Smart locks were one of the first genuinely exciting and life-changing products to hit the smart home market. They’ve just been given a significant upgrade.
Considering that the first electronic keycard lock was patented back in 1975, smart door locks have been slow to gain traction with consumers. People tend to like the idea – no more carrying keys or forgetting keys, having the ability to grant access to a property remotely, tracking who comes and who goes. Yet one thing that has held smart lock adoption back is that they haven’t offered compelling features beyond basic keyless entry.
At least, that used to be the case.
Now, the future of the smart lock sector looks increasingly bright. A recent analyst report, for example, predicted that the smart lock market will grow from USD 1,295.57 million in 2017 to USD 3,181.58 million by the end of 2024. New, more advanced products have transformed a niche market into the popular and buoyant one we are seeing today.
Standards-based Setup Simplicity
While the use cases behind the smart lock are numerous, one of the main barriers to adoption has been reliability – both for business and home users. Trust in a door lock needs to be absolute, so the latest generation of smart locks connect over standard Wi-Fi networks. This is opposed to using proprietary wired or Bluetooth setup methods (as favoured by early locks), which require lengthy physical access as well as regular bug fixing by manufacturers.
Today, products like the VPai Smart Lock can be quickly and easily set up via either Apple iPhone or Android smartphone apps. This easy-to-use mobile software not only enables remote locking and unlocking functionality, but also a host of value-add functions (like Facebook/WeChat/LINE log-in, alerts and video management) that raise the bar considerably from first generation smart locks.
Range of Authentication Methods
Interestingly, the most important part of the smart lock – the means to unlock it – was often partially ignored in early iterations. Some required a charged smartphone with an activated app (but what happens when you run out of battery life before you get home?). While others relied on a code being entered manually – which can often take longer than using a physical key.
New generation products are increasingly multi-authentication devices. The VPai Smart Lock, for example, is not only controllable via smartphone apps, but also by a full range of local authentication procedures that can include: biometric fingerprint recognition (aimed at high level execs or homeowners) and an ISO/IEC 14443 Type A device-compliant NFC card reader (ideal for wider business use or causal home visitors). A 12-Key Touchpad offers a last level of fully-manual authentication, perhaps for high-risk, low access requirement rooms such as server rooms or other restricted areas.
For home users, the ability to have backup authentication options (instead of a spare key hidden under a flower pot) adds security as well as flexibility. This is important should the primary method of entry (such as a smartphone) be unavailable. In addition, the ability to remotely unlock a smart locked storage area when a delivery driver calls with a parcel, relocking it when they have left, is a secure convenience that most homeowners can identify with.
Integration? What Integration?
Another early challenge with smart home technology is integration. A homeowner might like the usability offered by one device – such as a smart lock – but then become aware that in order to gain full use of the device, several supporting devices were needed, such as a security camera to monitor that visitors were genuine.
This is where devices like the VPai Smart Lock push the boundaries, combining several devices out of the box – PIR motion detection, a wide-angle HD camera with night vision capabilities, plus two-way audio for remote communications. The result is a single, high-tech unit that can perform all the functions you might need from a smart door lock and then some. There’s no need for additional devices, extra setup steps or complex integration, which can be a genuine problem when shopping for smart home technology.
Combining these various elements also creates a device that is far more than the sum of its parts. The VPai Smart Lock’s PIR (Passive Infrared) sensors detect any approaching visitor, triggering an alert to the user’s phone (if desired), as well as starting a recording. Any video captured can be stored in the cloud and retrieved via the app or browser for later viewing, while thumbnails and an easy to navigate UI make light work of hunting down the correct clip.
A 170-degree wide-angle lens coupled with infrared night vision and fill-light mean that you can surveil visitors, day or night, while the two-way audio means that chatting to visiting friends or interrogating unexpected callers is simplicity itself – and all before the door lock is needed.
Of course, smart door locks also need to hold up as door locks. A vital asset here is an anti-tamper system, as some digital locks can fail if physically compromised by an attacker. The VPai Smart Lock’s tamper switch detects if someone tries to pry it open, and prevents forced entry with an automated alarm, while sending an alert to the user’s smartphone.
Another essential hardware trait is that maintenance is not onerous. Automatic OTA updates ensure that software is always fully patched and up to date, without forcing enterprise IT staff to travel from site to site, manually updating each unit. Another vital facet is long battery life, which the VPai Smart Lock achieves by offering support for two 7.4V 5000mAh Lithium-ion batteries – each with considerably more capacity than a modern smartphone.
The Future of Security
Stepping back, it’s fascinating how far the smart lock has come since those first Bluetooth devices. Rather than simply replacing a physical key, there is now a trend to pursue wider device functionality, widening commercial appeal to all verticals, while increasing market penetration. By offering multiple features, smart locks have become a more compelling and useful prospect. They are fast becoming the key to smarter building security.
To see how far smart locks have come, see what the VIA VPai Smart Lock is capable of.