Do you need your keys?
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Keys were originally made of wood and in large sizes; in ancient Egypt, they served to protect the residences of people of the highest social class.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, 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 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. British and Spanish qualified Architect