Innovative, easy to install (in most cases) and designed with your peace of mind in mind, smart lock has quickly become a staple in the world of home security. While some smart lock features such as on-the-go monitoring and remote lock/unlock are standard features that most consumers expect from their new equipment, box art and brand website specs are just the surface level. To put things another way, smart locks can do much more.
Whether you own a smart lock (or several), are considering buying one, or want to learn more about them, we’ve put together this guide to highlight some of the lesser-known features of today’s leading smart locks. The rusted cylinders and lock bolts on our front doors have never looked so pathetic.
A handful of groceries. Armfuls of supplies on the porch. An unruly dog who just went for a walk and wants his water bowl. What do all three have in common? Each is an obstacle between you and your hands, which must retrieve a set of keys from your jacket, purse or other pocketbooks to enter your home. This is where one of the biggest benefits of intelligent locking comes into play.
Lock brands like August and Wyze offer automatic locking/unlocking based on your proximity to the smart lock you’ve chosen. Let’s look at the August Wi-Fi smart lock (fourth generation) for further illustration. Through the August app, users can set their locks to recognize mobile devices and Apple watches that are within the lock’s range. Once a user is registered (via Bluetooth), the lock acts accordingly, automatically unlocking and relocking when the door is closed. You can even set the August lock to delayed locking, which is a handy addition if you know other family members will be home shortly after you.
Intuitive sensors for ajar doors
It’s happened to the best of us. After a hectic morning, we rush out the door and our heads are already filled with the worries of the day. Halfway to work, while sitting in traffic, it hits us: The front door is unlocked. Short on time and unable to rush home to close the fort, today your home is in the hands of fate. Luckily, there’s a clever lock that can save the day.
Lock brands like Yale and August are packaged with a magnetized door sensor that you’ll need to install on your door frame during installation. In the case of the Yale Assure Lock SL, one of the company’s flagship locks, the DoorSensor accessory monitors whether or not your door is closed. If it’s closed, the locking bolt will extend and lock the home properly. If for some reason you have left the door slightly ajar, the locking plug will not engage. Combine that with Assure’s Auto-Relock feature, which automatically locks your door after about 30 seconds (whether you’ve locked it manually or not), and it becomes clear why a smart lock can be a lifesaver for those with a few moments to spare.
Custom key codes for family, friends and travellers
Airbnb hosts may find this feature set particularly useful for out-of-state rentals. The same goes for vacation homeowners who want to provide access to in-laws while they’re travelling. After all, someone has to feed the cat.
The ability to create custom unlock codes for guest users is a big win for smart lock and is a feature available across multiple brands. To unpack this a bit more, let’s take a look at Google’s Nest X Yale. Using the Nest app, users can generate up to 20 codes that, via custom scheduling, can be assigned to the lock and shared with those who visit your property. When guests check out or mother-in-law leaves, the code expires, ensuring no re-entry unless you personally grant new permissions. Best of all, the codes are numeric, meaning your guests don’t need to use the Nest app on their own device to unlock your door.
See who’s at the door (and greet them)
What if we told you that your upcoming smart lock could feature live monitoring that matches the quality of some video doorbells on the market?
With Lockly Vision, users can open the Lockly app, press the camera button and access real-time video (thanks to Vision’s built-in doorbell camera) right on their phone or tablet screen. Even better, with live video, Vision allows lock owners to record footage, communicate with guests via two-way audio and remotely operate the lock. While the image quality may not be top-notch (as was the case with our Lockly Vision experience), it’s better than having no camera at all, which is more than most lock brands can say.
Unlock your home for Amazon
Tired of your Amazon packages getting soaked and tattered by Mother Nature? Luckily, Amazon and the folks at Schlage, Yale and Kwikset have come up with a solution. Introduced in 2018, Key by Amazon is an interactive mobile service and app available to Amazon Prime members. By combining a compatible smart door lock with a Ring video doorbell or Ring video doorbell or camera product, the Key service allows Amazon suppliers to unlock your smart lock so the clerk can place your package inside the home.
Are you nervous about the prospect of John or Jane from Amazon having access to your house? The Key app is connected to the smart camera or video doorbell, so you can see your driver in real-time and chat with two-way audio if you find it necessary to communicate with the messenger.
Retrofit your old lock for easy installation
Want a smart lock but can’t bear the thought of installation? While most locks only require a shortlist of steps (most curated via the lock brand’s app) to get the new hardware up and running, there are smart locks that completely eliminate most of the installation process.
August, Kwikset and Sesame all offer smart lock that uses your existing lock collection as part of the installation. All you have to do is remove the inner cylinder, squeeze the new smart lock module into place and secure it. That’s all there is to it. For those who have trouble parting with a set of keys (it never hurts to have them on you), this also ensures that your existing house keys will work with your new smart lock.
If that’s not enough for you, consider smart locks that preserve your door’s existing decor. Level Lock and Level Touch are two great examples of smart locks that don’t look like a traditional smart lock. That’s because there are no clunky keypads on the outside and gears that have to go over your locks. You’ll be hard-pressed to realize these are smart locks just by looking at them!
Control your smart home
Imagine you come home, unlock your smart lock and the lights on the first floor of your house turn on automatically. Thanks to third-party compatibility via Wi-Fi and Z-Wave, smart locks can interact with a range of our existing smart home devices.
August and Philips Hue are one such smart home duo. By connecting your Hue system with your August smart lock app, users can create lighting events that respond to the lock’s physical lock/unlock, as well as custom schedules based on time and date. The latter is especially handy when you’re away but want passersby to think your home is still occupied.
Many (if not most) smart locks are also compatible with popular voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. By simply using voice commands, users can lock, unlock and check lock status from the couch, bedroom or two states away. Is your smart lock equipped with video surveillance? If so, you can even view real-time footage of the front door from your home’s compatible smart screen(s).