Best Smart Locks For Your Home

Category: Security

We may forgive the Internet for being insecure; after all, it wasn’t designed to be secure. But locks certainly are, by definition. When you make something smarter it gets better, right? No, not always. Here's what you need to know about smart locks...

Which Smart Locks Actually Protect Your Home?

At the 2016 DEFCON security convention, researchers reported that 12 out of 16 smart lock models succumbed to a variety of “ridiculously easy to moderately difficult” attacks. Only one of the 12 vendors responded to the researchers’ alert, and that one said, “We know it's a problem, but we're not gonna fix it.”

All of the locks tested used Bluetooth Low Energy tech, a security feature that supports only Bluetooth connectivity at very short range (hence requiring low energy). Your front door lock should not be able to connect to a hacker’s WiFi network hundreds of feet away. Yet WiFi is one of the most popular features of smart locks, because it enables the convenience of smart locks.

With a smart lock on your own WiFi network, you can lock or unlock it from anywhere on the Internet. Got an AirBnB property? No problem; you can give the arriving guests access remotely, and issue them temporary digital “keys.” Amazon have a delivery for you? No problem; Amazon sells branded Amazon Key systems that includes a camera and a smart lock.

Consumer Smartlock review

The four locks that could not be hacked in the 2016 DEFCON testing were made by Noke (“no-key”), Masterlock, Kwikset, and August. I'd never heard of the other eight vendors: Quicklock, iBlulock, Plantraco, Ceomate, Elecycle, Vians, Okidokey and Mesh Motion. Hopefully they have smartened up their locks since then, or gone out of business. Current market leaders Yale and Schlage were not mentioned in the DEFCON report.

Noke makes commercial locks, and Masterlock focuses on smart padlocks. So let’s look at some of the most popular consumer-level smart locks being sold today.

The Kevo 2nd Generation system from Kwikset ($179) is expensive enough on its own, but you have to spend another $99 for its hub to get compatibility with Alexa and your smartphone. (Who doesn't want to say "Alexa, unlock my door"?) Otherwise, it works only with a touch-to-open Bluetooth Low Energy fob or a traditional key, which isn’t much fun for the money. When it debuted, the Kevo 2nd Gen cost $229; the Amazon price has been falling steadily as this product has racked up 40% 1-star ratings from buyers.

The August Lock 3rd Generation ($229) gets better reviews (56% 5-star, “only” 12% 1-star). But it, too, requires purchase of a separate hub ($65) to work with Alexa, bringing the total up to nearly $300. There’s also an optional pushbutton keypad for those AirBnB temporary access codes, and for the unhandy $99 will buy “expert installation.” Incongruously, high-end August has partnered with plebeian Walmart to offer Amazon-like home delivery while you are out. Surely, this is only an ill-conceived pilot program!

Schlage’s Connect Century Touchscreen Deadbolt ($170) approaches the star-average I’d like to see in a lock; 4.5 out of 5, with 5% 1-star and 75% 5-star ratings. Its smudge-resistant keypad means no smartphone or fob is needed. But it is compatible with third-party hubs that conform to the Z-wave standard so remote access and integration with other smart home appliances is possible. It includes a loud siren alarm to scare off would-be burglars who mess with your door.

Yale’s Assure Lock ($149) has a keypad, comes with two traditional keys, and works with your smartphone via a Yale app that can issue digital keys. But it is not compatible with Alexa, according to one reviewer who tried twice, which may account for its dramatically lower popularity. It seems Z-wave is not enough, Alexa also requires “Zigbee” compatibility. But if you don’t need to talk to your lock, this one looks like a great deal.

In researching this article, I found that tech press reviewers give their highest ratings to the smart locks that actual buyers rate lowest. The former tend to get all excited about shiny new things, no matter how impractical they may be, while the latter just want something that works. There’s a lesson here for shoppers and for tech press reviewers.

Do you have a smart lock on your home? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best Smart Locks For Your Home"

Posted by:

15 Jun 2018

I've found that batteries in exterior devices don't last very long in the northern climate winters. The extreme cold killed the batteries in my wireless doorbell, so I imagine the same would be true with electronic door locks that are not hardwired.

And who wants to be unable to enter their home when the power goes out? I experienced that when I only had my garage door opener with me.

Finally... a door lock is for security, possibly making the difference between life and death. I don't think I'll be trusting the Internet for that anytime soon.

Thanks for the article though, Bob.

Posted by:

15 Jun 2018

We have locks on our homes for one reason: security. If you want your door to be secure, and you’re willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a lockset, then hire a locksmith to install a truly secure lock. Look at something by Assa Abloy or Medeco (an Abloy company). Also, get the door, jamb and strike plate reinforced.

Posted by:

Paul S
15 Jun 2018

I agree with Joe. Spend your money on quality locks and reinforced installation. The IoT has proven to be not very secure, plus the reviewed locks should still have reinforced installations. Since I have windows in each exterior door, I installed double key deadbolts and I keep a key on a cup hook at each door molding for emergency exit purposes. Order plenty of extra keys at the time you purchase the locks and you won't need to worry that they won't work smoothly.

Posted by:

15 Jun 2018

Locks only keep honest people out.

Posted by:

Reed L
15 Jun 2018

My locksmith's comment was, "Locks are a social convention only. If someone really wants to get in, it's a three minute task, or a moderate force will open the door.

Posted by:

15 Jun 2018

I used to always keep a key in my front door lock when I was home (easy to find & you won't lock yourself out when you have to go somewhere) & no-one ever broke in; there was a German Shepherd waiting on the other side if anyone decided to enter my place without my say so :)

Posted by:

15 Jun 2018

"Lock" is nothing more than a four letter word. This is the twenty first century and nothing made today will keep an intruder out weather it be your home or car.

Posted by:

Pat Hagar
16 Jun 2018

You have given your opinion of most of the anti virus companies now on the market but I have not seen anything on PC Matic. Have you done this one and if not would you please add it to your work ?

Pat Hagar

Posted by:

16 Jun 2018

I have a Schlage. It works well, and the device itself is well made. It has a discreet alarm, which is nice, as the lock is on a door that has a security system entry delay on it (to allow time to put in the alarm code if you don’t disarm before entering the house.) The lock is a Z-wave device and works quite fine with Alexa devices, as long as you are using a Z-Wave compatible hub (rather than the Zigbee-only Echo Plus hub) for the communications. No big deal. The locks generally state right on the box which communizcations protocols they use, so this should be researched prior to purchase. The Schlage lock I have can be locked or unlocked via a code on a touchpad, a physical key or your smartphone. Since it uses batteries and has these various options, you aren’t likely to lock yourself out. As it uses the Z-Wave protocol, it integrates very well with my home automation system routines.

All that said, everyone who notes that if someone wants in bad enough, he’ll manage, are right. We use locks and alarm systems to keep the “lazier” thieves out, as so many just look for the easiest opportunities.

Posted by:

16 Jun 2018

I have the Kwikset on a z-wave system. I like the convenience of being able to unlock via a code on the lock keypad, the phone app, or a routine programed into the computer. I setup a few different codes so I can tell who is unlocking the door. I also like that the battery level is constantly monitored and displayed on my phone app and computer. The 4 AA batteries last well over a year and are easy to change. I like that the lock couldn't be "hacked", but have heard a rumor that the "smartkey" feature available on all newer Kwikset locks can be bumped easier than a normal key lock? I would like to know if that is true.

Posted by:

16 Jun 2018

I have had a Kevo gen 2 lock for 8 months and it works fine with my smartphone with NO HUB. Your info is incorrect or outdated.

Posted by:

18 Jun 2018

My last two homes have been fitted with NON Smart keypad locks. To the poster above. the batteries are more or less on the inside, so cold weather is only a minor concern. But good alkaline batteries and they will last at least three years.
Many, many years ago, my neighbourhood was subject to a rash of break ins. One day, while I was a work, my friend reported that he drove by my house & my two German shepherds were outside. The dogs knew him & he put them inside. There were NO MORE break ins to my neighbourhood after that. I wonder why?

Posted by:

18 Jun 2018

I had the Kwikset gen 1. It was never reliable. It would work for a day and then I would have to recalibrate the lock and or reinstall the app. It also went through a lot of batteries.
My wife was locked out one evening because the batteries died.

I removed the Kwikset and reinstalled my old lock.
I realized that when I left the house i would be driving my truck which needs a key, which means I always had keys with me.

My overall impression is that a normal deadlock is more secure and reliable.

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