a truly exemplary company, which makes high-quality locks and pays very close attention to security. Their ENTR product continues this dedication to quality and protection. One of the biggest differences between this lock and its competitors is the additional methods of possible entry, and layers of security. When you initially unbox the kit assembly, you will see that all of the parts have a URI code on them. This code must be scanned with your smartphone so that you can get your unit serial number and register the product. Set up is a little more complex than some of the other smart locks, but it is certainly possible to do yourself after watching the installation video.
To unlock this smart lock you can, of course, use your smartphone, but there is also the option to use a remote, or purchase a fingerprint reader and/or touchpad. On the inside of the door, the hockey puck knob can be rotated in order to the unlock position, or you can slide your thumb and index finger along the length of the inside assembly. This slide to open feature prevents users from mistakenly bumping into the lock and locking or unlocking it contrary to their motives. There is also a wire free charger that fixes the battery replacement issue that other smart lock suffer from. For all of these options and quality, the price does get a little steep. The lock is almost $600 and each additional product raises that initially high price. But this lock does come with the highly secure MT5+ European profile cylinder, which is guaranteed to work with the smart lock.
Haven has to be one of the most exciting door locks to come into the market. It can replace your deadbolt. It can even replace locks in general. The device is secured to your floor at the base of your door. Haven can be installed two different way. Firstly there is the permanent method of drilling holes into your floor and bolting the Haven to the ground. If this is perhaps not an option, due to renting or whatever the situation may be, Haven can also be installed with 3M’s VHB tape. If you are at all skeptical of this tape’s adhesive properties (as I was) I would suggest doing some of your own research, but I am quite impressed. Once it is installed the Haven can be activated and controlled via Bluetooth technology, and even has optional key fobs so that you do not need a smartphone. When it is activated, the device will elevate an angled panel, and that alone can keep your door secure. Door stops like this have existed for some time and have been shown to be very effective. The only downside was they were only practical while someone was inside the home to remove them. With the ability to retract this level of protection from the outside, it is now a much more practical solution.
Haven is comprised of aluminum, steel, and glass filled nylon. With this mixture, Haven has kept doors shut in the event of simulated kicking attacks and even battering rams. This product is built tough. It is battery powered, with a separate set of backup battery power. Much like the other devices, Haven will alert you to your phone when the battery has reached varying levels of power. The idea is to replace locks all together and move toward a future of truly keyless entry. There is no physical key that will open the Haven. It does have a foot pedal override to lower the panel, but that will only work from the inside. The pedal does create the only real security flaw as well. If all you need to do is depress the foot pedal to open the door, then wedging the door (like with an automobile lockouts) might allow a thief to gain entrance to your home. The easiest fix for this problem is to have your door properly installed so that it does not have a gap.
Further issues with the lock are that it will not work on doors that open toward the outside of the home. But not all hope is lost, an FAQ on the website reads, “The current model of HAVEN will not work on doors that open to the exterior. We are hard at work designing and prototyping an alternative model for doors that open to the exterior and plan to release this version in early 2016.” Not too large of an issue, and it is being addressed, but similar to the August they have interesting claims. A very odd quote from both their website and commercial is that 95% of break-ins require some kind of force. There are a couple weasel words in this statement that leave it more open to interpretation, but as far as forcible entry goes the latest FBI crime report on burglary has the number at 59.3%. From the same source, you can also see that break-ins are on the decline and not rising. The only places I could find quoting these figures did not point to any study or information gathering methodology. Slight misinformation, but not a reflection on their product. Other than those issues, the product seems like a great idea and a game changer for the modern consumer.
Smart locks are a new and budding technology. Because of that, it is easy to get excited. Our imaginations can fill in the gaps, but as we begin to see the reality, will our expectations be met? If classic horror movies are any indication of this trend (and I believe they are), seeing the reality will take away from everything you have built these things to be. Everyday use will create complacency like it does with all things, and eventually, there will be nothing new and exciting as there is not much that excites the average person about their locks today. With that considered, we can agree that the hype is not a key factor to the success of these products.
As long as they are not practical, smart locks will continue to be a novelty. And for the most part, that is what they do appear to be. Most of these smart locks do not even fully replace the use of a key. Most of them have keyed cylinders. They are just adding ways of entering a home, which means they are adding ways to bypass your home’s security. It is a grouping of additions with no improvements. In my eyes, the Haven has the most potential, because of how different it is beginning to think about home protection. Time will tell with all of these products, but all that being an early adopter is likely to do is leave your home vulnerable to burglary. Always research for yourself, and keep in mind practicality as well as security.