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The Effect of Smart Lock Technology on Home Security

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By: Editor
March 6, 2014

The Effect of Smart Lock Technology on Home Security

One of the goals of smart technology is to connect our world by providing anytime, anywhere access on a mobile device. Smart phone integration is already a popular feature of smart thermostats and TV control. The industry is taking it one step further with smart lock and smart key technology.

This year alone, we’ve seen multiple smart lock and key introductions from startups and well-established companies alike. In a two-part series, we’re going to look at this rising trend and how it will affect the home security industry.

In today’s post, we’re evaluating the utility of the smart door. Come back tomorrow for insights on a few of the key players in this growing space.

What is Smart Lock Technology?

The smart door lock is meant to replace the traditional lock and key. Each lock has a coinciding smart phone app or fob -- a keychain remote without buttons. They work pretty simply: when the user approaches the lock with the app or fob, the lock automatically unlocks.

The functionality isn’t the only similarity between smart door locks. Here are the main features that are common among most smart locks:

  • Battery powered – Most locks need two to four (2-4) AA batteries, however a few smart locks -- like Okidokeys -- use AAA. No matter the type of battery, the locks should have enough power to last for at least a year. When the batteries start approaching the end of their life cycle, you’ll receive a warning from the lock.
  • Bluetooth 4.0 – The primary means of communication between your phone and smart lock is via Bluetooth 4.0, which allows the lock to automatically unlock/lock when detecting your nearby phone. There are exceptions, some communicate via Wi-Fi and NFC.
  • Instant notifications – Instant alerts are provided via email/text to your mobile devices whenever someone enters or leaves using the smart lock. You’ll also receive notifications if anyone tries to tamper with it.
  • Set rules and modes – Most of the locks are customizable to open for guests, while also limiting the time frame they can enter. This allows you to code temporary permissions for the dog walker, cleaning staff, or a plumber.
  • Back-up lock mechanism – Almost all smart locks also feature the traditional lock-and-key technology, which can be used in the event of loss of power or for a user who does not have the app/fob.

Which is Better: Smart Lock or Lock-and-Key?

The lock-and-key method has served us well. Can you believe that this technology has been in use since the late 1700s!?! Yep. The lock mechanism has not seen any significant changes in 300 years. So why should we care about and invest in smart locks?

First, it’s a matter of convenience. Like other smart and home automation devices, the smart lock is designed to make life easier. Opening doors will be hands-free and you’ll never have to get up to open the door for a guest.

Second, and the answer we’re particularly interested in: security. The fact is that our current locks have been around for a long time, and that means burglars have had plenty of time to learn how to get through them. This includes lock bumping -- a lock picking technique that is one of the most common ways to break into a home. All smart locks with a back-up lock mechanism also feature anti-bumping technology, providing extra security against this well-known burglary method.

Additionally, with the different modes and notifications, smart locks allow you to keep a watchful eye on family members, friends, and guests. You’ll always know when your kids get home from school and when the cable guy arrives and leaves. You’ll also never have to worry about leaving the door unlocked.

The Effect on Home Security

Anything that increases security is a good thing. Smart locks have the potential to begin a whole new wave of security products.

Many developers saw this natural connection and used Z-Wave technology in their smart locks, which allows easy integration into home security systems -- like FrontPoint. It’s an exciting prospect! Imagine a scenario where a smart lock detects an unwanted intruder and then communicates with the rest of your home: all your doors and windows will lock, cameras will record, and alarms will go off.

Of course, there are still a few concerns about such a young technology. For instance:

Will the public buy-in to smart locks?

The automated lock has been out for quite a while and it’s never been a big seller. Of course, it also never had the huge marketing push behind it that smart tech is receiving today. It remains to be seen if people really do care about replacing their keys.

Are these locks really safer?

It’s awesome that unlocking a door will only require you to be near it, but what if a thief gets a hold of your phone? Our phones often contain very sensitive information like our names and address. A burglar doesn’t even have to break in, they can stroll up to the front door and walk in.

No need to fear. You can quickly disable your stolen or lost phone in different ways, depending on the smart lock maker. For some, it’s simple as opening up the app on a different device and disabling it. For others, you can call the company’s support line and they will remove access permissions on your lost phone.

Keyless Entry in the Future

We’ll be keeping an eye on the progression of the smart lock. The technology is exciting and it has the potential to be the start of a new direction for home security. Welcome to the future, where you might no longer have to ask yourself, “Did I lock the door?”

Check back tomorrow when we take a look at the notable players in the smart key market!

What are your thoughts on smart lock technology? Are you an early adopter? Let us know in the comments below!

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Linda Hendrick
August 7, 2014
Here's a concern: I park my car in a carport, open to the sidewalk/street, and the gate to my backyard. What happens if someone is waiting for me at my FRONT door, and comes in there while I am entering the back door. I am assuming, of course, that the smart lock unlocks ALL the outside entrance doors at the same time. Right or wrong? They aren't all that far apart, but they are around the corner from one another and no visibility from one to the other.
Jamie Botzer
August 8, 2014
Great question, Linda! For the Z-Wave locks, you have the option to unlock them individually or you can have them unlock all at the same time using the mobile app. You can also set up specific rules to have individual/all locks lock or unlock based on actions you take (like arming or disarming your system). All of this can be set up on your account, and our Support team is more than happy to help customize these rules to fit your specific schedule! Let me know if you want any more specifics, and I would be happy to have a team member reach out to you!
Rob Belsey
August 16, 2014
Electronics with any kind of network connection are exposed to hacking - I have read a few articles on the potential exposure with smart locks. What are Frontpoint's thoughts on this?
Gilbert Cho
August 18, 2014
Hi Rob, that’s a great question! You’re correct – there are some security concerns when it comes to some of the new smart technology that’s been coming out. I even heard about smart fridges getting hacked, what’s up with that? These security concerns can be partly attributed to how young this smart home and “Internet of Things” wave is, so there are a lot of kinks to still work out, but we're confident that as the technology improves, so will the security. In the meantime, we will closely monitor products like smart locks to ensure their safety before integrating them into our system and offering it to customers. Hope this answer helped! Let us know if you have any other questions.
September 17, 2016
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