What are smart door locks?

Ben Cooper
Written by: Ben Cooper
Posted on: 8 March 2016

The smart home is finally becoming an actual thing.

With thermostat systems you can turn on via your phone before you leave the office, sound systems embedded throughout the home which can stream media from any device, colour-changing lights and more, the home of the future is available right now.

The smart lock, a form of keyless door lock, has become a big part of the smart home movement. It’s seen as an integral part of intelligent home security systems.

But what are they and how do they work?

What is a smart door lock?

As the name implies, a smart lock is an electronic lock that uses wifi or Bluetooth connectivity to interact with other devices. This can be done via a specific fob or by installing an app on your phone. Then, once the fob/phone comes in proximity with the lock, it automatically unlocks.

One of the neat features of smart locks is that you can send temporary keys to people, giving them access to your home within a specific time frame.

It’s perfect if you need a friend or relative to pop in and feed the cat while you’re away - you just text them a key and they can use their phone to open the lock. Then once you return, their key automatically becomes invalid.

Because of their “smart” nature some smart locks will also connect to other devices in your home. If you have a smart heating system, some locks will automatically relay a message to the heating system when it detects you have left the house and the thermostat will turn itself off or into standby until you return.

Wifi or Bluetooth smart door locks?

Your choice of system may be dictated by several factors, including the all-important price tag. But you should be aware of the implications of opting for a wifi system or a Bluetooth one - and remember that some systems use both.

A wifi lock will usually have more features. It will let you unlock a door remotely for example, but because it’s connected to your home wifi network it’s vulnerable to hacking or malicious attacks, like any internet-connected device.

A Bluetooth lock on the other hand is potentially more secure, as it won’t be connected to the Internet, and relies on authentication between the individual lock and the fob/phone. However, Bluetooth locks may have more limited functionality and a slight lag between presenting the fob and unlocking the door.

One of the features of smart locks is that you can send temporary keys to people, giving them access to your home at a specific time

What are your smart door lock options?

Although smart locks are available to buy, they aren’t at saturation point in the market, and so your options are more limited than if you want to buy a traditional door lock. Also, many of the smart locks you can read about on the web are either not available in the UK yet or are currently on pre-order only.

Nonetheless, there are a variety of smart door locks out there, all with certain unique selling points. Here are the three main contenders:

Yale Keyless Connected Smart Lock

Yale Keyless Connected Smart Lock

Yale Keyless Connected Smart Lock

Yale is synonymous with locks, and for good reason.

It has a long history of innovation and providing top quality locks at a variety of price points. Its Keyless Connected Smart Lock sees the company stake its claim in the modern smart lock marketplace.

You can find these locks selling online for around £119.99, with some great features including:

  • Multiple opening methods. The locks can be opened by a key card, tag/fob, smartphone or even by a simple PIN.
  • Easy to edit users. You can add or remove users from the access list, or change their privileges. So you can give people temporary access, or only on specific days or times of day.
  • Extra security features. This smart lock has a tamper alarm and PIN code lockout. It also keeps a log of all user entries.
  • Battery powered. If your power goes down, the lock keeps functioning. There is a low battery indicator so you never need to worry about when to replace them.
  • Connectivity with other smart products. If you have a Yale CCTV system or Smartphone Alarm then the locks can communicate with them. It can also connect to various other smart home systems.

August Smart Lock

August Smart Lock

August Smart Lock

Not officially available in the UK at the moment, the August Smart Lock is the lock that seems to be generating the most buzz over in the States.

It can be purchased through Amazon.com, starting at $199.

  • Battery operated. The lock is powered by four AA batteries, so like Yale’s lock it stays secure even in the event of a power cut.
  • Works with iOS and Android. The app for the lock is available for the two dominant mobile platforms.
  • Works with most existing deadbolts. This is a big thing for many people. The August Smart Lock will work in conjunction with a long list of existing deadbolt locks, which means it should require minimal fuss when fixing to the door. It also only affects the inside of the door, leaving exterior hardware intact.
  • Can be controlled over wifi
    Although the lock uses Bluetooth, the August Smart Lock can be locked and unlocked remotely via wifi. You can view its current status, and also see who has accessed the lock. This requires an additional piece of hardware.
  • Part of a security suite. August also manufactures a doorbell camera, and a smart keypad. This allows you to set unique PIN codes to unlock the smart locks for people who don’t have smartphones.

Danalock

Danalock

Danalock

This Danish smart lock fits neatly over most existing locks and has the sleek, Scandinavian design and quality you’d expect.

Cost wise, you’ll find the Danalock selling for around £160 online. It has similar features to the Yale and August locks, such as:

  • Auto-unlock. The Danalock will unlock as you approach the door. Once you get within 50 metres of your door, the lock will prep itself and then unlock when you are within five metres.
  • Auto-lock system. You can set the Danalock to automatically lock after a specific time upon closing the door. That way you don’t need to worry about whether you remembered to lock up. The lock will also auto-lock when you enter the house.
  • Multiple access privileges. You can give easy access to anyone with a smartphone, and then make that access time specific or recurring. You can also get notifications whenever the lock is used, with details of who has opened the lock.
  • Uses Z-Wave. Z-Wave technology is a type of secure, low power usage wireless technology that is seeing a lot of use in home automation.

Smart locks represent a digital evolution in home security, and in terms of convenience they certainly appeal, leaving behind worries about lost keys, forgetting to lock up when you go away on holiday and so on.

As it stands they don’t currently affect your home insurance as long as they work in conjunction with a mortice deadlock, your front door will be considered just as secure as a standard key-operated lock.

Whether you want to make the jump to smart locks is up to you, but one thing is for sure, they’re likely to become more common as the technology becomes more affordable.

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