In an increasingly tech-centric world, it’s astounding how so much of our lives rely on our phones. From having full control of your finances from your banking app, to ordering groceries from the tap of a button, centralized management of life’s moving parts is a huge value proposition of smart devices. Smart home management has begun to recognize this, and smart locks are no exception. Smart locks have the potential to revolutionize the way we live and work.
Traditional lock and keys have been in use for centuries, with relatively little advances or modifications to the original technology. While they have remained a fairly reliable method to keep things safe, the advent of the internet has revolutionized the way almost every ordinary object functions. Especially timely now, in the throws of a global COVID-19 pandemic, our society is increasingly turning to technology and smart devices as a means of keeping us safe.
While the hardware functionality of the traditional lock and key is certainly useful, it also poses some security challenges. The singular reliance on the hardware mechanism of a lock-key system also means that there is nothing to stop a locksmith or even a hardworking bobby pin to manipulating the hardware to enter your home. However, this risk has to some extent been mitigated by deadbolts and multiple locks on the same door. Because there is such a wide range of traditional locks, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the security question. That said, the most common, basic knob doors are generally vulnerable to picking.
A lost key also poses a huge security risk, which can only be resolved by changing the entire lock, a process that can be not only costly but frustrating for property owners or managers.
As mentioned above, homes are becoming increasingly integrated. From a smart assistant able to control your lights to a smart fridge that knows exactly what’s in the freezer, much of your home is accessible from the screen of your smartphone. Traditional locks fail to integrate with smart home elements, making the need to remember the physical key crucial. Even worse, failing to keep the key on hand can mean losing access to your homes or belongings.
Not knowing the status of your home once you’ve left is another significant drawback to traditional key mechanisms. The inability to know remotely whether the door is unlocked, or if it is unlocked, the inability to relock it remotely, is a significant drawback to traditional keys. Similarly, if another user needs to access your home, the only way to give them entry is through another physical key in their possession. Overall, traditional keys have certain limitations that severely impede convenience.
Smart locks are electromechanical devices that provide a locking and unlocking mechanism, often supplemental to a traditional lock. Smart locks generally are connected to the internet and can be wirelessly connected through WiFi, bluetooth, or both. Like traditional locks, smart locks require both a lock and key. However, the key function on smart locks is often integrated with the user’s smartphone or key fob.
Because smart locks bypass the mechanical key required of traditional locks, they are less susceptible to more common break-in mechanisms like lock picking. Furthermore, many smart locks use biometrics like eye scans or fingerprints to grant access. These biometrics are extremely difficult to mimic, making biometric locks even more secure.
The ability to grant remote access to a home or safe and enable multiple users to have access simultaneously is a significant advantage of smart locks. Delivery people, repairmen, cleaners could all be granted temporary access to a home, removing the need for coordinating schedules just to open a door. Even being able to see who has entered a building when is invaluable to everyone from business owners to parents checking for their children.
Especially given the current global health crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety in all elements of our lives is extremely important. The remote capabilities of smart locks remove the need to physically touch the locks and keys, reducing the likelihood of disease spread. Furthermore, a biometric lock solution such as an eye scan as the key removes the need for even a smartphone to unlock the lock. Similarly, remote access has advantages from a health perspective as well to grant certain individuals access without the need for in-person contact.
The main advantage of smart locks is also one of its main drawbacks: internet connectivity. Though this feature is what enables so much convenience, such as remote access and monitoring, it also makes this type of lock more vulnerable to hacking. Password hijacking, manufacturing flaws, and stolen phones can all pose risks of an intruder gaining access to your home or safe. However, these risks can be managed by ensuring your smart lock is always running on the most updated software and maintaining unique passwords for all of your devices.
While traditional locks still hold enormous value depending on your application, smart locks provide the potential for a more convenient, healthy and integrated future. Ensure you understand the security risks involved before making a decision, but especially for those with children or health risks, smart locks may be a worthwhile investment.