I once met a locksmith who, when he applied for an apprenticeship in the early 80s, was told, “Don’t bother, mate; everything’s going to be electronic by the mid-90s.” Well, that didn’t really happen, did it?
But smart locks – locks that you can control from your phone or computer from anywhere in the world – are the future, plain and simple.
Sure, it’ll be a while before every household has one, but they’re making their way onto doors up and down the country, and rightly so.
I had the pleasure of going to a Yale Smart Living talk in London recently, where I was introduced to their range of smart locks and electronic home security systems. Here’s what I found:
1. They’re easy to use
This is perhaps the most important thing about them: they couldn’t be simpler. Whether you’re a technophobe plays no role in smart locks, because all you need to know is how to tap a couple of buttons.
There’s absolutely no thought involved whatsoever, which makes this technology so easy to use.
2. They give you and your family greater flexibility
It’s your daughter’s wedding, but you also need to schedule an unavoidable visit from the electrician? No problem.
Has your child forgotten their textbooks at home but you’re not around to open the door for them? No problem.
Smart locks enable you to open doors remotely, so that the electrician or the child can be let into the property without you having to be there. You can either do this via your phone, or some smart locks have electronic pin codes.
While the scenarios above are arguably not the most common, the smart lock proves a boon whenever it’s needed.
On top of this, you can keep track of when the electrician comes and goes. This makes it a handy tool if you are paying for services by the hour.
3. It’s all easily integrated with other home control systems
Instead of having one app to control your door, one app to control your heating, and yet another for turning the sprinklers on, many smart locking systems are designed to work alongside other smart living products, e.g. Hive.
In other words, from one app on your phone you can control your heating, sprinkler, locks, boilers, and on–off switches for various household appliances.
This is unbelievably important: if you have to get to know a new app for every product you try to ‘smartify,’ then you’re only going to get frustrated and won’t use the kit to its fullest.
Integration with other devices is the key to you having a good experience with it all.
4. There are fail-safes in case you don’t have your phone with you
This one is pretty obvious, but it’s worth mention. If the tech fails, there’s usually some sort of override or way to get around an issue. Some smart locks come with a key override, for example.
If the battery runs out, it’s also easy to supply temporary power through concealed battery ports. In other words, if i-Robot happens, and your technology conspires against you, you are still the overlord.
5. It’s not just locks, either!
There are alarms and CCTV cameras on the market, too, that are all very user-friendly and can be installed with relative ease.
If you’re at the beach in Barbados and remember you forgot to turn the alarm on, it’s not too late!
And if bad news reaches you on the same beach, e.g. that your alarm has been triggered, your smart CCTV can be set up to kick in automatically.
Instead of filming an empty house while you’re away, taking up lots of expensive disk space, it will start recording only when it’s needed. You can see what the interloper looks like and immediately forward the image to the police. Cool, huh?
Though there’s always a but…
6. Current set-ups are only practical and secure for uPVC multi-point locking systems
Currently, the mass-market smart locks come in two forms: a nightlatch type and a multi-point type. The multi-point model is nice and secure, seeing as it interacts with all the locking points up and down the door.
Things look less good for the model on wooden doors. The remote opening features on the lock are only useful if the nightlatch is the only lock on the door. Normally, you would want some sort of deadlock on the door, too, to make the door secure at two points.
If smart locks reduce door’s security down to one single lock, you may need to consider additional security measures such as CCTV and intruder alarms, and these are no real substitute for a secure and ‘well locked’ door.
7. Despite being quite straightforward to use, it’s not standard fare for locksmiths
While many of these products are slowly finding their way into the everyday consumer market and are thus not as expensive as they used to be, it’s (a) still a premium product; and (b) maintenance costs may be higher in the long run, since you’ll probably need a specialist engineer who is familiar with these products to come out to help, if you run into trouble. Not to mention if you run into trouble out of hours.
Nevertheless, there’s no need to listen to our scaremongering. Locks don’t go wrong too often!
8. They’re not very versatile at the moment
Mass-market smart locks come in two forms only, at the moment (see: no. 6 above), which means not every door can have them. A non-multi-point uPVC door won’t accept them, for example.
You’re also stuck with a ‘look’ that you may not like. In a word, some may find these locks ugly.
The aesthetically discerning homeowner may want to settle for something that looks more ‘classic,’ and it’s no surprise that the beautiful Queen of All Doors at No. 10 doesn’t have any electronic features.
9. There’s no point in using them for a business. Better off using a fob system
Many of the things that make domestic smart locks cool and handy have been around in the office world for a long time. In fact, it gets better:
Fob systems can allow you to control who goes in and out of a door/building at whichever times you choose. Want to secure an office so that only the boss, the PA and the cleaner can enter, but you also don’t want the cleaner to enter outside the lunch break? Easy-peasy.
Fob systems are great when there are all kinds of different people going in and out of a building. Instead of cutting spare keys for every door, you can simply program a fob to open any door you choose on your system, and you can deprogram the fob afterwards, so there’s no risk of anybody secretly gaining access via a key.
This is, in essence, an advanced solution to the ‘electrician problem’ from no. 2 above. Though you’d need a lot of tradesmen visiting your house to warrant the use of a fob system. And if you’re worried about the milkman getting up to things, perhaps you should try CCTV!