Until a few years ago, smart door locks only existed in our imaginations. Today, this technology is commonplace. It’s real, and many companies have ventured into producing these smart security devices.

Finally, you can now have that smart home you have been dreaming of for so long. First, they come up with thermostat systems that you could switch on using your Smartphone and then followed voice controlled sound systems. Adding a smart lock to that equation makes you edge closer to living in the future smart home today.

But, you could be asking a few silent questions like, what are smart door locks? How do they work? Can they really guarantee the security of my home? Which is the best smart lock for me? Luckily for you, I’ll answer these questions and more in this smart door lock guide.

What Is A Smart Door Lock?

A smart lock is a form of keyless electronic door lock that used Bluetooth, Z-Wave or Wi-Fi connectivity to communicate with other devices. This can happen through a special kind of a fob or via an app you install in your Smartphone.

When the fob or Smartphone gets into proximity with the door lock, it opens automatically. Do you know what that means?

You have keyless access to your house. Locking yourself in or out because you’ve lost your door keys is no more. It also means an end to crazy key searches in a badly cluttered bag or assuming a terrible posture to open the door while carrying something heavy like shopping or a child.

Does this mean no one else has access to your home? Of course yes, unless you give them a temporary key that allows them to access your house for a specified duration.

So, what happens when you are out, and you want someone to access your house to care for that pet you left behind? It’s easy. You just send them a key in a message, and they can use their phone or another enabled device to open the door lock. Once they are done, the key becomes invalid.

Some advanced electronic door locks are so smart that they connect with other devices in your home. For instance, your electronic lock can relay a message to your heating system when it detects you have stepped out of the house and the thermostat will automatically switch off or go into a standby mode until you return home.

How Do Smart Locks Work?

Similar to the traditional door locks; smart locks have two components – a lock and a key. You could protest at this because initially, I termed thus device keyless. Well in literal terms; there is a key but not a physical one.

A Smartphone or a specialized key fob that is explicitly configured for this purpose wirelessly performs the authentication necessary to unlock the door automatically. An electronic door lock key sends instructions to the electromechanical lock to either lock or open. It uses a wireless protocol such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or ZWave and a cryptogenic key to execute the process of authorization.

Smart door locks are capable of denying or granting access remotely through a mobile app. A few brands include a built-in Wi-Fi connection to allow you to monitor features like access notifications or cameras to show you the individual seeking access. More advanced brands can work with a smart doorbell to let you see if anyone is at the door.

Are Smart Door Locks Safe?

If I tell someone I have an entirely smart home; the next question is whether I’m sure an intelligent door lock is safe. It’s a great question because people feel insecure when it comes to the security of internet-enabled devices. The stakes are even higher if it involves the safety of your home and family.

Before I answer this question, let me state something. Not even the most advanced smart lock or most sophisticated traditional lock can stop a determined criminal from gaining access into your home. It does not take a long time a determined burglar to learn how to pick dumb locks.

Locks on residential front doors are designed to keep criminals and other unwanted creatures from entering your house. A criminal only tries to push his luck. He or she will resort to kicking the door in without bothering to hack your electronic door lock.

One thing for sure is that a smart home gives the impression that you have lots of money and that there are goodies behind that door. You can improve your security by installing a smart door lock with a camera and an upgraded security strike plate. Besides, you can install a visible security camera – criminals hate these. A monitored alarm system can also be a significant deterrent to invaders.

Can smart locks be hacked? All devices that use internet connection are at risk of hacking. Your smart lock is not different. However, the chances that someone would want to hack your electronic lock are close to none.

A smart lock that is synced with an alarm or a home automation system is configured to utilize top-grade AES encrypted Z-Wave technology. No one has ever compromised this system as far as I know. Business grade VPNs also uses this kind of encryption.

Electronic smart locks that use Wi-FI connectivity use SSL encryption which similar to what your banks use to protect your money. You can only attract a hacker is you have a billion worth of diamond and other goodies behind your door.

You may like my argument, but the biggest threat to your smart lock security is you. But how can this be? Encryptions use passwords to give you access. Your smart door device provider will ask you to pick a username and a password only known to you while configuring the device for you.

You’d be too idiotic to use the same username and password you use in social media or elsewhere. I can guarantee you that someone will hack your smart door sooner or later. A hacker won’t do this to gain entry into your home but to access your bank account and run off with your hard-earned funds.

In summary, I would say electronic locks are just as safe as your traditional dumb lock. They are even more secure if you can add other security upgrades and use some level of modishness when picking username and password for your lock.

Best Electronic Door Locks for You

Smart locks designed explicitly for consumers like you, and I have been on the market for a long time. Only now is the technology gaining the trust of homeowners especially the ones that wish to have fully automated smart homes.

If you have been dreaming of having a future home now, then you can benefit from a few products that many people thought existed only for use by science fiction films. I present you with 4 of the best smart door locks for you.

1. Kwikset Kevo Touch-to-Open Smart Lock (2nd Gen)

Kwikset is one of the most successful companies when it comes to smart locks. The 2nd generation of Kevo Touch-to-Open Smart Lock offers you an opportunity to secure your home intelligently. Powered by your Bluetooth and Smartphone, this smart lock guarantees you won’t have to fumble with your keys ever again.

If you have experience with Kwikset Kevo 1st generation, you’ll be glad to upgrade to the second generation. It comes with more refined user experience, added security features and sleeker design.

The Kevo 2nd Gen features the latest version of the Kwikset patented SmartKey Security. You can lock or unlock your single cylinder Bluetooth enabled deadbolt in three ways. Just touch the outer part of the deadbolt or use a key to open it from the outside. It also locks and unlocks via a turnpiece from the interior.

If you purchase the 2nd Gen Kevo Touch-to-Open Smart Lock, you’ll also get an In-home Locking and Unlocking from your smart device as long as it is within Bluetooth range of the electronic door lock. You have the option to use a fob (sold separately) or a traditional key but with more advanced SmartKey security.

Greatest Features at a Glance

  • Works with Alexa voice commands via a Kevo Plus hub (sold separately)
  • Allows remote lock access and monitoring through Kevo Plus hub (sold separately)
  • 3rd Gen Kevo app offers a quicker and more reliable connection
  • Compact and sleeker metal interior for improved setup experience
  • Lets you send and manage eKey access via your Smartphone plus receive notifications and monitor the lock history
  • Compatible with select Android 5.0 or higher devices and iPhone 4S and higher
  • Works with an improved traditional SmartKey, a fob and Smartphone

Possible Drawbacks

Although the lock is useful, reliable and convenient, the price of the smart lock itself plus the required accessory can be costly.

2. August Smart Lock

The August Smart Lock 3rd Gen offers you an opportunity to live in a futuristic home now. You can just add secure keyless access to your home with this electronic lock for your front door. Use your phone or Smartphone to unlock and lock the door. It gives you the chance to track people as they enter and leave your houses, all from your Smartphone.

Also, you can give keyless access to friends, family, housekeepers, and nannies as well as other home services without having to copy keys or deal with lost keys. This is possible through the August app. The August Smart Lock connects with the current single-cylinder deadbolt on your door so that you can use your regular keys.

With August’s patented DoorSense technology, you’ll quickly know when your door is fully closed and locked. Even more interesting is that the device will make the door lock itself the moment it detects you have left. The technology unlocks the door automatically when it senses your arrival.

To remotely lock or unlock and monitor your door, add an August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge (sold separately). This very connection also lets you integrate with Google Assistant, Alexa Voice Command, Home Away Simplisafe and Airbnb among other smart home technologies.

August Smart Lock, 3rd Gen Technology is incredibly easy and quick to install. When you order this device, the package will include a step by step installation manual. It’s a DIY installation that takes only about 10 minutes and requires just a screwdriver.

Greatest Features at a Glance

  • Lets you open and unlock your front door with your Smartphone.
  • Control key access to anyone from anywhere using the August app.
  • Opens the door automatically when you arrive and automatically locks it closed when you leave.
  • Compatible with a majority of single-cylinder deadbolts allowing you to keep your existing keys and hardware
  • Readily attaches to the deadbolt you currently have so everyone with access can still use their preexisting keys.
  • Works with Alexia, Google Assistant, Airbnb, and Home Away Simplisafe among others via August Connect Wi-Fi bridge (sold by a third party)
  • Package includes the August Smart Lock, DoorSense, Lock adapter, and mounting hardware and four pieces of AA-size batteries.
  • Uses Bluetooth connectivity

Possible Drawbacks

The DoorSense technology is excellent but may be unreliable at times requiring you to recalibrate it many times to work.

3. August Smart Lock Pro + Connect

This product is for those serious about fully automating their homes. It is technologically advanced and works with your all the three voice assistant devices (Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant) to control and monitor your front door from any location. You can unlock and lock your door with ease, control who enters and leaves and regulate keyless access all from your mobile device.

As with the August Smart Lock I described earlier, this Pro version automatically locks the door when you step out. It also detects when you arrive back home and automatically unlocks the door for you. These actions happen very fast making these electronic door locks from August the choice of many automated homeowners.

One thing you’ll love about this smart lock is that it gives you the opportunity to upgrade your existing regular lock. Using a screwdriver, simply attach it to your existing deadbolt on the interior aspect of your door. Your regular keys will still work, but you’ll have a more enhanced security system.

A beautiful feature that sets the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect apart is Apple HomeKit compatibility. Thus you can control your smart lock with your voice with an Apple Watch, iPhone, HomePod, Apple TV or iPad. Very few brands have achieved this.

Security is paramount. So, August has included sophisticated built-in security features to ensure that your lock is tamperproof. The brand uses at least 2-factor authentication to make sure there is the highest level of security. These include what August calls Bluetooth Energy (BLE) encryption and an additional encryption mode.

What if you lose your phone? You merely visit lostphone.august.com where you’ll find how to disable your app as well as all the virtual keys on any other associated smart devices.

Greatest Features at a Glance

  • August app allows you to have total control of your door lock
  • Allow you to upgrade your pre-existing lock so that your regular keys can still work
  • Apple HomeKit enabled so you can voice control your lock from various Apple devices
  • Universal voice compatibility lets you ask Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant to control or tell you the status of your lock
  • Auto-unlock feature detects when you arrive and opens the lock. Auto-lock does the opposite.
  • Uses Z-Wave Plus alien technology which integrates with a wide selection of home security and surveillance systems.
  • Two-factor authentication and phone lost feature for maximum protection

Possible Drawback

The auto-unlock feature works great most of the time, but it may be finicky and unpredictable when you really expect it to behave well. I’m confidence August knows this and is working on ways to fix the issue.

4. Gate Labs Camera Smart Lock

Secure your smart home with the world’s first smart door lock with camera. To me, the design closely resembles a beta version; however, the lock raises the bar too high for what I consider smart locks to be capable of doing.

A better way to appreciate this lock is to think of it as a patchwork of an upgrade of an electronic door lock and a video doorbell. Does this make sense to you? Do not worry if it doesn’t because what matters here is what the device can do in your attempts to achieve a fully automated home.

As a smart lock, this device allows three modes of accessing a house: physical using regular keys, Smartphone app, or using a 4-digit pin. A small camera on the exterior front aspect of the lock also works as a convenient surveillance system. The camera uses motion detection to alert you to the presence of someone at the door and broadcasts a live video of that person back to your handset. How amazing?

Interestingly, there is a 2-way audio system that lets you speak directly to the person standing outside the door, so you can allow them in if you so desire. The technology goes further than that. The lock has doorbells of all sorts. If your visitor dials the phone icon on the device, it will send a knock to your phone to alert you to their presence.

Unlike other smart locks that come in pieces, the Gate Labs Camera Smart Lock is delivered to you preinstalled into a plastic block. This means you’ll have to uninstall it before you reinstall it. Tell me where you’ve seen or done such a thing with a product that needs mounting. The aim of Gates Labs is not to be bizarre but to allow you to gauge the thickness of door necessary for installation.

As with other good quality smart door locks, this unit allows you to manage granted access, get lock status and alerts through an intuitive and technologically advanced mobile app. Besides, you can distribute electronic key PINs to family, friends, and workers through a simple LED backlit keypad. Not to forget, the ingenious gadget also comes with a keyed lock deadbolt cylinder as a backup physical key.

Great Features at a Glance

  • World’s first smart door lock with a motion-activated camera allows you to capture and record videos of your visitors
  • Alert you to the presence of visitors via a video doorbell and 2-way audio so that you can speak to them directly
  • An intuitive Gate’s app in your Smartphone allows you to manage trusted access, lock status and get notifications
  • Allows you to distribute virtual Key PIN for home access through a user-friendly LED backlight keypad
  • Package includes a keyed lock cylinder so you can have a physical backup if the technology develops a problem (although this is less likely to happen, going by user reviews)
  • Gate Labs Camera Smart Lock comes with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, a cable for recharging and screwdriver for installation (and uninstallation)

Possible Drawback

There are only lovely nitty gritty about this smart lock according to me. However, some users have an issue with visitors being so ignorant that they cannot realize you have to do something so that you can ring the doorbell. Such complaints may not be warranted since technology is one of a kind. People must get used to it first before they can know how to utilize the features entirely.

6 Things to Consider Before Buying a Smart Door Lock

Smart lock technology is a relatively new technology compared to other smart home innovations. For that reason, they are still expensive. Sparing money to buy them is, therefore, a gamble that you only pray pays off.

Deciding on which particular brand or model to buy depends on how much information you have on these fantastic gadgets. Here, I intend to provide you with detailed information on what you must consider before you take this bold step. In the end, you can use the info plus the product reviews to make an informed choice.

1. Connectivity types

A smart lock only works if it can communicate with other devices making up your smart home and with your Smartphone. A majority of these gadgets use one of three protocols or a combination of them. The three connectivity types are Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Z-Wave.

Each protocol has both pros and cons. You’d want to know more about these before you can proceed with a decision to purchase one.

Bluetooth

Smart lock companies use Bluetooth connectivity because it is not as power intensive as Wi-Fi. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to plug in your deadbolt, and wouldn’t appreciate changing batteries to your electronic door lock every month. The batteries of smart locks that use Bluetooth protocol can last for years.

While battery life is excellent with this type of connectivity, your range is quite limited (to only 300 ft at best). The layout of your home can reduce that range even further. It means you can effectively control your door only if you are within your compound. Farther than that and you lose connectivity.

Furthermore, you won’t be able to guess who is coming because Bluetooth locks will not connect directly to your mobile device. You won’t need a hub device to translate for you because your phone already uses that language. This could be convenient for a smart home that stops at the smart door. A hub gives you the ability to manage other devices with a single app. Some brands such as August integrate your phone with the lock’s Bluetooth for an opt-in and opt-out feature.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave type of locks does not connect directly to your phone. Instead, you’ll need a Z-Wave compatible hub to complete the connection. The function of the hub is to the Z-Wave signal of your lock into a language your router can read. You are then capable of interacting with your lock from any location.

The best examples of Z-Wave hubs are WinkHub and Samsung’s SmartThings. The range of smart locks using this protocol is approximately 120 ft. Your lock will need to be that close to the hub. But, some ZWave devices can actually extend that range by duplicating the signal and transmitting it out farther. It can repeat four times with a maximum of 600 ft. Keep in mind that obstructions (such as doors and walls) can interfere with the range.

The drawback of Z-wave is that it requires an additional hub to connect to and communicate with Wi-Fi. The advantage is that it allows you to connect to more 3rd party devices that what Bluetooth protocol allows.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is available to a few smart locks only as an optional add-on. For instance, August Connect plugs into a power supply and then bridges the connectivity that exists between your Bluetooth lock and your smart home’s Wi-Fi network. Once the device has made a successful connection, you’ll be able to control your door from anywhere via the internet.

While this system works great, you’ll still need to buy the Connect Bridge plug which can be costly. Anyways, it is a great way to upgrade your Bluetooth-only smart lock to have better capabilities including remote lock access.

2. User-Based Permissions

Another crucial attribute to consider is user-based permissions. Keyless doors will open when you enter codes that you have saved. Most locks will accept two kinds of codes – master code and passage codes. The master code lets you set up the passage codes. The passage codes, on the other hand, are for users giving you total protection against any unwelcome intrusion.

Thus, if you have a family, each member will have a master code. However, if a friend, a workmate, a housekeeper or other relatives wish to visit, you can customize code for them with a predetermined validity period. Many brands, including the ones in our reviews, allow you to do this customization for selective access to your home.

3. Alternative Entry Options

Leaving us to rely only on unreliable and unpredictable entry options could make even the most tech-savvy companies witless. Apart from wireless unlocking (and locking) techniques, you should look for a smart lock that also offers more familiar electronic or physical entry options such as PIN Codes entered on a keypad, physical keys or an integrated fingerprint reader.

Astute electronic lock companies offer a specialized key fob to establish a wireless connection to the smart door lock to let you open the door if you do not have your Smartphone or you do not have it for any reason. A fob is also great for a child who does not own a fob.

All smart lock companies include keyless entry option which is possible when you tap a command in the lock’s application in your Smartphone. However, a few brilliant brands include an auto lock/unlock feature which detects your proximity to the lock and thus opens the door when you arrive home or lock it after you’ve left.

Although many smart lock manufacturers make keyless locks that are compatible with HomeKit and Amazon offer Siri and Alexa voice control, the command is only for locking the door when you are inside the house. A few lock makers such as Kwikset Kevo, August, and Schlage, have managed to an Alexa Key which needs you to speak a key (usually a PIN code) to unlock after you have expressed an open command.

4. ANSI Lock Quality Rating

The growing number of smart lock companies and the increasing awareness of by smart home enthusiasts have moved the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) to rate smart locks depending on the level of security they offer. Here is the grading:

  • ANSI Grade 1: Best (for commercial use)
  • ANSI Grade 2: Better (for home use)
  • ANSI Grade 3: Good (for home use)

Grade one is the best as it offers you 250k successful open/close cycles and ten hammer blows with only an inch of projection in the frame of the door. Grade 2 and 3 provides a diminishing number of hammer blows and successful open/close cycles.

How does this apply to you? The security level of your lock will depend on ANSI lock quality rating. Pick a lock that has ANSI certification of at least grade 3 and above. Keep in mind that manufacturers of smart locks are not obliged to have this certification. However, it is a form of quality assurance if the lock you buy bears an ANSI certification.

5. Weatherproof Rating

If you intend to overhaul your lock completely, you’ll have to look for a weatherproof rating of the lock. Manufacturers of these gadgets will indicate the temperatures the lock can handle or withstand. You will see this in a unique IP (Ingress Protection) water/dust-proof rating. You can check out the score to have a better understanding.

Weatherproof rating is vital because the inner aspects of the locks casing have small and sensitive electronic components, along with metal pins, gears, tumblers as well as other mechanics. These components are sensitive to water, extreme temperatures, and dust. While no brand can claim excellent weatherproofing, look for one that has conducted successful tests and has been in the market for long.

6. Security

Hackers are the most feared criminals (after terrorists, of course). Just like terrorists, they are faceless and borderless. They also know too well how to cover their tracks. This fuel the worries people have concerning wireless security.

Most smart lock companies use technical jargons and terms borrowed from the next world to explain the kind of encryptions they have used on the locks. Most brands use SSL encryption with others using AES .

It does not matter the nature of encryption they use; the security rating is what’s important. Make sure you research before you make your choice. Nevertheless, I believe very few hackers would be interested in attacking your house if you do not give them a reason to do so.

Wrapping it Up

Have I managed to answer all the questions you might have been having before you could read this post? I believe I have tried to capture everything there is to know about smart locks in this smart door lock guide. The ball is now on your courts, will you play it? Take the bold step and bring your smart home aspirations closer to reality by buying one of the great smart locks I have reviewed. I do not doubt when I say they are the best the industry has today.

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