Simon Mark Smith (Simonsdiary.com)

Smart Locks, are they the Key to Your Future?

Home / Blog / Smart Locks, are they the Key to Your Future?

Things to Consider when Choosing a Smart Lock and a Review of the ‘Smartlock Slimline Deluxe’

.

.

First published at: https://www.smartchoicesecurity.co.uk/smart-locks-have-been-a-staple-in-the-airbnb-community-but-are-they-the-key-to-your-future-too

.

Keyless entry to cars has been around for over a decade, and to house doors even longer, however, initially it was mainly something of an accessibility feature for people with disabilities, or something we took for granted in hotels. Over the last few years though, smart locks in homes have become far more commonplace.

For Airbnb hosts, they’ve been the panacea to solve issues regarding giving people access to their house keys, knowing full well they can be copied or lost. Nowadays a host can message a guest a pin code which can be cancelled once they’ve checked out after which a new one can be created for the next guest. For non-Airbnb hosts, can smart locks be of any benefit and if so, what have they got to offer? In this article, I’ll be covering these areas and end by reviewing the kind of lock that would fit most UPVC doors in the UK.

Choosing a smart lock is not as easy as it is with many other ‘smart’ products. One of the problems is it’s an area that sits somewhere between both the consumer and professional arenas. Normally when it comes to buying something, you tend to know from the outset whether you’re likely to require professional advice or can work it out yourself using online resources, such as reviews and other related videos and articles.

When it comes to smart locks, you’ll find plenty of websites listing hundreds of smart locks, just as you would most other end-user retail product portals, but as you start to delve further, you’ll soon find it’s a bit more complicated than it first appeared.

If anything, the main issue that struck me first was lock types. One doesn’t need to be a locksmith to realise there are so many different types of locks. For instance, if you’ve got a UPVC door with a handle you push up before locking it you’ve probably got a Euro cylinder lock, but if you’ve got a composite door, it’s likely to have a slam type or lift to lock gearbox lock. Then of course there are Chubb locks, and in many an older door there’s what many of us would call a Yale-type lock. To an experienced locksmith the variations are far greater than that, so when a customer attempts to work out which smart lock is appropriate for their door it’s no wonder, they soon feel lost.

Here’s where we need not only an experienced locksmith, but one that understands what’s available when it comes to smart locks, and even amongst them, there are fewer still who keep up with the ever-evolving ‘smart lock’ market. I’m sure there will be some readers who are more than able to work out what type of lock they need, but there will be quite a few others, who like me, will need some help.

I spent some time searching for such an expert online and found a few, one of them who has been working in this field for 20 years and has had a long-term online presence was Matt Kemp of Smart Choice Security. This isn’t an advert for him, but as you will find, if you do your own research, there are few in this field who aren’t connected to a particular product, and therefore possibly biased. Matt is interested in checking out all the locks on the market as can be seen at his website https://www.smartchoicesecurity.co.uk/. I’d also like to point out that this isn’t an endorsement for Smart Choice Security, I don’t have any long-term experience of dealing with them, however, given there are so few experts to turn to in this field, I thought I’d at least name one. If you know of any others and want to mention them in the comments below, please do. (All comments are monitored and vetted before publishing, so please be patient if you do post one.)

Software

Back to the locks. Outside of lock, type there are other issues to consider when choosing a smart lock. Firstly, there’s the software. I used to say ‘Digitise to Immortalise’ but a few decades down the line I now realise the digital world is very transient too. Just imagine you’re happily set up and your phone upgrades to the latest operating system. Suddenly you find the app you were using is no longer supported. It’s at that moment, with the rain pouring down on you, you wish you’d got a smart lock with a physical key override and an app developer committed to keeping up to date.

If you’ve been following the latest developments to do with the metaverse you’ll know that one of the current aims is for apps to not only work across multiple devices but also be accessible to other apps. For instance, if you use smart devices, you may have noticed that lots of them come with their own proprietary software, but many can also be controlled and installed using the Smart Life app. This is very likely the way forward when it comes to smart apps. Universal apps as well as proprietary ones will be, for longevity’s sake, essential.  Given companies come and go, having an over-arching/universal app will be the only way to control smart devices once their original apps are no longer supported.

Such apps as the TTlock and Remotelock.com’s system are at the forefront of this world. Eventually, being compatible with a universal app will be a major selling point for smart devices, including locks, and even if they aren’t a major consideration when purchasing right now, it is still a factor worth keeping in mind

Durability

If your lock is going to be exposed to the elements, then how durable it’s going to be will be an important factor in your choice. Conversely, if it’s going to be positioned in an enclosed porch, then it’ll probably be less of a significant factor to you. The lock I will be reviewing here will be exposed to harsh UK coastal weather as well as sea air, so, for me, its durability was of particular importance.

In terms of trying to work out how durable a device is, try to find its IP rating. It will appear as the letters I followed by 2 numbers, for instance, ‘IP55’. The higher the numbers the more durable it’ll be, but for further information, you can look up what these ratings specifically mean. For most of us, in a world where manufacturers seem to exaggerate claims about products, we probably can’t help but take such ratings with a pinch of salt, but even so, it’s certainly worth bearing in mind.

Remote Access

If you want to control your lock remotely, you’ll probably have to make sure it comes with a Wi-Fi bridge, or one can be purchased separately. A Wif-Fi bridge is a very small box that will connect your lock to the Internet via your Wi-Fi. It’s worth bearing in mind that they must be positioned close to the lock, whilst also being within your router’s Wi-Fi range and have an accessible power source nearby. So, is your lock near a plug socket and within your Wi-Fi range? If not, you might be happy just using the lock with only its Bluetooth controls, but again, remote access is an important feature worth considering, especially when it comes to Airbnb host controlling the lock. For some, having their lock attached to the Internet will be a security worry, so for such people a non-remote access smart lock may well be preferable.

Fitting

The difficulty of fitting smart locks can range from easy to daunting. Some just require the original lock to be removed and replaced with the new one, all in all taking five to ten minutes to complete, whereas others will involve drilling holes in your door. Again, sending photos to your smart lock adviser should help work out whether you’ll need a locksmith to assist you. If you do, then that is likely to cost well over £100 per hour to get it fitted professionally and even then, some smart locks simply won’t work with some doors, even though they’re supposed to.

Unlocking Methods

In terms of getting a smart lock to unlock there are many approaches. The most common involve using a smartphone which, if it must be accessed, is just as inconvenient as using a key. Some smart lock apps use a proximity method that tells the lock to unlock as you approach it, obviously, that’s a far more convenient approach, literally.

Then there are key cards, or other RF devices, which for some locks may include being able to use your bank cards, again this isn’t much more convenient than using a key, but for Airbnb hosts it does negate the worry of guests losing, stealing or copying real keys.

For situations where you don’t want to use a device, you can have a keypad via which someone can type in a code that unlocks the door, or on a more personal level, biometric IDs, such as fingerprint reading can be used.

Lastly, unlocking the door remotely might be useful if you want to let someone in without utilising any of the above methods. That’s when a WIFI-connected lock comes into its own.

So, to recap, when it comes to choosing a smart lock it’s imperative that the type of lock, including its measurement, position, (not only in terms of weather but Wi-Fi range and possible power sources) be considered and noted. Then there’s the software, followed by the ease and/or cost of fitting and, possibly of equal importance, the functions you require. If you’ve got all that you’re good to go, but if you’re still not sure, maybe seek out some expert help just to be safe.

My Shortlist

If it’s still 2022 and you’ve already started researching smart locks for multipoint UPVC doors, then you’ve probably come across the same main contenders that I did. Namely Smartlock (that’s the brand name) as in the Slimline Smartlock Multi and ProLok Deluxe Handle Multi, the Simpled Smart Lock, the Waferlock C760 and L701, Yale Conexis L1 and Ruveno Slim Smart Door Lock.

I pay a lot of attention to Amazon reviews, especially when there are a lot of bad ones. Consequently, the Yale Conexis got taken off the shortlist quite quickly and given the Ruveno had a few negative comments regarding it being corroded by bad weather I dropped that one too although apart from that weakness it was a very popular lock.

The Simpled lock, not only got a lot of good reviews but its distribution company’s support was highly praised too. There were a couple of slightly negative comments about its handle coming loose, but even those reviews still said it was a very good smart lock. When it came to the ‘Smartlock’ brand, my local locksmith specifically recommended the Slimline model and that coupled with some other good reviews made it the main contender.

Lastly the Waferlock L701 marketing material promised great things too, especially regarding its durability, it has an IP68 rating, but as I couldn’t find a single review of it in the UK that put me off going any further. I did approach the company asking if they’d like me to do a review of it, so, if they say yes, you’ll be able to see what I thought of it in another article. Matt Kemp also said he liked Waferlock’s C760 lock which had some very good reviews on Amazon too, but as that one is more suited to composite doors, I won’t include it here.

So, my final shortlist came down to the ‘Smartlock’ and the Simpled contenders. When I spoke to Matt, he said out of the two, the ‘Smartlock’ Prolok Deluxe Handle would be his choice for my situation. It was quite a bit more expensive than the Simpled one but even so, that’s the one I went for.

The ‘Smartlock’ Deluxe Handle Smart Lock Review

 

Fitting

I ordered the ‘Smartlock’ Prolok Deluxe Handle Lock and a few days later it arrived. I read through the installation and quickly realised it was beyond me to fit it so booked a fitter who came the next day. They took around an hour to completely install it and even though they’d fitted them before, there were still a few challenging moments because, of course, every door is a little different. For instance, at the very end, we realised the clearance on the inside of the door between the lock edge and the door frame wasn’t enough. This meant he had to file down the door frame very slightly to provide the clearance required. Also, earlier on in the process, drilling holes through the door became unavoidable, particularly when creating a slot for the cable to be tucked into. If you’re good at DIY, fitting this lock might be easy, but if not, maybe employ a professional.

Appearance

The Deluxe Slimline has rounded ends, with a black touchpad panel and fingerprint reader at the top. It comes in either a silver or black finish, with tubular handles, a backup manual key option and power input interface on the bottom in case the battery runs out. It has a battery compartment which holds 4xAAA batteries (not included) and an IP rating of 55, which means it’s protected against dust (limited ingress, no harmful deposits) and low-pressure jets of water from all directions, with limited ingress, permitted. How well it lasts in real-world conditions remains to be seen.

Software

The manual came with a QR code that linked to the app that controls the lock called TTLock. I’d searched for it manually earlier and came across two very similar apps with the same name and was unsure which to choose so having a direct link was very useful. Once loaded onto my iPhone I had to register an account which took a few minutes. I then had to connect the app to the lock. This involved resetting the lock via a hidden button which luckily was still visible as we hadn’t already put the cover on. Once reset both the lock and app gave instructions on how to connect to each other. The lock has a small built-in speaker which allows it to give audio commands, whilst the app simultaneously gives written ones. Within seconds my lock and app were linked. I then went to the Wi-Fi bridge section of the app and added my Wi-Fi bridge, again this took a minute at the most.

The app has icons for the many varied ways to unlock the lock, so, given a few key cards came with the lock, I decided to connect one of them first. I pressed the card icon in the app, then pressed the + sign, this caused a page to appear asking me to give the card a name, which I did. It then asked for the card to be held near the bottom of the black panel. I did so, and a few seconds later it confirmed the key card had been primed. I also managed to use my bankcard, however using certain cards such as prepayment travel cards like the oyster card may result in affecting the balance stored on it, so please proceed with care.

The lock will automatically lock itself within 5 seconds of unlocking by default. There’s a setting in the app where you can choose how long before automatic locking takes place, including not automatically locking at all. Given the lock will automatically lock it’s probably a good idea to set a passcode right away, after all, if you don’t have your physical key, phone or key card on you, you could end up getting locked out.

Setting up a passcode is very easy too. I went to the ‘passcodes’ icon on the app and pressed the ‘Generate’ button, however, this only offered a long security number, admittedly this can be edited after using it once, but I soon realised that pressing the ‘Custom’ button after the passcodes one let me choose a much shorter and easy to remember number in the first place. If you’re going to be using this for Airbnb guests, then setting a passcode that relates to the guest might make it far simpler for them to use. So, for instance, using the last 4 digits of their phone number might well make life easier for all concerned. It’s also possible to set time-sensitive codes, so they can’t be used before or after a certain time. That way if you have someone coming around when you’re going to be out, they can let themselves in but won’t be able to pop back and let themselves in when no longer welcome. Likewise, if you’ve got a Wi-Fi video doorbell, or someone calls you to say they’re outside, you can easily open the lock from your phone to let them in, there and then.

This app has been very well thought out, it takes just seconds to set up fingerprint, passcodes, remote control, key cards, e-key profiles, remote fobs and, of course, you always have the unlock button in the app if you just want to use your phone. Right now, there’s no proximity unlocking function that could recognise you’re approaching the door and automatically unlock it without you having to do anything, however, I imagine that in time that will be standard for most smart locks. One word of warning about the app. If you want to share a passcode, maybe avoid the app’s text share option. Even though I was sure I’d typed in the correct phone number, a few days later I got a bill with a charge for a text to an international number. I’m sure if you’re careful you’ll be alright, but I thought it best to mention it.

Security

When it comes to security, if you want to engage the door hooks there are two ways of doing this from the outside. The first is to push the handle up before the automatic lock kicks in. I found that setting an automatic locking time of 10 seconds gave me enough time to come through the door and push the handle up, and just as I walked away, I’d reassuringly hear it lock. The second method is useful if it’s locked already but the hooks haven’t been engaged. In that instance unlock the door, don’t open it, but simply push the handle up and wait for it to lock automatically. If you’re on the inside, you just push the handle up as normal.

As this is the type of lock that can always be unlocked by pushing down the handle on the inside, doors with large glass panels could be compromised by breaking the glass and simply pushing the handle down. Likewise, reaching in through a letterbox to pull the handle down could be a weakness too, therefore, if you think that’s possible then fitting an anti-tamper device to your letterbox might solve the issue.

As any locksmith will tell you, most domestic locks are vulnerable to determined and knowledgeable intruders, so it might be worth keeping this in perspective and seeing these issues as applying to all locks, not just smart ones. When I asked Matt about this he said whilst it’s true, so far, he hasn’t had one of these locks broken into.

Short Term Reaction – Week 1

I’ve had the lock installed on a guest room’s external door. I’ve programmed it to be opened using 2 key cards, 2 custom 4-digit codes, and 3 fingerprints. Both my guest and I have used it every day. For me, the fingerprint reader has worked every time, however I’ve been very careful to position my finger as I did when I initially set it up. My guest, on the other hand, found the fingerprint worked about 70% of the time on the first try, but on the second, it normally worked. If it didn’t, rather than risking getting it wrong too many times and causing the lock to set off an alarm and enter a protected state, he’d either use the key card or enter his PIN number instead. It’s possible to turn off the failed attempt ‘Tamper alarm’ system within the app but giving someone an adrenalin rush is all part of the Airbnb experience, so I’m leaving it on for now.

When entering the PIN code, we noticed a slight lag between pushing the numbers and there being a response, it took a little getting used to, but once we did, entering the code worked 100% of the time. We have yet to test it under harsh conditions, for instance when it’s very cold and wet, but so far, it’s really impressed us regarding how well it works.

The unit comes with a manual override key so it’s probably best to always keep one on your keyring just in case things go awry. If you’re wondering about the battery’s lifespan – I installed 4 x AAA Duracell’s – the specifications reckon that it’ll take tens of thousands of activations before they’ll need replacing. It probably goes without saying that using non-leak batteries is a must if you don’t want to risk ruining the lock, especially if they’re likely to be in position for several years. It might even be worth putting a reminder in your phone diary that repeats daily to change the batteries a few years ahead. Even if you don’t think you’ll reach anywhere close to 10,000 activations, at least that way you’ll be ahead of the game. On the subject of batteries, I did wonder if a combination of batteries and solar power might be worth considering for any future designs.

I’ll be coming back to add some longer-term reflections over the next few months and years but on a final note for now it’s surprising how quickly we’ve taken to using the lock. It really is so much easier to not have to get my keys out, and in terms of no longer having to share keys with guests, this has given me the peace of mind I was after. Even for non-Airbnb users I really do think smart locks will become commonplace in the not-too-distant future.

Just as with most smart devices that we introduce into our lives, there’s an initial focus on choosing and installing them, but eventually, they just become a part of our lives. A week has passed since installing the ‘Smartlock’ Deluxe and we’re already barely noticing it. As the saying goes ‘Good driving goes unnoticed’ the same can be said about good smart devices.

To find out more about the Smart lock Slimline Deluxe visit

https://www.smartchoicesecurity.co.uk/products/prolok-deluxe-handle

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.