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Understanding how do smart locks work can be a complex phenomenon if you are comparing it with a dumb traditional lock with a key. A smart lock is simply a traditional lock with connectivity options and extra security features using wireless encryption methods.
Smart locks probably may not be extra ( or less ) secure than the regular deadbolts. But they do add a whole lot of possibilities of convenience when it comes to its connectivity features with other smart home devices.
Smart locks add more value to your home once you start integrating them with other smart devices.
Read: Are Smart Locks Safe?
Types of Smart Locks
We can divide the keyless smart locks into two categories based on they are installed.
- On top of an existing deadbolt.
- Brand new setup by removing the existing lock.
All the entry-level smart locks from reputed brands like August, Kwikset, Schlage, Yale, etc are priced under $150. They are Bluetooth enabled and work within the house only.
As stated, they are the basic cheap smart locks with limited connectivity ( 250-300 feet ). The real power of smart locks comes alive when you can access them remotely.
Smart locks are of three types based on the protocols they use. While buying a smart lock make sure you opt for a smart lock using a protocol that will suffice your needs.
Smart Lock Protocols
The smart lock needs a language, technically called protocol to communicate with other smart home devices.
There are four ways smart home devices communicate with each other
Often Z-Wave and ZigBee are used interchangeably but there is a difference between the two. ZigBee is better than Z-Wave.
Looking at the scope of this article, let us put the two most important highlights of them. Both of them use AES-128 encryption. Z-Wave can support 232 devices on a mesh network whereas the ZigBee can accommodate as high as 65,000. Thereby for smart homes, Z-Wave is sufficient.
Let us look at the key highlights of each Smart Lock using one of these protocols.
How does Bluetooth Smart Locks work?
Smart locks with Bluetooth enabled connect directly with your smartphone and hence do not require any intermediate hub. The range of connectivity of the smart lock could be anywhere between 200-300 feet.
They have relatively good battery life and may last up to 1 year. They fundamentally lack remote connectivity but they have some convenient and practical features. The features which you will end up using regularly as they ease your life.
Smart lock with a proximity unlock/lock feature
Some of the smart locks ( August Smart Lock ) have proximity auto-lock and auto-unlock features when you reach or leave the door. Imagine a scenario where your hands are full and you have to find the door keys from your pocket or handbag.
With this smart lock, the door recognizes you and automatically unlocks itself.
This feature is available in most brands with some tweaks. For example, Kwikset Kevo has a touch to open keyless entry.
You can lock and unlock the front door with the touch of a button on your smartphone wherever you are sitting in your home.
You can also give electronic guest keys or access codes to the people you trust. The access code can be valid for one-time use or a certain time limit ranging from a few minutes to days.
The app provided by the manufacturer will show all the activity of locking/unlocking as a timeline.
How do Wifi Smart Locks work?
The true power of smart locks gets unleashed when some incredible features involving remote connectivity are added.
The WiFi smart locks provide the user remote access to the door lock from anywhere through the app on his smartphone. The smart lock has to be connected to home wifi.
With the touch of a button on your smartphone app, you can open and close the main door for your guests or kids who have arrived before you could reach it.
Enabling in-home delivery
Few wifi-enabled smart locks can be paired with Key by Amazon. Keys is an amazing feature for Amazon Prime members where customers can allow the Amazon delivery guy to open the door and place the deliverables inside your door.
The customer can use the Key app to unlock the door remotely and the Amazon cloud cam which is paired with the smart lock will enable in-home delivery.
The wifi smart locks can easily be paired with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri for other smart home features.
Some Bluetooth models of August like Smart Lock Pro and Kwikset Kevo can be made wifi with an additional hub to enable Wifi features.
How are smart locks powered?
Smart locks are powered by AA batteries which approximately 1 year. It does not require any other source of power or electricity.
The smart locks run on battery so even if there is a power outage you can be sure the safety isn’t compromised.
What happens if the smart lock battery fails?
All smart locks are provided with a low battery warning feature. Smart lock warns you a few days well before it goes out of battery power.
In a scenario, the AA batteries go out of power. Some brands provide terminals under the lock to provide power from the external battery source to lock/unlock.
Alternatively, you also have an option to operate from the keypad/keys as the case may be.