Did I remember to lock the front door? It keeps bad people out, it lets good people in. It protects, it welcomes, but if you’ve ever been away from home and had to race back to unlock it for a needy guest, dog walker or handyman, you know that the traditional lock and key security comes with occasional irritations. Luckily, with today’s breed of do-it-yourself home automation products comes a whole new type of lock called a smart lock. No more keys to copy or annoying key exchanges to organize. Smart locks replace standard locks with an electronic device, often battery-powered, that can be accessed using a mobile phone app, digital keypad or even fingerprint sensors. Using just a smartphone, you can turn the lock wirelessly if you’re nearby, or remotely over a secure network. But are smart locks that more than convenient and secure?
Smart locks work by letting you unlock any outside door with your phone using a wireless connection, either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and an app-based electronic key. Depending on the product, it either fits over an existing deadbolt or replaces it altogether.
Once installed and paired wirelessly with your smartphone, a smart lock can be locked and unlocked without a key. Depending on the make and model and its feature set, a smart lock can be opened by waving or turning your smartphone in front of the lock, touching the lock with your finger, tapping a control in an app, approaching your door, or even talking to your lock. Some locks can also be programmed to automatically bolt behind you as you leave. Smart locks offer one or a combination of these keyless lock/unlock options.
While you can find a lot of variety in feature sets, there are some standouts that really make a smart lock worth the money. Perhaps the biggest and most well-known is the ability to use virtual keys. These can take a lot of different forms–numerical PIN code, proximity to your phone, a button in an app on your phone, and more—but they all function on a similar principle: Making it easier to get in and out of your home.
Likewise, virtual keys often come paired with a history log of who’s unlocked and locked your door (AND if your lock offers multiple user keys) and the ability to create unique entry codes for different people and visitors.
Depending on how you’ve set up your smart home, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to a unified ecosystem. If your using Apple HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, Amazon Echo or Google Home there are locks that work with each of these ecosystems, and then some that only connect directly to your phone. You just want to be careful and make sure the lock you have your heart set on is compatible with your existing smart devices.
If you own a large home with multiple entry points, installing smart locks on each main door lets you secure all doors with a simple swipe of your finger of a mobile app or sometimes just a voice command. If you’re away on vacation, you can also check, via an app or online interface, the status of all your home’s locks.
Combined with a modern security system, smart locks may even improve your home’s value in the eyes of insurance adjusters and real-estate agents. Advanced smart locks start around $150 (rising to upward of $700 with extras like fingerprint scanning), but many insurance companies offer incentive discounts to homeowners who install them, or rewards for customers who adopt self-monitored theft protection devices.
One disadvantage of keyless door locks is that electrically-powered systems may not function properly in the case of a power failure. This can leave your door completely locked throughout the failure, or it may result in the door not locking properly and remaining open. Fortunately, most systems have battery backup systems as a fail-safe.
While keyless door lock systems are generally safe and designed to alert police or other authorities if incorrect codes are entered too many times, it is nonetheless possible that because this device is connected to the internet, an intruder may be able to gain access to your home through this system by guessing or hacking the code.