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Securing your home with a smart lock

February 18, 2020
Securing your home with a smart lock

Deciding whether to replace your good old fashioned key and lock to one that is virtually keyless, a.k.a. a smart lock, is a big decision to make. They do more than solely allow you and your family in and out of the home without a key. Essentially, by having a smart door lock it gives you control and flexibility. It is checking that your door is locked from the comfort of your couch. Providing access to your home to the family at the touch of a button, from anywhere in the world. It means you can receive notifications and never have to worry about losing keys again.

With so many in the market, here’s a way to help you with your decision.

Interoperability

The smart lock that you pick needs to communicate seamlessly with you and (optionally with) your home. There are countless protocols that you can look at, you can isolate the lock with Bluetooth or add them to a new or existing ecosystem such as Z-Wave or HomeKit. The other protocol not covered here is Zigbee.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is by far, the most common protocol found in most smart door locks. Simply install the relevant app and pair it to your smart device. Bluetooth devices won’t consume as much battery as purely Wi-Fi protocol devices do. Bluetooth smart locks, such as the Igloohome Smart Deadbolt 2S pride themselves on the ability to work without Wi-Fi signal. One such benefit of this is it removes the concern of Wi-Fi hacking or disruptions to the connection. Usually, Bluetooth locks carry other methods for entry, such as a PIN or manual key. Other examples include Kaadas 5155 and Samsung Push-Pull Handle SHP-D727.

Using Bluetooth as your primary method for control and access is great if this is the only smart home device that you want. There is no connecting to a bridge or gateway for locks carrying solely Bluetooth connectivity.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave enabled smart locks are a great option for growing your smart home. Using this protocol requires setting up a Z-Wave gateway. To get your gateway going, you will need a Z-Wave compatible hub. This hub will allow your Z-Wave lock to communicate with other Z-Wave accessories. Most importantly, you can then control it from anywhere. For maximum efficiency ensure your door lock is within 9m of your hub. An example of a Z-Wave compatible lock is Yale Assure.

Apple HomeKit

The Apple HomeKit is an ecosystem all of its own. If you want all of your Apple and smart home devices to communicate together, this is the one for you. The one must-have in this is the HomeKit, specifically on iPhone or iPad. But to truly make an entirely connected home, a hub is required, either an Apple TV or HomePod. Once connected to your smart lock, you can use Siri commands to unlock your door. Sharing access to the lock can be a little bit more difficult. Depending on the door lock, sharing access is achieved once you have shared access to your HomeKit. However, just like the Z-Wave, you can personalise certain actions. An example of this is unlocking the door will automatically activate the lights and so on. The Danalock V3 Apple HomeKit version is one such smart lock.

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To keep or replace

There are a few smart locks where you can keep your existing deadbolt in place. The Danalock V3 and August Smart Lock are two perfect examples of this where you can retrofit it onto your door. From the outside, it looks like any other door on the street. The smart lock keeps a low profile by being installed on the inside. With most of the necessary parts already in place, DIY installation is doable. An added bonus to this is that you can still use your current key as a backup.

The only other alternative is to replace the existing deadbolt altogether. With this approach, you need to remove all the components of your current deadbolt, before you can install your new smart lock. If you know what you are doing and have a little bit of patience, installing one is no drama. However, it can be a little bit daunting if DIY is not your forte. These types of locks often come with their own set of keys and other methods of entry. Examples include the Igloohome Smart Mortise and the Kaba E-Flash 680.

Getting in

You can enter your home any number of ways, depending upon which smart door lock you purchase. By far, the majority of smart door locks can be accessed via Bluetooth. Other options vary from PIN pad, biometrics, fob cards and keys. Bluetooth is a great option if you are always carrying your phone. Provided that your phone has enough battery to activate the lock. But what if you have left your phone at work altogether? Having alternative methods is always a must-have option.

PIN

Many door locks offer PIN entry, provided you have set this up from the get-go. If you are a bit sceptical about leaving fingerprints, there are locks that come with a decoy PIN. Decoy PINs are simply random numbers put before, after or between the main PIN. A good way for throwing off the scent to possible sneaky beaks. PINs usually range from 6 to 8 digits, with the majority providing only a set number of active PINs.

Biometric

This is like stepping into the future. Simply place your finger or thumb on the biometric pad and BOOM, you’re in. This option does wonders for those with easily forgetful memories. It also makes access for the elderly that little bit easier. Especially if they frequently forget to have their smartphone with them. Additionally, biometric access provides an easier way to restrict who accesses the lock.

Physical Key

Like with any technological software these days, it’s all about the backup and keeping spare keys is the backup to your smart door lock. Some door locks provide you with a covert keyhole which to the unknowing eye, can be completely missed. Whilst others, it is as clear as day. If you are looking to have keyless as the clear choice for access, covert keyholes are a good way to go. However, if you still like the safety of having this backup clearly visible, there is nothing wrong with going for a lock that is indeed visible from the front. It is a completely personal choice.

Last points on smart locks

When purchasing a smart door lock answer the following questions. Don’t forget, there is no right or wrong way to go about purchasing a smart door lock. It is all about creating ease and flexibility of access to your front door.

  • Do you want this as part of an ecosystem?
  • Will there be plenty of one-time access users or will this be solely for permanent access?
  • Are you wanting to keep the existing deadbolt mechanism or have this entirely replaced?
  • Will this door lock make life easier for access?
  • How are you wanting to activate your lock?