A Smart Door Lock is just like any other door lock, expect it also has an internet connection, allowing you to control it in more ways than just with a key. This post covers the different levels of what a Smart Door Lock can do for you as well as some considerations before buying one.
Smart Door Locks are very feature heavy, with many brands and options to choose from. Still, there are a few features that all Smart Door Locks have. These are called basic features.
Keyless entry refers to the ability to lock and unlock the Smart Door Lock remotely, typically by a Smart Phone App or a Voice Assistant. By locking and unlocking the door remotely, you (mostly) remove the need to have keys with you at all times. You can also remotely let people in your home and can even get notifications when the door has been locked or unlocked. Ultimately, Keyless entry is the main reason to get a Smart Door Lock.
Smart Door Locks use batteries for power, and those batteries will run out off power at some point. Hopefully your Smart Door Lock doesn’t run out of power right when you need to get inside. To avoid that situation, check the battery status often and regularly change the batteries. Smart Door Locks easily tell you how much power is left in your batteries via a Smart Phone App or a Voice Assistant.
When using a Voice Assistant, you have a few different commands available. Notice how all the possible Voice Commands are related to Basic Features. Premium Features for Smart Door Locks aren’t controllable from Voice Assistants currently.
|Support||Feature Level||Description||Example Command|
|Lock/Unlock||Basic||Locking and unlocking remotely||Unlock the front door*|
|Query State**||Basic||Checking the lock status||Is the front door locked?|
|Query Battery Level||Basic||Checking the lock battery levels||How much power does the front door have?|
*The command “unlock the front door” is potentially dangerous. It’s important to make sure your Voice Assistant doesn’t listen to anyone giving it that command. Expect some sort of follow up from your Voice Assistant that attempts to figure out who is talking to it.
**My favorite ability of Smart Door Locks. Being able to ask a Voice Assistant if the door is locked before going to bed is a surprisingly nice feature to have. It gives you peace of mind without having to check the door lock yourself.
Premium Features improve other aspects of the Smart Door Lock, typically with the device itself. These features don’t tend to focus on Voice Commands like you see with other device categories.
Keypads provide an additional way to enter your home without your key or your Voice Assistant and Smart Phone App. Some manufactures also allow you to issue temporary passcodes that will grant access for a limited amount of time. You likely have seen these sort of Smart Door Locks already in vacation rentals or real estate listings, where the property owner will provide a temporary passcode that you can use to open the door.
Keypads aren’t the only option for Keyless Entry. Some Smart Door Locks also have Fingerprint readers. This feature allows you to unlock the door by pressing your thumb on the door lock itself. This gives you another method of entry that doesn’t require any keys and no passcode.
Most Smart Door Locks also support some level of Geofencing, although not all do. Geofencing involves using your phone to determine your location. Once your location is found, your Smart Door Lock will see how close you are to it. You can also think of Geofencing as an imaginary box around your home. Once you enter or leave that box (with your phone in hand), you can have your door lock automatically lock or unlock itself without any additional action from you.
Smart Door Locks with the Tamper Detection feature will alert you when the door lock itself detects a strange activity, like someone attempting to pick the lock or someone hitting on the door. What the door lock does once an event has been detected depends on the manufacture. Some have an audible alarm, while others send notifications to your phone.
Ease of installation
Installing a Smart Door Lock is more involved and complicated than Smart Lights or Smart Plugs. This fact alone may turn people away from Smart Door Locks entirely. And if you’re renting your home, you may not even be able to change parts of the door lock anyway, depending on your landlord.
Some Smart Door Locks only require you to remove the inner plate of your door lock (much more doable as a property renter), while others require you to take apart the entire door lock to start. For instance, both Fingerprint and Keypad features always require you to change the front of the Smart Door Lock, which can make installation more complicated.
Additionally, setting up the hardware is one step, but after that you also have to setup the software. Setting up the software is important for Smart Door Locks, especially since it’s a security device in your home. Each brand and Voice Assistant has a unique setup method for setting up Smart Door Locks. Check out this post on device setup for more details.
Like most Smart Home devices, Smart Door Locks have general considerations to look into that go beyond basic vs premium features.
Security with Voice Assistants
By connecting your Door Locks to a Voice Assistant, anyone in your home can now interact with the door lock. But with that comes different scenarios you should be aware of. For example, what if someone yells at Alexa from outside your home, telling her to unlock the door? If that works, the Attacker gets easy access to your home, which defeats the purpose of your door lock entirely.
Luckily, all the major platforms including Alexa, Siri, and Google have additional security measures in place for commands that are making your home less secure. For instance, Alexa and Google require you to setup a passcode when setting up your Smart Door Lock. So whenever anyone issues a command to unlock the door, your Voice Assistant will ask for the passcode before actually unlocking the door. In the same vein, Siri will ask you to unlock your iPhone when you try to unlock the door. We’ll go a bit deeper into how Voice Assistants handle commands that can make your home less secure in the future.
Security is one of the top concerns for a Smart Door Lock. If a Smart Door Lock is vulnerable to Attackers, it defeats the purpose of itself. Many devices out in the market today have poor security, which gives Attackers an easy way to access your new device and your home network, and use it for their own purposes. For more info, see this post on Smart Home Security.
Some Smart Door Lock brands and Voice Assistants use systems that can store your interaction history. This is especially troublesome for Smart Door Locks where an Attacker could determine when you’re not at home. Generally, these systems are secure, but it does mean that Attackers may look to gain access to these servers to collect your data–without your knowledge. It might give you a sense of unease to know these systems are tracking your history. This scenario is another reason why some research goes a long way before purchasing.
Low reliability for Smart Door Locks can have you reverting back to always using your key to get into your home. What’s more, interacting with a Smart Door Lock can take time, so Voice Commands are generally slower than unlocking your door with a key. Depending on the brand and Voice Assistant, you may even need an internet connection in order to control your Smart Door Lock. This means you may have to repeat your request or wait longer than you would like. With these scenarios in mind, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of buying a device that doesn’t really perform as advertised.
Navigating the various Smart Door Locks out in the market today is tricky. There are many different manufactures out there, and the cost of a single Smart Door Lock can vary widely from $50 to $500. Given that a Smart Door Lock controls entry into your home, make sure any door lock you buy has a good reputation. If the price seems too good to be true, or the Smart Lock seems to have every possible feature for cheap, it’s likely not very secure.
Generally speaking, reputable Smart Door Locks with Basic Features fall around $150, with the price going up from there for Premium Features. You should be weary of any under that cost.
Smart Door Locks add a convenient layer of security on top of your existing door lock. By remotely locking and unlocking the door for you, a Smart Door Lock removes the need of having keys with you at all times. But before you install one for your home, read up on the various considerations–like security and reliability–to better offset issues before they happen.