Out with Keys, in with Smartphones
Editor / Provider: EIFEH STROM, a&s International | Updated: 7/29/2014 | Article type: Hot Topics
The idea of wireless locks is picking up in the residential sector as interest in smart homes grows. Taking advantage of this are several companies who have come out with smart locks for home use. By taking advantage of consumer desires for convenient, mobile solutions, smart locks are making their home debut.
Wireless locks are finding their footing in more verticals. That includes the residential sector, which is seeing some traction in wireless lock adoption. With the mobile trend playing a big role in the smart home and home automation market, as well as the desire for everything to be more convenient, keyless locks seem like a natural next step. Enter smart locks. As the popularity of smart homes continues to grow and the number of smartphone users continues to multiply, the convenience of being able to control everything from lighting to entertainment from a smart device has become more than just novelty: it's become a requirement.
Smart locks that use smart devices as keys may sound like a practical idea since physical keys are easily lost and copied; however, security concerns regarding automatic unlocking and lost phones, among others, makes some consumers nervous. So, is there a market for it? According to Chris Bone, VP of Access Control Solutions for EMEA at ASSA ABLOY, there seems to be. “In the residential sector, it's more about local attitudes to keyless entry,” pointed out Bone. “Scandinavia and parts of Asia, in particular, have been early adopters of wireless entry systems. But these new technologies are moving up the agenda everywhere. Mechanical keys are an old-fashioned technology and people are looking for new solutions that make sense in a digital world.” Currently the most talked about and/or most anticipated smart locks on the market include: the August Smart Lock, Goji Smart Lock, Lockitron, and Kwikset Kevo powered by UniKey.
Startups Cash In
Even though the market for smart locks is new, there is definitely a following of techies eager to get their hands on the technology. As a result, several startups have seen strong support by curious and anxious consumers. Startups like August, Goji, and Lockitron have all become well-known names in the smart lock realm. However, the newness of the smart lock idea is made apparent when trying to buy one from any of the aforementioned companies, as delays have plagued all three of the companies, not an uncommon occurrence for startups. Regardless, the promise of these products and their innovation are keeping home automation and smart home consumers intrigued.
Deadbolts Get Dresse d Up
There are several types of smart locks coming out for consumers to choose from. Things to consider when choosing a smart lock include preference for a lock made to fit over an existing deadbolt or one that replaces the deadbolt. Also, consideration of what type of deadbolt is already in place needs to be made if retrofitting is the chosen option, as certain solutions only work for single-cylinder deadbolts. For example, the August Smart Lock can only be retrofitted onto a single-cylinder deadbolt — the most common type of deadbolt found in North America — and is not compatible with mortise or Europeanstyle cylinders. For those not in North America or with other types of deadbolts, offerings like Goji's smart lock that replaces the existing deadbolt claims to fit most doors in the U.S. and Europe, according to their website. Questions regarding whether a certain smart lock will fit an existing door can be addressed by each individual company, all of which offer to assess whether or not their solution is compatible if a photo of the existing deadlock is emailed to their support team.
Other things to consider when choosing a smart lock is the type of wireless communication protocol the lock uses. By using popular communication protocols such as Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth LE), Z-Wave, and ZigBee, lock companies are looking to appeal to consumers by providing them with easy ways to connect with the protocols most commonly used in home automation and smart home devices.
Like Classic Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE is able to maintain a similar communication range using the same 2.4 Ghz frequencies; however, compared to Classic Bluetooth the amount of power consumed by Bluetooth LE has been considerably reduced, making it ideal for home and security applications such as smart locks. However, one drawback is that Bluetooth LE, also known as Smart Bluetooth, is only available on newer smartphones. For example, Bluetooth LE is available on iPhone 4s, which debuted in October 2011, and newer models, but is only available on Android 4.3 and later, which was only released in July 2013. However, it is interesting to note that even though Bluetooth LE is still quite a new communication protocol, it is the most widely used for smart locks. In fact, August, Goji, Kwikset Kevo, and Lockitron all use the Bluetooth LE protocol. Moving forward, the number of compatible devices will only grow, making Bluetooth LE a good option for smart locks. Overall, popularity of the Bluetooth LE protocol is expected to continue growing, with ABI Research predicting the number of Bluetooth LE devices to reach 133 million by 2018.
Z-Wave is one of the most popular wireless communication protocols used in the residential market. ABI Research noted that Z-Wave enjoys support from consumers, particularly in the DIY segment. The interoperability of Z-Wave's wide portfolio of vendor products gives consumers more choices regardless of the distribution channel or supplier, which is a huge plus. Again, though, despite widespread use with home automation and smart home devices, none of the previously mentioned four smart locks is Z-Wave compatible. The Danalock by Poly-Control, a Denmarkbased company, however, is Z-Wave compatible.
ZigBee, a global, open, low-power, wireless mesh networking standard, is one of the most popular when it comes to home devices. In 2012, ZigBee dominated IEEE 802.15.4 and claimed the top share of node shipments at 4.5 million, according to an August 2013 report by ABI Research. Despite its popularity among home automation and smart home devices, Goji's smart lock is the only one among some of the most talked about smart locks that offers ZigBee compatibility. This may come as a bit of a shock considering that ZigBee is one of the most commonly used communication protocols for home automation and smart home devices. However, considering that not even all ZigBee devices are interoperable, maybe it isn't so surprising.
No Smartphone? No Problem!
Just because the lock is smart does not mean a smartphone is required to use one. Both the Kwikset Kevo and Goji Smart Lock have key fobs available for those without compatible devices. The Kevo fob provides the same touch-to-open feature as an authorized smartphone via Bluetooth LE. A fob comes with the Kwikset Kevo lock and is pre-enrolled with the lock, allowing users to simply press and release the fob's enroll button to activate it, according to their website. In a similar fashion, Goji offers electronic Bluetooth fobs for purchase separately through their website.
As with any technology, concerns regarding the security and safety of smart locks have risen, giving some consumers pause. For the most part, security does not seem to be a major concern for these companies, assuring their products are secure. For example, Goji's website states it has implemented communication protocol and data storage security in accordance with bank industry standards and best practices, which includes public/ private key exchange, 256-bit encryption, and multiple layers of security. Additionally, Goji's mechanical lock is UL-compliant. Similarly, Lockitron and August assert that they use the same security protocols used in electronic banking and robust encryption. Does this mean that these locks are hack-proof? No, but nothing really is, and anyone wanting to hack them would have to go through a lot of trouble. One particular security concern for many is “What if a stranger comes to the door? Will the door auto-unlock when I approach the door?” Most companies say that the option to auto-unlock is optional and can be turned off. This “solution,” though, relies on the fact that users will remember to turn off the function once they are home. To address this problem, the Kwikset Kevo is equipped with the unique patentpending Inside/Outside Intelligence technology. This unique solution claims to be able to detect whether or not the authorized device is inside or outside the home before granting access. Therefore if the device is detected to be inside, approaching the door will not unlock it, preventing unauthorized access. Other common questions such as “What if my phone battery dies?” and “What if I lose my phone?” are also causing consumer distress. Smart lock makers have tried to make this “problem” a non-problem by allowing user to access their accounts through other smart devices or call a customer service line so they can deactivate lost keys. This is exactly the approach Goji took; a simple phone call to Goji's call center or logging into one's account via another smartphone allows a person to disable access to the lost phone.
Don't Throw Your Mechanical Key Just Yet
Smart locks are new and innovative, but new is the key word here. Like any new technology, time is needed to work out the kinks and for the technology to mature. Integration will eventually have to be better addressed as out of the four smart locks mentioned, only the Goji Smart Lock is compatible with one of the two most widely used communication protocols for home use; although, the Kwikset Kevo powered by Unikey has plans to eventually provide ZigBee and Z-Wave compatibility. While compatibility with ZigBee and Z-Wave maybe in the works for the others, other compatibility issues exist as well. Lockitron claims to work with any smartphone, saying older phones can use Lockitron through text message commands, but Lockitron has been experiencing massive delays in shipments, so reviews are still sparse. Goji specifies compatibility with “modern” iPhones — 4s and newer — and Android 4.4 phones with Bluetooth 4.0 ability, but that still leaves out a wide range of smartphones. Similarly, the Kwikset Kevo app is currently only available for download on Apple products including iPhone 4s and newer, as well as newer generations of iPod Touch and iPad; however, an app for Android and Blackberry is underway. Despite these things, in a world where everything is getting smarter and convenience is becoming a standard, smart locks, in time (maybe a long time), could be the next big thing. Until then, don't throw out your mechanical keys just yet.