Smart Locks: What You Need to Know

McMahon smartlockA smart lock is a home device that allows you to lock and unlock a door from an app on your smartphone, computer, or tablet. It can also monitor who is entering and leaving your home while you’re away. Some models let you assign special privileges to friends, family members, or maintenance staff. Others can be activated using voice commands or triggers from other smart home devices and services.

A connected lock offers both security and flexibility, letting you control access to your home with your phone. Smart locks provide a new home security experience with the ability to customize who can access your home and when to lock or unlock your door from anywhere.


A smart lock gives you a whole list of features and capabilities no ordinary lock can match. When reviewing smart lock options,  choose one with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, instead of only Bluetooth connectivity. If your front door is too far from your smart home hub to reliably connect via Bluetooth, this significantly reduces your ability to use many remote features that are the true benefit of a smart lock.

In addition, smart locks may contain some or all of these features:

  • Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to view entry and exit logs in real-time so you always know who has come and left your home and when — great for parents to verify kids get home safely after school.
  • Bluetooth connectivity allows your smart lock to recognize you by connecting with your smartphone and unlocking your door as you approach.
  • Multiple keyless entry options could include proximity unlocking with your smartphone, remote unlocking with your smartphone, custom code numbers for anyone who needs to enter your home, voice command, and touch or fingerprint recognition.
  • Create permanent or temporary entry codes for visiting guests, cleaning services, dog walkers, repair services, and every individual member of your family.
  • Set limitations for access for every entry code. Limitations can include days of the week and specific hours to ensure code holders can only access your home during approved times.
  • Auto-locking options let you set your smart lock to automatically lock the door if left unlocked for a specific amount of time.
  • Geofencing can automatically lock your door if your smartphone’s location is detected outside of a designated perimeter from your home. Use the mobile app to set up a perimeter around your house, and use your phone’s location services to pinpoint your exact location.
  • Receive alerts on your smartphone if someone tries to break in or tampers with the smart lock. You can also set it to automatically notify police or a home security service should this occur.
  • Integrate with your connected smart home to activate other smart home devices when your door is unlocked, for example, set your smart lights to turn on when the door is unlocked.
  • Sync your smart lock with your video doorbell and any indoor cameras for extra security and to view or record anyone that accesses your home (or attempts to).

*Features vary depending on brand and model.

Remote Accessibility

Most smart locks – even those with number pads and Bluetooth capabilities- have remote access capability. But you’ll need a Wi-Fi signal, your smartphone, an app and possibly a gateway/bridge which is a device on your home network that allows communication with a smart device that’s not on the home network. You can lock the door, get notified when family get home or even unlock the door for a package delivery from anywhere. Zigbee and Z-Wave- compatible locks require a smart hub because smartphones don’t speak these protocols natively. Samsung SmartThings and Wink are the front-runners in the smart home space and are compatible with many smart locks. Zigbee and Z-Wave allowed easy communication between multiple devices by creating a mesh network. With Zigbee, all the devices need to be within 60ft of each other. With Z-Wave, the range increases to about 300ft.

Automation Possibilities

Adding a smart lock to your setup not only provides added security but also unlocks some cool option if you integrate it with other smart devices. You can:

  • Automatically have your lights turn on when the door is unlocked
  • Automatically lock your door when you leave or unlock as you approach
  • Trigger certain playlists to play on your smart speaker whenever you arrive home.
  • Turn on your A/C when you arrive home for the day.
  • Log every lock/unlock action to Google spreadsheet
  • Activate a security camera when you leave for the day
  • Lock your door using Alexa or Google Home

Common Concerns

  • Can a hacker use the Wi-Fi connection of my smart lock to access my home?

The most important key to keeping all of your connected smart home devices secure from hackers and electronic tampering is to ensure your Wi-Fi system is set up using security best practices, including requiring a password to connect to your Wi-Fi and always using complex passwords. Your smart lock and all of your connected smart home devices access the internet through the same Wi-Fi set-up your computers, smartphones, tablets, and TV streaming service use. Making your Wi-Fi set-up as secure as possible is the most effective way to protect against hackers.

  • If my internet connection or electricity goes out, how do I get into my home?

Many smart lock models also come with a traditional key port so you can use it as a standard lock if needed. Additionally, the Bluetooth connectivity will still work with your smartphone when you are in range for the phone and lock to connect to each other. Smart locks are also designed with these common issues in mind. When you’ve narrowed down your choices, review how the manufacturer has designed the smart lock to work in these situations.

A Final Note

With smart locks, it’s really all about trying to add a small convenience to your daily life. They can make getting into your house easier when your arms are full and your keys are out of reach. They can also save you a trip the hardware store to have a key made for a new roommate or having to dash home on your lunch break to let in a service professional. Smart locks can really save the day when you need to grant access to someone and you’re not home.

In the end though, there’s no right answer in terms of the model you should buy, but consider whether you should keep or replace your current deadbolt, what protocol best lines up with your smart-home needs, what, if any, third-party devices you’d like your lock to work with, and if you prefer a touchpad or a more traditional lock design — will help you narrow down your options so you can quickly find the right smart lock for you.


Helpful Links:

Samsung SmartThings
PC Mag Best Smart Locks for 2019
LifeWire Best Smart Locks of 2019
TechHive Best Smart Locks 2019
A smart home guide for beginners