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Will smart locks open the door for home automation?

Amber Bouman | Jan. 10, 2014
Home automation has a public relations problem: If the non-tech obsessed public views it at all, it views it as complicated, intimidating and possibly unnecessary. And home-automation technology is still in an emerging state, with many products still working out various kinks and tangles—understandable, maybe, but still frustrating for any person brave enough to give home-automation systems a try.

okidokeys inside view

LAS VEGAS — Home automation has a public relations problem: If the non-tech obsessed public views it at all, it views it as complicated, intimidating and possibly unnecessary. And home-automation technology is still in an emerging state, with many products still working out various kinks and tangles—understandable, maybe, but still frustrating for any person brave enough to give home-automation systems a try. 

Kwikset's Kevo lock looks like a normal deadbolt, but it's actually a smart lock that lights up and unlocks when you tap it.

However, people seem more likely to try out home-automation tech when it comes a la carte. Color-changing Bluetooth light bulbs and smart thermostats are good examples, and another area that’s on the rise seems to be smart locks.

I kept running into smart locks at booth after booth after booth. From the all-inclusive Okidokeys, to the sleek Goji, to the deceptively standard looking Kevo, smart locks were making themselves known on the show floor.

Each of these smart locks have slightly different features and advantages to make them appealing to consumers looking for smarter functionality at their front door—Okidokeys locks can be unlocked with either smart or feature phones, the Goji Smart Lock will not only greet you by name but will also send you a picture alert of who is at your front door, and the Kevo lock can recognize your phone as you approach and will unlock your door when you tap the lock.

The Okidokeys lock, like most smart locks, uses Bluetooth, can generate temporary keys, and will even notify you when people lock or unlock your door.

However, there are also similarities: Most of the locks I saw operated via battery power, most use Bluetooth functionality, almost all of them included the traditional key-and-lock structure into the device as well (and many also provide a key fob or alternate method of access for those who don’t have access to an app or web dashboard), most eschewed subscriptions or any fee-based services, almost every one featured a notification system of alerts via text or email, and more than one used “rules” or “modes” that are similar to IFTTT recipes.

The majority of the smart locks that I saw on the show floor were not part of a complete home automation system (although a few did feature Z-Wave capabilities, meaning they could potentially be added to a larger system), and all focused on serving a common need: An easier way for you to control access to your home from anywhere.

 

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