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Keyless Locks: Let Yourself In

Keyless Locks

Digested From “Keyless Locks: Let Yourself In” 
Australian Financial Review (07/18/14) Kurutz, Steven

In an age when cars have mostly switched to key fobs and hotels and office buildings favor the pass-card, the common house and apartment key has been surprisingly resistant to change. In the last year, though, several electronic door locks from industry leaders have hit the market, making it possible to unlock a home using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Meanwhile, two new locks created by tech start-ups are on the way, promising the hands-free unlocking of a door automatically as you approach it.

The sales pitch for smart locks appears not to be additional security, but convenience. There will be no more fishing in your pockets for the keys while holding grocery bags or racing home to let the plumber in. Steve Down, head of residential security for Schlage, says the touchscreen on his firm's Touchscreen Deadbolt eliminates that whole experience. A passcode is entered, either in person or, if the lock is connected to a home-automation system, from miles away by smartphone or any other Internet-connected device. These codes can be given to family members, houseguests, and service providers. Much of this technology is aimed at urbanites, many of whom have busy work lives, travel frequently, and live in apartment buildings where it isn’t feasible to hide a spare key under a door mat or flower pot. 

Of course, going keyless raises all sorts of practical questions.  Among them: "How will you unlock your door if your smartphone is lost or stolen?" and "Can you still operate the lock if there’s a power failure or your Wi-Fi goes down?" and "Will door locks be susceptible to hackers?" Smart-lock makers are addressing these questions, but not in ways that are always satisfying. August Smart Lock, for instance, works even without power or Wi-Fi service. And if a smartphone is lost or stolen, the user can notify a service that will deactivate the app. Finally, KEVO -- the Bluetooth-powered lock introduced last year by Kwikset -- retains a cylinder for a mechanical key. Although users can operate the lock with their smartphones, Keith Brandon, the company's director of residential access solutions, says "it's comforting for most consumers to have that mechanical backup."

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