Home Automation – Time to Lose the Keys

We’re always looking for the next big thing in home automation. Sometimes, that comes out of nowhere. This year suddenly seems to be the year of the smart door lock.

Most people have been familiar with electronic door locks for some time. When the front desk at the hotel started handing out plastic cards instead of keys, we all began learning the pros and cons of electronic locks (including the frustrations of the ones where the light turn reds before you can reach the door handle).

This technology has come a long way, to the point where it does so much more than simply lock and unlock a door. Not only that, major manufacturers and control companies have jumped onto the bandwagon, making this technology more affordable and easier to integrate. In fact, the days of the door key for your home are probably numbered. Soon, all quality homes will come with some kind of keyless system.

Let’s see if we can make you an instant expert in keyless entry.

If we start right at the beginning, we have to look at the simplest kind of keyless system, the mechanical keyless lock. Popular with warehouses and other commercial users, it is simply a push button system that takes the place of a key. It can be re-programmed periodically to make sure only current employees have access, but the bad news is that entry can be very easy if someone accidentally gives out the combination. Not only that, you can only operate it when you’re standing in front of the door. On the plus side, it’s mechanical so it tends to be a cheap reliable, system that lasts.

Electronic keyless locks are one step up. Usually powered by a long-life battery that can last years without being changed, these locks are made to install into existing doors without drilling and without wiring. They can do a number of tricks the mechanical models can’t. First, their button panels can be much more elegant than the mechanical models. Some have IR capability that allows you to unlock them with a key fob, just like your car. They can also be used with a pass card, which is a popular option in commercial applications. There are models that have a built-in alarm that goes off if anyone tries to tamper with the door. You can also get interconnected sets that will operate both a latch and a deadbolt at the same time. As good as the electronic door locks are, they don’t measure up to the new technology of smart locks.

All the major companies in the lock business, as well as some other famous and not-so-famous brands, are interested in getting into the smart lock market. Companies like Yale and Schlage are well established, but Samsung is taking an interest and newer players like Remote lock are anxious to get your attention.

So, what’s so smart about a smart lock? A smart lock can do anything an electronic lock can do, but it can also be fully integrated into a variety of control systems to give you options you may not have ever considered.

The one homeowners seem to like best is the ability to see from offsite if the door is locked. This can be done on a computer, touch screen or iPhone. Some companies are offering a free-standing system that uses wi-fi from your home internet system (Remote lock) and charges a monthly license fee. But there are even more sophisticated options. A perfect example is the Yale Real Living line. It is designed to seamlessly integrate with Creston control systems, allowing you to not only monitor and control it from off site, but also control it from your whole-home automation system.

That means it can send you an e-mail message if someone tries to force it open. It can be used to activate a security camera if it’s tampered with to film the potential intruder. Every member of the family can be given their own personal access code to you can monitor activity in and out of the house. It can be programmed for a temporary access code that only works for a certain amount of time. (say, for an overnight guest) It can use motion sensors to determine when the last person leaves the house, and automatically lock the door ten minutes later.

Your Crestron system can keep track of the battery status and let you know when the battery needs to be changed. Go for the ultimate in security and get a system that requires a biometric code for entry, like a thumbprint. With the high price of a quality door, its comforting to know that many of the systems fit standard doors with no modification, and are pre-configured to work with the Crestron technology.

There are many benefits to going to a smart lock on your home, but it may not be something you want to try on your own. For one thing, you have to make sure that the lock if compatible with your automation system. With the many types of signals out there (Crestron®, AMX®, WiFi, ZigBee®, Z-Wave®) it’s easy to chose the wrong lock for your door. That’s best left to the professionals. Also make sure you allow a budget for programming. A program that maximizes the potential of the technology is the way to get the most out of your investment.

The home automation pros at OneTouch Automation are happy to consult with you and find the perfect smart solution to your home security needs. With our years of experience and access to the finest technology, we will find a solution that will suit your lifestyle and your budget. If you need any help designing your audio visual or automation systems please feel free to contact us.