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What Is a Smart Lock and How Does It Work?

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What Is a Smart Lock and How Does It Work?
December 18, 2019
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What Is a Smart Lock and How Does It Work?

Smart

door locks join the ranks of ultra-convenient smart home technology

As technology evolves, there’s been an increasing interest in integrating “smart devices” into our homes. And one of the most convenient advances in smart home technology is the smart door lock. There are many advantages to smart locks over traditional lock-and-key systems, including increased security and ease of use. Let’s look at what makes a lock “smart,” how smart locks work, and the many benefits they provide for homeowners.

How do

smart locks work?

While traditional deadbolts and door locks strictly function mechanically, smart locks can be commanded to lock and unlock digitally and wirelessly. There are many different types of smart locks on the market. You can purchase smart locks that enable you to lock your door with a keypad, a key fob, a mobile app, from a website, or some combination of these. You can even purchase models that allow you to open your door both digitally and with a physical key. Some smart locks are designed to be added to your existing deadbolt while others replace your locks completely.

Many smart door locks allow you to set different access codes for different users. There are locks that accommodate dozens or more of these unique access codes. Codes can be set up for permanent use, time-limited use, or temporary use. Some smart locks on the market can also provide instant alerts via email or text whenever someone enters or leaves your home. In addition, select models will notify you if anyone tries to tamper them.

Smart door locks are battery operated. Their typical battery life is about one year, with normal usage. When your smart lock’s batteries get low, good locks will provide a low battery warning. And the best smart locks provide ways to access your home even if you fail to replace your batteries before they die. This may take the form of an integrated traditional keyway or by simply holding a store-bought battery to a connection on the front of the lock.

There are a variety of ways that smart locks communicate with mobile apps, key fobs, home security systems, and other smart home devices. Most use Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Bluetooth wireless technology.

Picture of Antique Chinese LockPicture of Antique Chinese Lock
A Chinese lock from Yunnan province, early 20th century. Source: Wikipedia

Smart

door locks provide many features that traditional lock-and-key systems do not

Lock-and-key devices have been in existence for thousands of years. Since the late 1700s, these systems have been manufactured with increasing sophistication, including a lock that could finally reliably be opened with only a specific key in 1818 and the “lever tumbler lock” of 1778, which “uses a set of levers to prevent the bolt from moving in the lock”—a design that is still in use today.

And today’s smart locks represent a quantum technology leap over the standard mechanical locks and deadbolts that have been used for hundreds of years:

Smart door locks provide enhanced security

The primary function of a residential door lock is to prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining entry to your home. Traditional lock-and-key systems have done this fairly well over the years—but on average, over a third of burglaries are no-force entries. Thus, a great deal of property crime could be prevented if more people simply locked their doors.

Statistics also show that well over 50% of crimes involve forcible entry, however. Because the mechanical lock-and-key technology in use today has been around for so long, burglars have had plenty of time to learn techniques for getting through traditional door locks. This includes lock bumping; a lock-picking technique that is one of the most common ways to break into a home.

Most smart locks use the latest tamper-proof construction, and many don’t even feature a keyhole, making traditional lockpicking impossible and kicking the door in a lot harder. Many smart locks can also provide instant alerts if someone enters your home or forgets to lock the door when they leave. And if no one’s home and your door has been left unlocked, connected devices allow you to lock them remotely using a mobile app or website.

Because smart door locks can be unlocked without a key, there’s no need to leave a spare key hidden outside your home for burglars to find. And since you won’t need to carry a key to unlock your front door, there’s no danger that your housekey will be lost or stolen.

Smart

door locks provide increased convenience

The ability to unlock your home without a key means that you don’t have to carry a key with you when you’re out for a run or provide a copy of your key to guests, babysitters, dog walkers, or other service providers. If your smart lock can be controlled by a mobile app or through a website, you can unlock your door remotely as needed.

Kids can have their own codes and you’ll be able to see (from the smart lock’s history log) when they arrive home and when they leave. Home service providers can also be given access to unique codes, allowing you to keep tabs on their arrival and departure. Many smart lock systems even allow you to set time limits on when each code can be used.

Picture of person using a smart door lockPicture of person using a smart door lock
Smart locks with keypads offer the ability to provide unique entry codes for multiple users. The Frontpoint Smart Door Lock can assign up to 50 unique codes.

If you have guests who will need to come and go while you’re at work, or you occasionally rent out your home using Airbnb or another vacation-rental service, you can provide temporary codes to visitors and short-term renters. Once they’re gone, you can deactivate the code (or set it to automatically expire), and their access to your home disappears.

Read more about how to mitigate the security risks associated with the use of dog-walking apps and similar convenience services.

Not only can many smart locks be operated remotely by a mobile app or using a website, but some also integrate with smart home devices like the Amazon Alexa family of devices and Google Home devices. This allows users to operate their smart locks with a simple voice command, making it easy to unlock the door for dinner guests while you’re cooking, or to lock up for the night on your way up the stairs to bed. It can also be a boon to the elderly and other people with limited mobility.

Smart

locks come in a wide array of styles and provide a range of features

Since smart locks were first developed, the market has expanded considerably. When purchasing a device, you now have quite a variety of brands, styles, and features to choose from. You’ll need to decide whether you prefer a smart lock that opens with a keypad, a key fob, and/or by mobile app. Consider whether you prefer one that also provides the option of using a physical key.

Do you want to add a smart lock to your existing deadbolt, or would you rather replace your traditional lock completely? You also need to consider which other safety and convenience features you're looking for and whether you’re interested in a lock that integrates with other smart home devices or a home security system.

Picture of the Frontpoint Smart Door LockPicture of the Frontpoint Smart Door Lock
The Frontpoint Smart Door Lock is easy to install and integrates with the rest of a smart home.

Frontpoint’s

Smart Door Lock offers many of the best smart lock features

The Frontpoint touchscreen deadbolt lock made by Yale not only fully integrates with Frontpoint's comprehensive home security system, but it has also been rated as one of the best smart locks of 2019 by several different smart lock buying guides.

Users can lock and unlock their homes with ease using the backlit keypad—no need to carry keys (or even a smartphone) to secure your house when you leave. Create unique entry codes for friends, family, service providers, and short-term renters. The keypad is fingerprint-resistant to prevent code-cracking. It also provides a tamper-alert alarm which will sound if someone attempts to forcibly remove the outside portion of the lock from the door.

With built-in Z-Wave Plus, integrating the Smart Door Lock with your Frontpoint security system is easy. You can operate the lock remotely through Frontpoint’s mobile app and website. You can also set up a variety of rules for your Smart Door Lock using your Frontpoint.com account. Examples include:

  • Setting your Smart Door Lock to automatically lock or unlock when your security system is armed or disarmed.
  • Setting your security system to automatically arm or disarm when your Smart Door Lock is locked or unlocked.
  • Setting your Smart Door Lock to automatically relock 30 seconds after a successful code entry or manual unlock.

If you have more than one Smart Door Lock installed, you can choose to operate all of the locks together or individually, and select which lock will follow each rule that you create.

Connect your Frontpoint account to Google Home or Amazon Alexa to control your Smart Door Lock verbally through your Google Home device or any Alexa-enabled device, including the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show or FireTV Voice Remote. The system also works with Siri, enabling voice commands on various Apple devices.

The Smart Door Lock uses 4 AA batteries, which will last approximately one year with typical use. When battery power is low, the Low Battery Warning Indicator will flash red, and low-battery-status notifications will appear on the Frontpoint app and website. If battery power is completely lost while you’re outside your home with the door locked, simply use the 9-volt battery override. By applying the battery to the terminals below the lock’s touchscreen,

Let's look at what a few of the other top-rated smart locks of 2019 have to offer

Besides Yale, some of the other big names in smart locks are August, Kwikset, and Schlage. Each of these companies offers a variety of smart lock models at different price points and with different features. Here is a review of some of the other locks that were included in various lists of the best smart locks:

August’s Smart Lock Pro Connect can be installed on most existing single-cylinder deadbolts. To add a keypad, however, users must pay extra. It offers a mobile app and smartphone connectivity through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Z-Wave Plus—but for remote access, you will need to purchase a separate smart hub (like the one included with a Frontpoint security system). There is also no tamper alert alarm function available with the Smart Lock Pro Connect.

Kwikset’s Premis lock is a simple Apple HomeKit deadbolt. It offers a manual key option, Bluetooth connectivity, and a keypad. Users can create up to 30 unique access codes. This lock can be operated remotely using Siri or the Premis app, but there is no Android app available and it is not compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Home devices. There is also no tamper alert alarm function available with the Premis lock.

Schlage’s Encode keypad lock includes built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It also works with Amazon Key, although this requires a compatible security camera, which is not included with the Encode lock. This lock is not compatible with Z-Wave devices or Apple HomeKit, however—and Z-Wave is now the go-to communication standard for a variety of smart home devices. The Encode lock does include a built-in tamper alarm.

Frontpoint

plus smart locks equal unparalleled home convenience and control

Lock technology has fantastically advanced in recent years. Smart door locks offer a range of convenience benefits and security features that are beyond traditional mechanical locks and deadbolts, and they are well worth considering. And a Yale smart lock that is part of a Frontpoint home security system is the best in the industry, offering exceptional security and customized control to fit your needs.


Frontpoint keeps homes safe whether families are there or not. We've been revolutionizing the home security industry for over a decade. And we're just getting started. To shop DIY home security systems, check out our Security Packages. If you have questions or would like to discuss a quote, contact us at 1-877-602-5276.

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