front door of house with smart door lock

Door locks are one of the latest things to become ‘smart.’

While there’s nothing wrong with a standard metal lock and key, a smart door lock can take your home’s security to the next level, opening up a new world of possibilities.

What is a smart door lock?

A smart lock is a form of keyless door lock, and is a popular feature in many smart homes and home security systems. As a battery powered electronic device, a smart door lock can be locked or unlocked by installing an app on your computer and/or phone.

Some locks are designed to work when you are standing right near them (within range of a few meters), whereas others can be controlled and monitored remotely through their app. Some even let you run your lock on an daily schedule for when you’d like it locked or unlocked.

As with most ‘smart’ devices, the aim of a smart door lock is to ultimately add value and convenience to your life by letting you ‘connect’ with it in a digital way. Some door locks can also connect with other smart devices in your home.

For example, a smart door lock could talk to a smart heating system, notifying it to turn off the heater as you leave the home. With some smart home systems, you can even group commands together on a schedule, so that your door and heater automatically come on as you return home at a consistent and specific time.

Why am I suddenly hearing about smart door locks?

Fun fact! The origins of smart door locks can be traced back to the hotel industry. Back in the 90’s, electronic key-cards began to replace keys in hotels across the globe for safety and efficiency. Their origins were on a commercial level, as electronic key-cards were employed to move the entry/exit gates in parking compounds. 

However, the recent surge in popularity for smart door locks is intrinsically linked to the rise of the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is basically the idea of internet-connected machines talking to one another, and then the user talking to them in turn.

As this technology has developed and been implemented in smart homes, more and more appliances have been able to be electronically connected. In fact, these days most homes have a certain amount of ‘smartness’ because many appliances contain built-in sensors or electronic controllers.

So basically, smart locks are not actually super new, but they are much smarter than their predecessors! 

Are smart locks actually better?

The ability to control the safety of your home remotely is definitely a great security feature. You can have control over your smart lock from anywhere you can connect to the web!  

Smart locks that are available in Australia utilise wireless technologies, like Wifi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave and ZigBee, to operate and run on batteries so that they are not affected by power outages.

Most smart locks allow you to lock and unlock your door via your smartphone remotely, which is perfect for when you run out the door and forget. Some smart locks even let you share limited-access digital "keys". These are great for family members, guests, dog walkers and cleaners.

This feature also means you can send temporary keys to people in the form of a number of pin, giving them access to your home when you’re away. You can delete the pin when they don’t need it anymore – no more copying keys!

This is perhaps the biggest benefit of electronic entry systems. They are easily customisable, and can be configured or reconfigured almost instantly, at at the touch of a button. In some cases, the property owner can even generate a record of when the door was locked or unlocked. 

It is important to note though, that all smart locks are a little bit different and not all smart locks work the same way. Here are some different ways they work:

  • waving the corresponding smartphone app in front of your door 
  • physically touching the but keeping your phone within distance, 
  • simply tapping a button within smartphone app;
  • opening automatically when you come within a specific distance to the door
  • using a voice command as a trigger to unlock or lock the door 
  • sensing when you leave or approach the building and automatically locking/unlocking

What types of door locks are there?

Due to their popularity, there are many options in Australia for smart door locks. And while they might seem similar at first glance, they all operate slightly differently, and all with unique qualities and price points.

One of the major differences is whether or not the smart door lock in question connects to voice assisted technology or a hub, like Apple’s HomeKit, Google Home or Amazon Alexa. While a cool feature, this can sometimes lead to security issues. While Amazon’s Alexa won’t let you unlock your door with a voice, Siri has been known to do so with an iPad that doesn’t even have a passcode. Some of these hubs also run off wifi, which has been known to be more susceptible to security risks. 

There are two main things going on here – one is the way the door lock communicates with the hub, and the other is how the hub communicates with your phone. Some door locks will communicate using different communication to the hub, so if you’re picking a certain type for a certain reason – make sure both gadgets are synonymous! For example, if you’re avoiding wifi for your smart door lock for security reasons, make sure your hub isn’t wifi either!

By having a Wi-Fi-reliant smart door lock, or a smart door lock that goes through a Wi-Fi platform like Amazon or Telstra home, you are sending information your across the internet through your Wi-Fi router. Wi-Fi routers are vulnerable to hacking, a lot more than people realise (just Google it) – and so it’s important to protect yourself. 

However, the good news is that not all smart home keys and their connected hubs utilise WiFi. At carbonTRACK we don’t rely on WiFi at all, as security is an absolute priority for our technology.

Smart Door Lock Infographic

Here are the major communication systems used by both smart hubs and smart door locks! 

Bluetooth

Most of us use Bluetooth every day, but its beginning to make appearances in the smart home market. While there’s not a lot of information out on the price of Bluetooth smart devices yet, Bluetooth saves battery life really well and you don’t necessarily need a hub to use it. Bluetooth has existed for over two decades, but it's only recently begun to tip its toes into the smart device industry. This means your choices as a consumer may be more limited. 

Wi-Fi

One of the best things Wi-Fi has going for it is the price – gadgets that employ Wi-Fi can be significantly less expensive. Plus there’s a lot of WiFi enabled devices out there, so as a consumer, you’ve got plenty to choose from. Yet as we mentioned earlier, this does unfortunately come at the risk of your home and personal security.

Z-Wave™ Plus

Want an agnostic solution? Z-Wave could be the choice for you! Z-Wave can function with a whole range of different products, so no need for brand loyalty here. One drawback is that things can get a bit pricey here – but you get what you pay for!

ZigGee

Our personal favourite! (And what we use here at carbonTRACK). Zigbee is interoperable with other Zigbee brands, products, manufacturers and version, which is great news for any shopper. So there’s a wide range to choose from, and it’s actually significantly cheaper than Z-Wave. Security is also a major factor Zigbee, as the technology is notoriously safer.

Zigbee Logo

So are smart door locks secure?

When it comes to security, the main difference is how the door lock is connected and controlled. While the technology that comes along with smart homes and the Internet of Things is thrilling, it’s crucial to note the reality and limitations of the tech. An embrace of smart tech with the proper research can mean that your home and information is more vulnerable, but you can combat this risk with the right tools and knowledge. And now that you’ve done your research – you’re ready to go! 

Interested in the carbonTRACK solution?

The carbonTRACK hub and all our smart accessories use Zigbee technologies and encrypted communications over GSM/3G mobile networks to deliver superior reliability and security compared to a WiFi network. We’re also becoming compatible with more and more Z-Wave devices every day! Which means your smart door key (and home!) are well protected, meaning you can experience a technologically connected home that feels safer.

If you’ve already got a carbonTRACK hub (or you’re thinking about getting one), you can find some of the door locks that operate best with our system below. With our tech, you can push digital door keys (codes) to those that need access to your property, and even schedule times for your door to open or close.

Is a smart door lock right for me?

Ultimately, if the security of your home is a priority for you, making it smart will give you some peace of mind through control and visibility.

Want to know more? Here's how carbonTRACK works... 

 

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