This post first appeared on Wareable, in May 2016...
"Let's talk about smart locks." That's not just the theme of this week's smart home diary but an actual phrase I muttered last week when my wife asked me to choose a lock for the new front door, from a hardware catalogue she was holding.
"They're brilliant," I enthused. "You don't need to bother with keys any more, they use wireless signals to open and you don't even need to take your phone out of your pocket – it just knows you're there!"
"Amazing," she replied, feeding off of my excitement. "Let me have a look."
So I show her some pictures what's currently available… and the short story is we're not having one. Take your pick from too tacky / too modern / too big – and you'll get the gist of her argument.
And, despite me wanting as much useful tech installed in the new house, I do see her point. Smart locks are either very futuristic looking (Mul-T-Lock ENTR, Danalock, August and so on) and would only really look good on super modern apartments, or they are just chunky and more awkward than they really need to be.
The Yale Keyless Connected ($200) is guilty of the latter. It's the smart lock that I almost convinced my better half to let me install. But while it looks the least garish of the smart lock bunch, it is still rather a cumbersome affair to operate – at least if you really want it to be smart.
It can be used as a relatively techy lock using tags or pin codes but, in order for it to be truly smart – and team up with an app on your smartphone – it needs to be connected to a hub. It's compatible with Z-Wave modules, and Yale sells its own version of this separately but, if you're building a network of connected devices, then the Samsung SmartThings compatibility will no doubt be your best bet.
The other problem that I, and I guess many people will face, is that houses sometimes have porches and, as such, two doors and two locks before you gain entry. So while the remote guest access pin codes are great for letting in your friends and family when you're not there – you'd still need to sort them out with a physical key for the porch door.
In flats and apartments this could be less of an issue (if guests can be buzzed in a main door) but, as far as I could see, no one has come up with a decent dual setup for smart locks.
Instead, I'm going to use the Yale Keyless system on my external office, at the end of the garden – once it's built. That's actually a great solution for me as I'll always need my phone on me when I'm in there playing Xbox working, and I won't have to bother taking a set of keys down the garden with me.
Our front door won't be completely devoid of connected tech however. Our doorbell is cutting edge. Big, bulky, but cutting edge. Ring ($199) is a smart video doorbell that lets you see who's knocking on your door.
It has a HD camera and motion detection tech built in and you're alerted on your smartphone when someone is within range of your front door.
That means you can screen visitors when you are home or interact with callers when you're not indoors. It's going to be particularly useful when delivery men come and I'm not home.
I'll be able to tell them when someone should home to sign for valuable items, or instruct them to just lob the parcels over the side gate if my wife has been on an Asos-spree.
Talking of my side gate and that too will feature a smart lock. The Noke connected padlock ($69) is a Kickstarter success story that is made with zinc and steel.
It uses Bluetooth to sync up with your smartphone, meaning no fumbling about for keys with my cold, wet hands, after I've walked home from the pub been on a long run.
So, my main lock might be the old-fashioned kind but I'm pretty happy with the overall plan which, nicely, hasn't cost us that much money either. And, even though the dumb lock she chose is more expensive than any smart lock I suggested, my wife is happy too.
Let us know if you've bought and used any smart locks or doorbells and how you have been getting on in the comments.