I found it hard to make the change and start using Smart Locks, as ensuring doors are locked is very important for Home Security, and to be honest, technology can fail.
Of course, the usefulness of some “smart” items vary, and the reason for this article to help others make a choice.
Let’s get this out of the way first, locks generally suck. Yes, they make sure your stuff doesn’t get stolen, and they sort of prevent you from getting stabbed while you’re asleep. But beyond that, locks suck. And the primary reason they suck is because of keys – lose them and your day’s going to take a turn for the worse. Can’t remember whether you locked ALL the doors before going to bed? Spend half the night debating with yourself (if you’re that kind of person).
Traditional locks provide a compounded source of everyday annoyance, most of which normal people learn to live with. Are smart locks any better? Let’s dig in.
I will discuss the following Topic Areas:
- Benefits of Smart Locks
- Are Smart Locks Easy to Operate?
- Are Smart Locks Safe?
- Smart Lock Issues You Should Consider
- 7 Smart Lock Myths Debunked
- Best Smart Locks
Benefits of Smart Locks
Aside from providing all the benefits traditional locks provide, i.e. prevent your home from being broken into, here are some benefits experts argue smart locks provide.
Peace of mind
If you’ve never lost keys before, then you’re a unicorn and should be in a museum. Having a smart home takes keys out of the security equation and not having to worry about accidentally forgetting your keys when you go out is a big relief. Ergo, smart locks take the mental stress out off of you.
Can’t remember if your door’s locked at night or when you go out? You don’t need to, a smart lock will automatically secure itself, and reopen for you. You literally won’t need to worry about being “locked out” of your home – generally. If you’re more paranoid than the average person, some of your fears will be addressed soon.
Convenience; you won’t have to juggle keys around
Most smart locks can be operated through your mobile phone – usually through an app (some come with a secondary keypad). Once you’re within a programmed distance of your home, most locks are designed to open up for you, which is pretty cool if your hands are otherwise filled with groceries, and you can’t seem to locate your keys.
Aside from keypads, you can always leave your traditional deadbolts. Having a smart lock doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all your security measures – but it does mean you won’t have to move around with keys.
Flexible; provides remote access
Because most smart locks come with apps, keypads and other computerized security details which can be controlled remotely, you can provide access to whomever you choose to, even when you’re not around. Received a package while away from home? The delivery guy can walk into your home and leave it for you if access is granted. You don’t have to worry about giving away your key’s hiding spot to an unknown person.
In fact, some companies provide digitized versions of your key which you can share with friends and family – and if necessary, allow you limit how much time said folks have in your home.
Without a doubt, smart locks make you look “cool”. Remember how cool car remotes were when they first came out? Yeah smart homes are even cooler because not that many people have them yet. Way to make a great first impression.
Are Smart Locks Easy to Operate?
Honestly? It depends on who you ask. A millennial might jump at any reason to integrate their keys with their devices because it means more screentime and less manual labor. But a baby boomer who hasn’t fully embraced technology might find this unnecessarily cumbersome.
In reality, once you have the mobile app, you can unlock, lock or verify the status of your door even when you’re miles away – and often at the press of a button. Apps have become more user-friendly as technology’s advanced. It’s reasonable to expect smart locks to become more secure, without being difficult to operate.
Are Smart Locks Safe?
Are smart homes the reason AI gains control and take over the world? Maybe. If these are your concerns, they’re valid. But there are other concerns people have about using smart locks to keep their homes safe.
Note that most of these new and improved locks ONLY change the way you secure your home. The stuff you keep at home might be just as secure with a traditional lock and key, than with a smart lock – the main difference will be, at minimum, the convenience of doing so without keys. But as with all technology, there are vulnerabilities that reveal big security flaws about smart locks. The hope is that most of these will be addressed as the technology evolves. Here are some smart lock safety concerns and how to mitigate them so your smart lock doesn’t end up being a convenient dumb bolt instead of a security upgrade.
One major concern about the smart lock is that most require you to link your phone to your lock. Some brands do this because they want to give you proximity unlock feature, so your home’s open and ready for you when your smartphone is within distance. Unfortunately, what this feature also does is provide access to anyone who merely steals your phone. You can minimize the possibility of this happening by disabling this proximity feature, getting a secondary lock (like a keypad), or using the proximity feature but staying vigilant in the event your phone goes missing.
Most Smart lock companies have upgraded their apps to verify with a code before granting access, once you’re within the vicinity of your home. This way, even if your phone gets stolen, it won’t grant blanket access to whoever happens to have it. A secondary lock, like a keypad, ensures you won’t get locked out of your home if your phone accidentally gets damaged.
By nature, the Internet of Things is subject to hacking. And many stories abound of people getting locked out of their homes because of rogue hackers. Often times, it’s because the owner didn’t secure their passwords, other times, it’s because the Bluetooth technology used to secure smart homes has its own vulnerabilities.
To secure your apps, ensure you use strong passwords, which you change regularly, but can memorize. To counter the shortcomings of Bluetooth tech, most lock companies use Wi-Fi as an extra layer of security. Your device receives a push notification whenever home access has been granted. They’re still hackable but require a lot more sophistication. Your role now is to do due diligence on a company before subscribing to its lock services.
You could spend thousands of dollars on a smart lock, and still have it removed by a $3 screwdriver. Even worse, it could be broken down with a kick to the door – which costs zero dollars.
To mitigate the risk of this happening, you can add a deadbolt to your door.
The only issue, which will be discussed later, is that some companies place restrictions on the type of deadbolts allowed with their locks. Best case scenario, understand that all smart locks aren’t necessarily more secure than all traditional lock and keys – just more hassle-free. If you’re concerned about security, you can always add security cameras and alarms.
Smart Lock Issues You Should Consider
Before rushing off to get the latest smart lock, there are some things you might want to consider. Smart locks generally aren’t cheap, but these things might double/triple your cost.
- Door Compatibility
Ever noticed how sometimes you may need to push your door a bit harder than necessary for it to unlock. Yeah, smart locks won’t tolerate that. Most locks have strict door requirements that may end up requiring to change the door itself. Some have a specific door width requirement, none will tolerate a misaligned door, some will require that you change your deadbolts from double cylinder to thumb-turn deadbolts. All of these cost money, especially if you need to get professional help, and you need multiple doors secured.
At the end of the day, the cost may end up exceeding the cost of the smart lock, and even if you think it’s a worthy investment for your security, your bank account may not agree with you. Fortunately, most of these issues aren’t common in modern homes, so you may not need to worry about these extra costs.
- Phone Compatibility
By now, you can’t have missed that phones play a big role in smart lock security. It isn’t any phone though – primarily smartphones. Even blackberry won’t cut it if it isn’t one of the newer models with touchscreens. If you need to grant regular access to a third party – like a housekeeper – they’ll need to have smartphones as well. Also, consider that some companies charge you extra, the more digital keys you need to distribute, so do your homework.
It makes a lot of sense to upgrade everyday items in your home, so aside from upgrading making your door more convenient, many smart lock companies include other premium features.
- Restricted Access: some apps allow you to provide limited access to certain individuals on certain days. With your cleaner, you can monitor how long they spend in your home – which can help you monitor your payments. Of course, you’ll also be allowed to grant other individuals unlimited access – that’s the perk.
- Remote Access: smart locks with Wi-Fi features allow you close or open your door from just about anywhere in the world – once you verify the command. So you can have unexpected guests in your home, while away.
- Sensors and Alarms: locks that provide this feature are infinitely more secure than traditional locks because they’ll warn you whenever there’s an attempted breach.
7 Smart Lock Myths Debunked
#1. The smart lock won’t work when the power goes out.
At the onset of smart lock technology, this may have been true, but technology has evolved a lot in the past 5 years. Most smart locks today operate with batteries, meaning your door will still be functional even if the power goes out. Those with keypads will even have back-lit keys so you don’t fumble in the dark. The one thing you can lose is remote access. Wi-Fi typically goes down with power disruptions, hence smart locks that rely on Wi-Fi for remote access won’t be able to do so with the power out. But you definitely won’t be locked out of your apartment.
#2. You’ll need wiring
As explained above, most smart lock companies use batteries – so you might not need to reconfigure the electrical wiring in your home to accommodate the lock. Of course, there are exceptions to the case, but the best smart lock companies use batteries. You’ll be notified when your battery’s due for a maintenance/change, so you aren’t caught unaware.
#3. They’re bulky and “in your face”
You really don’t need to sacrifice your style for convenience. There are different designs for different personalities. If you’re a minimalist, do your due diligence and find a minimalist, but effective, smart lock.
#4. Keypads leave fingerprints that can be guessed
Probably every crime movie involves someone “guessing” a person’s password by simply tracing fingerprint movements left on keypads. First, doing this is actually harder than the movies make it seem, and second, there are smart lock pads that are fingerprint resistant – meaning your patterns will be safe.
#5. Traditional mechanical locks are more secure
The misconception with this is that ALL mechanical locks are equal. But just as mechanical locks come with different security grades, so do smart locks. If you want the strongest security lock for your door, get one with an AAA rating.
#6. Smart locks are in their early phase
That was a while ago. With smart homes becoming a thing, and companies like Amazon investing heavily in Internet of Things, you can bet the smart lock technology has gone far. This isn’t to say smart lock technology is the best it can ever be, just that if you’re currently looking into them because you have a security concern, then the current level of smart lock technology is one par with that of mechanical locks.
#7. Keys are more reliable
A more truthful statement would be “keys are more familiar”, because the reality is that keys get lost all the time. If being set in your ways is the reason you don’t want to change, that’s ok, but arguing keys are more reliable that ALL smart locks is misinformed.
Best Smart Locks
There’s no reason to compromise your security for convenience. On that note, if you’re ready to go keyless, here are some of the best smart locks in the market.
Best Smart Lock Overall: August Smart Lock Pro and Connect Bundle
Considered the best for apartments in terms of installation and reliability, this August smart lock pro comes with a Wi-Fi connect bundle that gives you remote access to your home wherever you are. It comes with DoorSense, which informs you about your door’s current accessibility – if it’s open or closed. Click on the Image to View the Smart Lock on Amazon.
It works in tandem with whatever single-cylinder deadbolt lock your door has, so you don’t have to give up your key until you’re comfortable with the idea of going keyless. The lock is designed to work with all 3 major assistants – Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s 2-factor authentication and 2-layer encryption ensures one of the highest levels of security in the industry.
Best for Apartment Dwellers: August Smart Lock and Connect
If you’ve always wanted to upgrade your rented apartment’s security, without worrying about reducing your security deposit, then this is the lock for you. A combination of the August smart lock and the connecting bundle offers almost the same features as the pro version but at a cheaper rate. So you get app support, auto-lock and unlock, and DoorSense. You get extra benefits if you buy the Connect bundle like remote access plus the ability to use Alexa and Google Assistant. Only the Pro version gives you Siri and Z wave.
Best Design: Yale Assure Lock SL Key Free, Touchscreen Deadbolt
Don’t want the “in your face” design most smart locks come with, check out the sleek minimalist design this touchscreen Yale model was built as. It uses a lot August smart technology, including the Wi-Fi and DoorSense modules, so you’ll need to also get the August to combine bundle to get online access, view it on Amazon, but clicking the image.
Best for Simple Setup: Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt
This comes with its own in-built Wi-Fi, so unlike most smart locks, you don’t need to buy a connect bundle. It does have a few limitations, like no HomeKit compatibility and 100 user code limitation, which isn’t a big deal for some people. You can connect to Alexa, Amazon key (in case you get a package while you’re away) and Google Assistant though, so small mercies. Again, check it out on Amazon by clicking the image.
Smart locks might not provide life-changing security benefits, but you can’t deny they have their perks. If you’ve lost one too many keys and can afford to go digital, it’s definitely a worthy investment.