Do I Need a Smart Lock for My Home?
Whether it’s twenty yards down the road, or twenty days into your round-the-world trip, we’ve all been struck by that familiar pang of anxiety and sudden adrenaline surge. Something’s wrong, but what is it? Did I turn off the gas? Did I leave the iron on? No—did I lock the front door?
You scan your recent memories for the image, sound, or feeling of turning the key just before you left, but it’s never there. Instead, you have a hazy vision of frantic pocket patting and trying to find your phone or wallet before stepping out the door. At best, you can screech to a halt to turn back and check the door. At worst, you resign yourself to the fact that your home is now the residence of countless raccoons and all-night partiers. Thankfully, with the development of smart locks, you can make that anxiety a thing of the past. Though the benefits of a smart lock system don’t end there.
What Is a Smart Lock?
A smart lock is a new line in home security, and along with the likes of Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, it’s the next step towards creating the smart homes of the future. Put simply, it’s an electronic lock that can be locked or unlocked remotely using your smartphone by using the Z-Wave wireless protocol. For those of you who are more tech-savvy, this is a communications protocol based on mesh network topology designed for use in home automation, and uses low-energy radio waves to communicate between appliances with security assured by the Security 2 (S2) framework.
For those less tech-minded, Z-Wave is similar to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi—except it requires less power to run, offers greater range, and sets higher security standards.
Removing the need for physical keys, which can be easily lost or forgotten, smart locks secure your home with a digital cryptographic key code. This technology can even unlock the door for you when it senses you’re close to home by setting up a perimeter around your property—a feature called geofencing.
Are Smart Locks Safe?
There has been some debate over the safety of smart locks as these products have rolled out across the U.S., with some claiming that their security assurances have been overhyped. So let’s look at their vulnerabilities and safety functions to see whether you can rely on a smart lock compared to a traditional lock to protect your home from intruders.
As opposed to the nuts and bolts locks that we’re used to, digital smart locks are vulnerable to hacking. However, this doesn’t mean that they are vulnerable. Previous iterations which relied upon Bluetooth were found to have vulnerabilities, but more advanced devices such as our favorite smart lock utilize the much safer Z-Wave protocol to enhance security.
It’s true that, in the unlikely event that anyone gains access to your device —either by stealing your phone, or simply using your it when you’re not looking—he or she might be able to compromise the smart lock by changing settings. However, smartphone manufacturers are adding more sophisticated verification controls by requiring fingerprints, longer passcodes, and facial recognition to their products to improve the security of their devices—decreasing the chances of your device being compromised. If you’re still feeling hesitant about smart locks, but you’re very interested in adding one to your front door, set up two-factor authentication on your smartphone for greater security.
With a traditional lock on your door, there’s no way of knowing who has a key to access your property, or when they may choose to use it. Smart locks allow you to secure your home and only grant access to certain individuals. You can even set access to certain days or between certain time frames to further limit entry to your home.
In combination with a smart doorbell, you will be able to monitor who is at your door from wherever you are and grant them access remotely. Perfect for letting the dog-sitter in when you’re at the office or on vacation.
What to Look for in a Smart Lock?
So the internet of things (IoT) has got your attention, and a smart lock sounds right up your street, but how do you go about choosing the right device for your home? Let’s take a look at the key factors to consider when buying a smart lock.
When it comes to connectivity, smart locks basically come in three flavors: Z-Wave enabled, Wi-Fi enabled or Bluetooth enabled. As discussed above, Bluetooth systems are more vulnerable to hacking, but they also require that you’re in close proximity to the smart lock in order to control the system.
Wi-Fi systems are more robust in their security protocols and provide greater access, however, many of these consume more power and require constant network access to work.
Designed with home automation in mind, Z-Wave systems are highly secure, consume far less electricity and have a greater access range. You may, however, need a smart home hub to control and manage the lock from your phone.
As we move further towards the IoT, more and more of our devices will be connected to our smartphones. This means the devices you install should be interoperable with other products in your home, otherwise you’ll only end up replacing them further down the road.
In this case, Z-Wave locks rule the roost. Designing products to work over universal hubs, the Z-Wave Alliance—a global consortium of 300+ companies creating products and services powered by Z-Wave—are pushing for device integration throughout the smart home. One partner of the Alliance is Amazon, meaning that you can use your Alexa device to control your lock with voice commands. Pretty neat.
But it doesn’t end there. Any ZigBee or Z-Wave enabled device should be able to integrate with your smart lock. For instance, you could program your hub to turn on a smart lighting system as soon as your smart lock is unlocked. You could even set the colour of the lights depending on who opens the door with a specific user code.
As with any home security system, you’ll want an alarm to not only deter intruders, but inform you if someone is trying to break-in. Smart locks themselves will not come complete with a built-in alarm, so you’ll need to purchase one of these separately. Though, as we outlined above, Z-Wave devices are interoperable with a range of other smart home products including home alarm systems.
Some smart locks send automatic alerts however, so you get a push notification if someone unlocks your door when no one is supposed to be home. If you have a video feed inside or outside your door, like with a smart doorbell camera, you can investigate right from your phone.
Keyed or Keyless
When it comes to installing a smart lock, you can choose whether to convert your entire deadbolt into a smart lock, or simply replace the interior mechanism. In the case of the latter you get to keep your key for access from the outside, but also have the added bonus of being able to open your door using your phone. This does, however, mean that you’re still vulnerable to key-loss or theft or lock picking, and your options for ‘semi-conversions’ are more limited.
With a full replacement, you can choose from a wide range of products and can have a keypad installed on the exterior of your door to grant friends and family access without the need for a fob or smartphone.
Although not major concerns, there are a few other things to consider before converting your current deadbolt to a smart lock.
Are You Renting?
If you are renting a property, it may go against your rental agreement to replace the lock on your property, or make other alterations to your home. As such, it’s highly recommended that you ask your landlord whether you can install a smart lock before you purchase the product. You should also bear in mind that landlords will retain a right of entry and may ask for a passcode or key to enter the property.
How Well Does Your Door Close?
In many older properties, you will find that the door is slightly misaligned and/or doesn’t close flush. This may be a problem when it comes to installing a smart lock as the bolt will need to be able to extend and retract by itself without you having to push or pull the door. To fix this problem you may simply need to sand a portion of the door or frame, though in some circumstances you may need to replace the door itself.
Is There Anything Obstructing the Thumbturn?
The internal thumbturn on smart locks is generally far larger than traditional locks. Having bevels or other decorative features cut into the door may make installation difficult or impossible, so check your dimension before ordering.
The Benefits of a Smart Lock
So we’ve been through how smart locks work and what to consider when buying one, but aside from being able to go keyless, why bother installing a smart lock?
Well, as we’ve alluded to already, IoT is on its way. That means that in the near future we are going to see many mechanical processes made digital, and smart locks are just one piece of the bigger puzzle, especially when it comes to home security.
The additional security layer offered by these new locks means that you always know who has access to your home, and can be less concerned about where your keys are. Those frantic searches through all the pockets of all your clothes will be a thing of the past. Plus, if you do run out of the house without locking the door, you can remotely lock your house straight from your phone without trudging back to check.
For this reason, smart locks introduce a whole new level of convenience to managing your home. Access codes are an excellent option for school-age children and teenagers who tend to misplace or lose keys. Got friends or family coming over for the weekend? Simply issue them with a virtual key to access, or supply them with a code to get in. The same goes for your dog walker, house cleaner, and handymen.
More importantly, you can keep people out by granting access only at certain times – we’re looking at you, sneaky realtors!
Check out the Vivint Smart Lock. If you find that this lock makes sense for your home, you’re in luck! Installation couldn’t be simpler. A professional installer will come over to set up your new lock for you. The installer will run you through how it works, show you how to program the lock, add or delete codes, and manage permissions from the Vivint smartphone app.
If security, convenience, and control are a concern for you, Vivint’s Smart Lock is the perfect solution. Allowing you to monitor your property, remotely lock your door, grant access to friends and family, and do away with errant keys, embrace the smart home of the future!