Locks, whether smart or dumb, are designed to keep intruders and other unwanted people out while at the same time letting the right people in without much hassle. Whether physical or digital, you’ll still need some sort of key to gain access.
Whether you want to call them dumb, traditional, or analog, regular door locks do one thing, and one thing well: keep things from getting in. While the innards of a traditional lock vary based on manufacturer, security rating, or locking mechanism, they usually open with the turn of a key.
Smart locks take advantage of something you’ve got on you all the time: your smartphone. Whether you’re connecting via Bluetooth, using geolocation to identify when you’re home, or controlling the lock through a Wi-Fi-enabled app, you can use your smart lock and smartphone in concert to open the door, key-free. There are relatively few smart lock varieties available, partially because of its novelty and status as a relative newcomer to the market.
Smart Locks Are a Future We’re Not Quite Ready For (Yet)
Smart locks trounce traditional locks when it comes to convenience. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $175 to $230 to snag one. Some smart locks can open doors through corresponding apps, letting you grant people access from miles away. That convenience, coupled with other cool features like “temporary” keys and automatic locking based on geolocation, make it a lock perfect for today’s internet-of-things society. Unfortunately, they’re just as insecure as the rest of the smart home tech we use.
Not only are smart locks susceptible to attacks from malicious parties, they can be disabled by the company itself depending on the software involved. Recently, smart lock company Lockstate accidentally bricked hundreds of its own smart locks through a botched software update. The locks, recommended by Airbnb for use by hosts, left renters locked out of their temporary homes with little recourse. When we asked a group of security experts whether they’d use smart locks themselves, we were met with mixed responses. Not a great sign.
Traditional Locks Work, as Long as You’ve Got an Extra Key
The no-fuss access a traditional lock provides is convenient, as long as you have your own key. The number of options available to you when purchasing a traditional lock are nearly limitless, and you can find one based on your security needs pretty easily. Prices for traditional locks range from $20 to $100. Breaking a traditional lock is also more difficult than hacking a smart lock. For one, you need to be next to the lock instead of on a computer, miles away.
Where a traditional lock fails is where a smart lock excels, however. If your friend wants in while you’re out and about, they’ll have to have a key of their own to unlock your dumb lock. If you can’t meet with them you’ll need to leave it for them in an inconspicuous location, lest someone else discover it (please, don’t leave it under the mat). That level of insecurity might be enough to turn people off of traditional locks, but a little planning (and an extra key or two at home) tend to solve this issue pretty easily.
Verdict: Smart Locks Are Useful, But Not Ready For Primetime
I recently replaced my front door’s flimsy lock with a fancier, traditional deadbolt lock. While I did consider a smart lock, I didn’t want to deal with the potential inability to get inside my own home thanks to some hackers online, a company pushing a faulty software update. Besides, explaining smart home technology to my landlord would’ve been another hassle, despite his easygoing temperament.
While adding smarts to devices like light bulbs, watches, or even security cameras makes sense, trusting access to your home to a nascent and expensive security system is something you should avoid, at least for now. If you’re serious about this whole “home of the future” business, then consider a smart lock from a trusted lock brand instead of a newfound startup.