Do you need your keys?

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Living - Ask the Ar­chi­tect By Juan Pacheco

Keys are in­stru­ments that are used to ac­ti­vate locks in­tended to pro­tect ob­jects or our­selves from strangers; it is said that this in­ven­tion is at­trib­uted to Theodore of Samos, an ar­chi­tect, sculp­tor and in­ven­tor from the is­land of Samos in An­cient Greece around the sev­enth cen­tury BC.

Keys were orig­i­nally made of wood and in large sizes; in an­cient Egypt, they served to pro­tect the res­i­dences of peo­ple of the high­est so­cial class. The Ro­mans and the Greeks were the ones who pop­u­larised them; they were al­ready accessible to al­most everyone by then.

To­day’s tech­nolo­gies To­day, tech­nol­ogy forms part of our lives, so much so that it seems dif­fi­cult to imag­ine liv­ing with­out it; we find it in ev­ery cor­ner that we look at and in ev­ery space where we are. To­day we have be­come to­tally de­pen­dent on it and it is log­i­cal that we want to have the fa­cil­i­ties that tech­nol­ogy of­fers us in one of the most im­por­tant spa­ces of all, our home.

We can achieve this thanks to home au­to­ma­tion. Home au­to­ma­tion is the in­te­grated con­trol of elec­tri­cal and elec­tronic devices in a home or build­ing where a large num­ber of ob­jects are au­to­mated.

Home au­to­ma­tion in­cludes five large branches, some of which we have writ­ten ar­ti­cles about al­ready but just as a re­minder they are:

1. En­ergy sav­ing: This refers to en­abling ef­fi­cient man­age­ment of all the devices or sys­tems in the home with­out nec­es­sar­ily hav­ing to re­place them.

2. Com­fort: Refers to all the ac­tions that can be car­ried out to in­crease com­fort in the home; these ac­tions may have a pas­sive, ac­tive or mixed na­ture.

3. Se­cu­rity: Con­sists of cre­at­ing a net­work re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing her­itage, as­sets, per­sonal se­cu­rity and the lives of the in­hab­i­tants of a dwelling.

4. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions: This branch in­cludes the com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems that the house has, ei­ther in­side or out­side. These can com­mu­ni­cate be­tween devices, gen­er­ate con­sump­tion re­ports, re­quest med­i­cal as­sis­tance and many other func­tions.

5. Ac­ces­si­bil­ity: This branch refers to re­mote con­trol ap­pli­ca­tions or in­stal­la­tions in the environment, which can in­crease the au­ton­omy of peo­ple who have phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions as a re­sult of any kind of ill­ness and/or dis­abil­ity.

In this ar­ti­cle, I want to fo­cus par­tic­u­larly on a sys­tem that can in­clude three branches of home au­to­ma­tion: com­fort, se­cu­rity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Smart locks Smart locks are gad­gets de­signed pri­mar­ily to pro­vide greater se­cu­rity. They are eas­ier to open and close and en­able greater in­ter­ac­tion with the door it­self, and more func­tions that can be car­ried out with it.

There are al­ready locks with and with­out keys as such; now they work with per­sonal as­sis­tant ap­pli­ca­tions such as Ama­zon’s Alexa, Ap­ple’s Siri and Google’s Google As­sis­tant, ob­vi­ously. These smart locks can be op­er­ated with a se­cu­rity PIN, which for some peo­ple is much more com­fort­able. These smart locks can be con­trolled re­motely, so the user can ver­ify the state in which the lock is, and open or close it us­ing voice com­mands.

To achieve this, an ac­ces­sory is needed to in­te­grate these smart locks with the con­nected house-room. These are dif­fer­ent mod­ules that are com­pat­i­ble with the bet­ter known sys­tems, such as the Z-Wave, Zig­bee or HomeKit.

The Ap­ple HomeKit al­lows in­te­gra­tion with the Ap­ple Home app, which can be in­stalled on an iPhone, iPad and Ap­ple Watch, and is con­trolled re­motely us­ing Siri. In par­al­lel, you can also use the Yale Se­cure app to con­trol the lock, add or re­move devices, man­age up to 25 PIN codes or see the bat­tery sta­tus.

In the case of Ama­zon’s Alexa, the sys­tems on which it is based are Z-Wave or Zig­bee, so an Ama­zon Echo de­vice can be used to con­trol the dif­fer­ent locks in­te­grated with the house. In ad­di­tion, these locks can be in­te­grated with Sam­sung’s SmartThings ecosys­tem.

One of the al­ter­na­tives that seems more in­ter­est­ing to me is the Au­gust Smart Lock, which is a tech­no­log­i­cal com­ple­ment that can be placed on each door of the house. It al­lows you to at­tach it to a tra­di­tional door and ob­tain to­tal con­trol over it by means of a smart­phone and its spe­cific app, for which it must be con­nected to Wi-Fi or Blue­tooth. The in­ter­est­ing thing about this lock is that it oc­cu­pies the space of the ex­ist­ing lock. This in­volves re­mov­ing the mech­a­nism that al­lows man­ual open­ing and re­plac­ing it with this kit, which is com­posed of a lock and the nec­es­sary an­chors. You do not need complicated tools and once in­stalled you just have to down­load the app that is avail­able for both iOS and An­droid and cal­i­brate the turn sys­tem be­fore ac­ti­vat­ing the lock. And as the whole sys­tem is placed in­side the door, the ap­pear­ance re­mains the same

In this way we can have ac­cess con­trol at home or at work even if we are not present. It is also a sys­tem that is com­pat­i­ble with most of these types of lock on the mar­ket. How­ever, this sys­tem has a draw­back and that is its price, since each Smart Lock unit costs about €230, so fit­ting one to all the doors in a house can be sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pen­sive.

An­other al­ter­na­tive which may be in­ter­est­ing is the SmartCode by Kwik­set. This com­pany al­ready has some ex­pe­ri­ence in the field of in­tel­li­gent locks and has sev­eral so­lu­tions on the mar­ket. This model is com­pat­i­ble with Sam­sung SmartThings and now with Ama­zon’s Alexa. SmartCode locks al­low the use of up to 30 se­cu­rity codes at the same time, which a main user code is re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing safe from un­wanted users. These codes can be used ei­ther from the mo­bile or with the touch screen that the lock in­cludes. And for more se­cu­rity they have 128-bit en­cryp­tion. This al­ter­na­tive can be eas­ily found for price of around €225, a very sim­i­lar price to a Smart Lock.

And fi­nally, the Xiaomi Vima Smart is an al­ter­na­tive that ap­pears to be not so in­no­va­tive but very in­ter­est­ing and seems to ex­plore a pre­vi­ously un­ex­plored niche. This smart lock is cu­ri­ous, be­cause al­though it is con­nected to our smart­phone it has the pe­cu­liar­ity of not us­ing the smart­phone as a key. To ac­cess Xiaomi, we have to use one of the five coded keys that come with the lock. As I men­tioned be­fore, this is hardly in­no­va­tive, it only in­creases the col­lec­tion of keys we carry ev­ery day. What is in­ter­est­ing is that it is pro­gram­mable. The lock can be con­fig­ured from our smart­phone ac­cord­ing to our needs, so we can pro­gramme dif­fer­ent func­tions, de­ter­mine pe­ri­ods dur­ing which it will be in­ac­tive, de­ter­mine which key can open it and at what time, or even re­quire a com­bi­na­tion of keys to open the door. The sys­tem also warns if some­one tries to ac­cess or in­ter­fere with it.

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