Smart dørlås/Smart door lock

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A smart door lock is very useful, but some caution should be exerted

Maybe because a smart door lock involves somethings so fundamental in terms of safety as locking the home, this is a product category that has seen a more gradual development of a more limited product selection than most other categories. But this has gradually changed and there are now some alternatives to choose among, built on slightly different principles and with somewhat different functionality:

  • Locks where the whole cylinder lock and door handle is replaced with a smart version that gives motorized operation of the lock, where, e.g., Danalock and Yale offer products.

  • Deadbolt locks (which are more used in the US) and where this is made “smart” by either installing a device on the inside of the door that operates the knob to lock/unlock it or by replacing the whole lock. A couple of manufacturers of this type are August, Netatmo, and Schlage.

  • There is also a smart lock for the European type cylinder lock, but based on this principle of only installing a smart device on the inside of the door that turns it. As far as I know, both Nuki and HomeControl/Wattle offer such a product.

Also other factors separate the different locks, for example whether they have been prepared for installation of dedicated modules that offer integration with alarm companies (the way Yale and Verisure cooperate), possibilities for integration with other types of components, support for different platforms/ecosystems, etc. In any case, as far as I know, all smart door locks are battery-run so there is no need for connecting them to external power.

I vårt smarte hjem har vi (kanskje naturlig nok) en smart dørlås bare ett sted i huset, men det skal dog sies at jeg har vurdert muligheten for å montere en på den ene verandadøren, noe som synes umulig (se det enkelte rom for mer detaljert informasjon om fysisk oppsett og programmering av løsningene):

In our smart home, we have (quite logically) installed a smart door lock in only place in the house, but it should be mentioned that I have considered installing one at a patio door, but this seems infeasible (see the individual room for more detailed information about the physical setup and programming of the solutions):

  • Outer hallway, where a Yale smart door lock has been installed on the front door, and integrated with the alarm system

The basic functionality of a smart door lock is obvious, but it can still serve different purposes and offer different types of benefits:

More convenient control/remote control of the lock

For a door lock, this involves several aspects:

  • Depending on which lock is installed and how one chooses to set it up, it can be operated using a keyfob, PIN code (even in combination with a keyfob), from a smartphone/watch/etc., or by voice (notice that not all locks/platforms allow voice control of a door lock). One can therefore avoid having to remember to bring a key (or keyfob) and still open the door.

  • Most locks also offer programming of automatic locking, which saves an “operation” and saves having to remember to lock when going out.

  • Remote operation of the lock, also when away from home. This provides additional opportunities; if having left home and forgotten to lock the door, it can be locked from anywhere, one can unlock the door from the living room to let in guests, craftspeople coming to do work in the home can be let in from work and there is no need to give them a key, etc.

For basis of door locks this way, there is really no programming involved, this is decided and implemented at installation and setup.

Give others access to the home

This was partly mentioned above regarding craftspeople, but then in the sense of remotely operating the lock to let someone in. It is also possible to give family member not living in the home/a neighbor/etc. permanent access, either by giving them the code to the lock or by creating a "guest user" for them. The benefits are that it eliminates the need for creating/handing over keys and not in the least that the access can be revoked when it is no longer needed (without awkward situations of asking for a physical key back).

This is also a basic function of most smart locks and something that is easy to set up, either in the manufacturer's app or in the platform used.

Programming/automating the door lock

This is one level up in complexity and builds on utilizing the remote control capability of the door lock to set up more or less complicated rules for when it should be locked/unlocked. Notice, though, that not all locks/platforms allow programming of the locking function itself, probably because this could potentially allow users to make mistakes and define rules that leave the door unlocked when it should be locked. Some examples could be:

  • Time-based, so that the door is locked at a given time in the evening

  • Control based on location data (typically from a smartphone), so that the door is unlocked when a "certified" member of the household arrives home

Programming of simple rules based on time, sensor signals, or location data can fairly easily be set up in for example the Home app, while more advanced rules involving conditions might require more powerful apps/platforms to set up.

Integration of door lock in more extensive scenes/programs

This is not principally much different from the simpler forms of automations mentioned above, but involves that smart locks are included in more extensive collections of actions that can be started with one command. Such a scene/program can be activated manually, from a smartphone, tablet, smart assistant, etc., or automatically, like outlined above, based on time, sensor, location, etc. A couple of examples of such “scenes” can be:

  • “Good morning” scene, activated at a fix time every weekday, can turn on selected lights throughout the home, unlock the front door, turn on the radio, start the coffee machine, and turn up the temperature

  • “Goodbye” scene, which is activated when the last person leaves the home, turns of all/most lights, locks the front door, lowers the temperature, turns off on any radio/TV that was on, and locks the front door

Such scenes can be programmed in the Home app or similar apps.

Improved security

This is not really an application area, but a benefit of smart door locks, which materializes in several ways:

  • In that the door no longer needs a key to operate, there is no risk that someone in the household/others that have been issued a key loses it, and someone finding it that should not have access to it. One can always argue that this is just as much of a problem if the smart lock is operated by a keyfob (and not combined with a code), but if that is lost, one can easily deactivate the keyfob instead of having to replace the lock if a key is lost. Furthermore, one can argue that it is easier having an entry PIN go astray than a physical key, but again, changing the code is much easier than the changing the lock.

  • If utilizing the auto-locking function of the lock, there is no risk of leaving home with the door unlocked..

  • And even if not having set the lock to auto-lock, a smart lock allows checking the lock state from anywhere, thus eliminating any concerns about whether it is locked or not. And should it be open, it is possible to lock it right away, without having to go home to do so.

Physical installation

As the overview of the different types of smart locks indicates, the installation process will depend on which type to be installed:

  • Locks where the whole cylinder lock and door handle is replaced, this can involve some effort and the need for adjustments. For our sake, we had this done as part of a package price for our Yale lock, but it wouldn't have been that difficult doing it ourselves–it mostly involves removing the old lock, putting in the new one, and possibly making some adjustments to the door/frame. What became a problem in our case was that as the seasons changed, the door would not always lock, something I eventually fixed by replacing the  box staple.

  • Deadbolt locks, these I have no experience with, but seems somewhat easier to install than where the whole lock and handle must be replaced. Still, I have no doubt that this operation might also involve adjustments, especially in cases where the whole lock and deadbolt are replaced.

  • Smart cylinder lock with a smart unit installed in the inside of the door, from the instructions provided by the manufacturer, these seems very easy to install, but requires the lock/knob to meet a number of criteria for this to be a feasible alternative.