Smart lock: Unlocking a smarter, more secure home
Editor / Provider: a&s SMAhome | Updated: 8/18/2014 | Article type: Hot Topics
According to a survey by Consumer Reports, 67 percent of Americans rely on deadbolt locks as the primary mean to secure their homes. However, the survey also revealed that 20 percent of Americans leave the front door unlocked at least occasionally. Another problem is that door keys are small infrequently used objects that are easily misplaced. Smart locks set out to solve these problems, with some extra twists.
With the Internet of Things picking up momentum, its residential applications allow device makers to cheaply add wireless connectivity to everything in a home. Wireless connectivity, in conjunction with a strong focus on user experience, sets the stage for new types of residential access control systems. According to a recent report by NextMarket Insights, the global smart lock market will grow from $261 million today to $3.6 billion by 2019.
“The mainstreaming of the smart home is driving innovation in previously forgotten categories of home hardware and systems,” said Michael Wolf, Chief Analyst with NextMarket Insights. “Established security and home hardware companies increasingly face competition from upstarts who are introducing a new breed of smart and connected locks into the market.”
What is a smart lock?
A new type of wireless door lock that allows a user to use mobile devices to remotely lock or unlock the door, send permanent or temporary virtual keys to guests to grant access, and receive push notifications when the door is accessed. Some also integrate with smart home systems. These locks are generally affordable, rather than luxury items.
At the moment, six smart locks have garnered the most media attention because they show the potential of a reimagined residential access control system that can be easy to install and use, and provides additional convenience compared to conventional deadbolt locks like remote access and integration with smart home systems. Push notifications and visitor logs also help boost security. The main theme is to make smartphones the primary key to the door, and a key fob, mechanical key or PIN code as backup plan. However, each company took a different approach with their smart lock designs.
Earlier smart locks, such as those made by Schlage and Yale were based on Z-Wave and Zigbee and were integrated into smart home platforms. However, multiple newer types of smart locks began appearing in 2013, offering direct control and user authentication from a smartphone app. These locks use Bluetooth Smart and WiFi connectivity to make the authentication process more convenient; the protocols are supported by most smartphones, which makes it easier to detect proximity with users carrying key-replacement devices.
The August Smart Lock was funded by angels and designed by Swiss designer Yves Behar. Users can control and manage the lock with an iOS, Android, or web app. Guests who have received a virtual key are able to unlock the August Smart Lock with their smartphones. Users can set the duration for which a virtual key is active, or manually disable them at any time. In addition to recording a visitation log, the lock also send a push notifi cation to a user's smartphone when guests go in or come out of the house.
Lockitron was the first smart lock to be successfully crowdfunded, although multiple design and manufacturing problems have delayed its shipping date long past its originally scheduled one, during which multiple competitors have sprung up and some have beat them to the market. It is a simple smart lock that fi ts directly over an existing deadbolt on the back of a door and is unlocked with a smartphone.
Users can also grant access to friends, family and guests through the app. The lock itself connects to a home network using WiFi, so it can send you notifi cations no matter where you are. Users with smartphones supporting Bluetooth Smart will see the door unlock automatically when an authorized device is in its range of detection. Goji was successfully crowdfunded on Indiegogo. When released, it will offer an additional option to open one's door through customer service representatives, who will be available 24/7. Aside from sending virtual keys, proximity-based unlocking and smartphonecontrolled operations, the smart lock can also snap a photo whenever someone is at the door and sends photo and text alerts to a user's smartphone; it also records all activities and makes the logs available through the Goji smartphone or web app. The Goji Smart lock replaces an existing deadbolt rather than retrofi t onto one and has high-tech-looking units on both the interior and exterior sides of the door.
The exterior-facing unit can display text and be opened to reveal a keyhole for physical keys. Kwikset Kevo debuted on the American reality competition series Shark Tank. Powered by UniKey and back by lock incumbent Kwikset, Kevo was the first of newer types of smart locks on the market. Kevo detects ekeys through Bluetooth, and its tap-to-open feature is a convenient way to open doors. Users do not receive notifi cations each time the door is unlocked, but can look up the lock's complete access history on the smartphone app. “A simple touch of the lock initiates verification between the smart device and the lock, unlocking or locking as a result. The user is no longer required to fi sh for keys, unload packages, pizzas or children from arms, said Dirk Wyckoff, VP of Sales and Marketing of UniKey Technologies. “On top of that, an administrator of the lock can send and delete additional eKeys for access to other people, determine the parameters of usage for those people (time or day, etc.), all without ever surrendering a physical key.”
Smart locks released by two other lock giants Schlage and Yale take a more conservative approach, but then they have been offering these locks for a much longer time. Both feature touchscreen number pads that look bulky and old-school, and do not provide flashy features like the other smart locks do. Both companies offer ZigBee and Z-Wave versions of their locks, which work well with many smart home systems. “We believe that while the smart and connected lock market today is largely Z-Wave and Zigbee based,” said Wolf. “There will be strong demand in coming years for newer direct-connect smart and cloud-connected locks using other radio interfaces."
IS NFC BECOMING A NONFACTOR IN THE SMART HOME?
NFC technology is highly secure and has a better overall power management profile than low energy Bluetooth, and there are clear use cases for the technology in a variety of security, access control, authentication and identification. A few years ago, it seemed like NFC was a serious technology to watch across a number of different segments. The most obvious was retail and payments, where Google threw its support behind NFC as a key technology for contactless payments. As a result, many retailers installed thousands of contactless payment systems with NFC technology over the last five years.
While Google was supportive, the other half of today's modern mobile duopoly has not been. Apple hasn't integrated the technology, at least not yet, and hasn't made clear whether they have any plans to do so anytime soon. Big retailers have been cautious about the technology without Apple's support, and some retailers, like Starbucks, have opted for alternatives like Square card readers. New alternatives and Apple's lack of support has led to waning interest in NFC as a retail payment technology, and recently some retailers who had installed it have actually started to disable the NFC capabilities.
In 2011 Yale, one of the big-three lock makers, announced they would integrate NFC into one their electronic locks and even demoed it at CES 2013, but they never released a NFC-integrated lock and based on my conversations with the company, it doesn't look like one is imminent.
Lockitron, a smart lock startup does have NFC in its forthcoming smart lock, but this is the only one of the new-generation smart locks that I know of with NFC integrated. However, the company is struggling to get locks out to its crowdfunded backers, and even if they do its not clear that this will give any momentum to NFC as an authentication technology for smart locks. Still, even with these few bright spots, it doesn't look to me like we're seeing significant interest in NFC in today's smart home. News in January that Apple had filed a patent for an NFC/Bluetooth LE/Wi-Fi usage in unified mobile payment implementation is a dim sparkle of hope on the horizon, because I think if Apple moves into NFC it could revive the technology. And, by extension, widespread adoption of NFC into iOS devices could give some much needed momentum to NFC in the smart home as well.
While advances in mechanical door locks have made them more secure over the past few thousand years, the relationship between people, doors and door locks have not changed: person + key = entry. With residential doors locks now incorporating IT and wireless connectivity, it seems possible that this relationship can be more convenient, efficient and secure. Perhaps locks can even be built-in to the doors, removing the need for a door knob. However, even though locks are no longer constrained by the complications of mechanical designs, it will be a while before radical changes will be affordable to most people.
The idea of futuristic doors that automatically open and close are nothing new; they can be seen in retail stores, hospitals, offi ce buildings and more. The problem is they are still too expensive for most homeowners, more so when security is added into the mix. “An automated system of your front door opening automatically on your approach in the manner you live your life with the affordable technology present today is not reality,” Wyckoff said. There are also other problems that have yet to be solved in products that cater to the average consumer. “Can every front door be aligned and insulated properly? What are suitable jams and thresholds? How about power availability?” Wyckoff asked. “Yes, but not at an acceptable cost to the masses. When addressing the mass market, we must respect what their front door looks like; in North America, it's a traditional door with a deadbolt cylindrical tubular lock. That door may swell with the seasons. That door may not quite latch properly and the deadbolt may even be used to simply hold it shut from a gentle breeze.”
“If I had a lot of extra money, there are materials and craftspeople that could install a very fancy entry system for me,” Wyckoff continued. “That system may not have UniKey's touch-to-open entry making it simple, but I bet it would be nice; I may just need to take out a second mortgage in order to pay for it. One of my kids may even have to forego college.”
The trade-off between what is possible and its cost of implementation places a limit at the front door, so it is safe to assume that the door itself will not go through any radical changes in the near future. However, the locks that are fitted onto the doors will see some interesting developments over the next few years. The standard key has worked for hundreds of years and is based on mature technology and manufacturing processes, making them cheap to produce and easy to replace. Smartphones, on the other hand, are much more expensive to replace—although opening the front door would probably be the least of a user's worries if the smartphone is misplaced. While it is unlikely that smartphones will replace mechanical keys in the near future, the introduction of smart locks show a glimmer of hope for better residential access control systems going mainstream.
Video Doorphones Move Beyond Access Control
Video doorphones, or video intercoms, have evolved from mere entry management systems into into multifunctional devices that support network connectivity and home automation features. Video doorphones for smart home serve as the core of a smart home, integrating security, communication and home automation features. Video door phone systems generally comprises control monitors and and door stations with built-in megapixel cameras. Popular features consist of inter-building and remote communication, access control and guest monitoring.
However, manufacturers have a hard time differentiating their products from those of competitors because the industrial design needs to be conservative to be compatible with many types of decor and cannot follow design trends because product life is often tens of years. New features are also difficult to introduce because the system needs to be reliable. According to Amroad, “when functions are very similar, establishing a positive emotional connection with users is the key. Hence, design and quality are an important driver to differentiate a brand from another. Making durable products, from the aesthetical and material point of view, is essential. “Deployment is another big differentiation factor. Right now, installing these products is difficult, time-consuming, expensive. It is a task that can be completed only by highly trained technicians. However, in the next few months well designed systems will allow for quick and reliable installations in a matter of minutes, resulting in lower prices for clients and more efficient maintenance.”