Last updated: September 13, 2016
Smart locks vary wildly in design, technology and functionality more than other smart home product. But all true Wi-Fi-enabled smart locks include remote capabilities – being able to email virtual "keys" to supply friends, family and home workers entry, remotely lock or unlock, and get alerts and a log reporting exits and entries.
Expect to spend between $200-$300 on a fully-featured smart lock.
Here are five questions to ask before you buy a smart lock.
- Who makes smart locks? Traditional lock companies make both true Wi-Fi smart locks and smart-ish locks that lack remote and virtual key options. The most innovative smart locks come from technology start-ups. But you may want to consider these start-ups' lack of basic lock experience and reputation for something so crucial as your home's security.
- Can I install a smart lock myself? Yes, usually with just a screwdriver and usually in less than an hour. Just make sure you have the right kind of bolt lock that a smart lock would replace.
- What wireless technologies does a smart lock work with? Smart locks use Wi-Fi so you can monitor entries and exits via the Internet. But some use Bluetooth to enable proximity lock/unlock features, some use NFC to respond to touch, some a combination of all three.
- How does it open? Some smart locks can automatically lock and unlock when it senses you're within a defined distance from it or after a predetermined period of time. Others are activated by tapping the lock with your smartphone, when you touch it with your finger, or when you punch in a passcode on a physical or touchscreen keypad. Many offer a mix of all of these methods, and some even open with a standard key. Which lock you choose should be based on your personal comfort and trust level with the varying keyless, or even key-centric, options.
- How do the remote keys work? You can assign keys to a limited number of people, and you can set parameters for usage of these keys, such as limiting virtual key activation to specific times and dates. Caveat emptor: some lock makers charge for virtual keys after of an initial included allotment. So read the fine print, and as usual, ask.