Out of all of the smart home tech out there, smart locks have probably gotten the worst press. And it's not totally unjustified. After all, we're talking about the security of your home here.
It's totally natural to be a little wary of how secure smart locks really are. You may have heard things like, "Hackers can easily bypass any smart lock" or "What if you lose or break your phone, do you have to call a locksmith?"
Well, I'm here to answer some of those questions and dispel as many myths as I can. I just wrapped up two months of testing a number of smart locks for our upcoming roundup and I've learned quite a lot about how they work. Hopefully, like me, you'll come away realizing there's no reason to fear the humble smart lock.
How does a smart lock work?
When it comes down to it, there are three types of smart locks. The kind that fit over your existing deadbolt (like the Sesame), those that replace half of your deadbolt mechanism (like the August Smart Lock), and those that replace the entire thing (like the Yale Touchscreen Deadbolt). None are intrinsically better than the others, but before you spend a couple hundred dollars on a lock, do your research and find what's the best fit for you.
Of course, before you get to that point there are a few other things you should look into first. When you close your door, do you have to push or pull it to get the deadbolt to turn smoothly? Is your door thick enough to fit a smart lock? I learned the hard way that quirks like the two I mentioned could mean hours of tedious labor and headaches for anyone looking to install their first smart lock.
Is a smart lock as secure as a normal lock?
First things first, you should know that you're buying out of convenience and not improved security. Broadly speaking, a smart lock is just as good at securing your home as a dumb lock, sometimes even using the same deadbolt system.
There are models, like the Kwikset Premis, that offer built-in alarms that will sound if the lock is tampered with, but there aren't many. If you're really concerned about security, you'd be better off investing in some indoor or outdoor security cameras.
And while it might not offer an upgrade in terms of security, a smart lock can significantly improve something you use every single day. And that comes down to the features of the lock you buy.
What features do smart locks have?
While you can find a lot of variety in feature sets, there are some standouts that really make a smart lock worth the money. Perhaps the biggest and most well-known is the ability to use virtual keys. These can take a lot of different forms–numerical PIN code, proximity to your phone, a button in an app on your phone, and more—but they all function on a similar principle: Making it easier to get in and out of your home.
Likewise, virtual keys often come paired with a history log of who's unlocked and locked your door (if your lock offers multiple user keys) and the ability to create unique entry codes for visitors. But what about the rest of your smart home? How does your lock interact with that?
How will my smart lock work with the rest of my smart home?
Depending on how you've set up your smart home, there's a lot to consider when it comes to a unified ecosystem. Are you using Apple HomeKit or Samsung SmartThings? Amazon Echo or Google Home? There are locks that work with each of these ecosystems, and then some that only connect directly to your phone. You just want to be careful and make sure the lock you have your heart set on is compatible first.
August and Schlage both have locks that work with Apple HomeKit. Yale and Schlage offers locks that are Z-Wave compatible and work with the Amazon Echo via a Wink or SmartThings hub.
While a smart lock might not add beefed up security, there's no denying the convenience it adds—or the cool factor. Trust me, there's something that's just so satisfying about having a friend come over to visit and being able to unlock your front door from your couch with your phone. Truly, we're living in the future.