5 Tips for Evaluating Smart LocksFebruary 12th, 2019
Traditional pin-tumbler locks have been in use since their invention in 1848 by Linus Yale Sr., providing safety and deterring break-ins for innumerable home owners. Despite such a long and successful run, for anyone designing a smart home security system, upgrading from traditional to smart locks is an option to consider.
Smart locks offer an array of features that can simplify day-to-day household management and when integrated with a comprehensive smart home solution, give homeowners access management capabilities that no traditional lock can provide. With the array of options in the marketplace, how do you know which smart lock is right for you?
Comparing the available options requires understanding some technical elements, but even more important is understanding the features that set one lock apart from another. We explore some of these items below.
Despite what you may think, not all smart locks allow you to access them via an internet or cellular connection. Certain models feature only Bluetooth connectivity. This short-distance transmission technology minimizes the power required to operate the lock and allows users to connect to the lock directly from another Bluetooth device. Unfortunately, Bluetooth devices are not necessarily wi-fi devices, meaning that some door locks can’t be connected to the rest of the home network. Some locks offer optional wi-fi adaptors or accessories to be able to integrate the lock to a broader system.
Other locks on the market today use Z-Wave technology to connect from the lock to the home security network. The home network is then connected to the Internet and this allows users to access and control their door locks from anywhere in the world. With these capabilities it is possible for you to remotely unlock your door, so no more having to wait at home all morning for a delivery or the visit from the piano tuner. Just have them call, remotely unlock the door, and away you go.
Of course, remotely and individually managing access to your house is not the only way to handle visitors that need in when you aren’t home. Many smart locks allow for the creation of custom access codes. This means that you can set up one code for you daughter and a different one for the dog walker.
Depending on the model you select, specific rules can be combined with codes. For example, you could create a code for the dog walker that only works between the hours of 10:00 am – noon, Monday through Friday. Outside of these times, the code would be inactive. This provides you with a high degree of control to limit who has access to your home when.
Another feature offered by certain locks are report logs that let you see which codes were entered at what time. Alert messages, both text and email, can also be sent in real-time to let you know when the lock has been opened and by which code. This small feature allows parents to know when kids have made it home from school or who came sneaking in late.
Many locks can be paired with your cell phone or, when they are part of a more comprehensive system, configured to do geo-fencing. In either of these scenarios, the lock “senses” when you are in close proximity and automatically unlocks the door without requiring you to do anything. Anyone that has struggled through the door with an armload of groceries or a non-cooperative canine will recognize this small convenience for the win that it truly is.
Selecting your lock
When evaluating your options, knowing which of the above capabilities you need can help direct you to the right choice. Don’t forget about the below as you evaluate your choices either.
- Battery life: Smart locks are battery-operated devices, so be sure to see how expected battery life compares across the models you are considering. And look for options that provide you with an indication of remaining battery life so you can avoid being locked out with a dead lock battery.
- Lock codes: Locks vary in the way in which codes are managed, the degree of detail that can be assigned to them, even the number of codes that can be supported. When evaluating your options, consider how many different codes you will need at any given time. Some systems require you to create codes via an app, while others allow you to use the keypad itself. Which approach do you want to use? And don’t forget to investigate details like setting expiration dates for codes as well.
- Keys and fobs: While many models exist that do not include a keyway, there are lots of smart locks that still allow for the use of a traditional key. If you are someone who is not good about changing your batteries before they completely run out of juice, selecting a model that allows for use with a physical key might be a worthwhile backup plan. Similarly, for those who regularly find themselves staring at a cell phone with only 2% power remaining, think about a lock that also offers a keyfob as a backup plan. Being stuck on the porch with a dead cell phone is no ones idea of a good time.
- Compatibility: is the lock compatible with other smart home systems? Can it be added to general smart home commands such as “End of the night” to lock the doors, close the garage door, arm the alarm system, lower the temperature, and turn off the lights?
- Alarm: Does the lock have an alarm if it’s tampered with or used incorrectly? Will it ping if the door was left open? Consider the security alerts of the lock itself.
If you’re ready to add a smart lock to your home, or perhaps take steps to integrate more tech into your Smart Home, take our quiz to see if you’re SmartHome ready, or contact us today! Making your house a smart home can make your life easier and your family safer.