If you’re in the market for a smart lock, you may be wondering what types are available. There are multiple forms of smart locks on the market, from app-based keyfobs and keypads to biometric scanners, and each has its advantages. Which type is right for you? Let’s explore each type of smart lock in more depth to help you decide.
If you want a smart lock that can integrate with your other smart home technology and automation systems, then a hub smart lock may be right for you. Hub locks connect to a central controller, which connects all the smart devices in range so they can “talk” to each other. Integrating the lights and air conditioning to come on when the door is unlocked, for example, is easy if there are smart lights, a smart thermostat, and a smart lock connected to the hub.
The main downsides of hub locks are that they require a bit more setup and hardware, may not be as useful for those who don’t have a lot of smart devices to integrate, and not all smart devices can use the same hubs, so you may be restricted to one area of the market after buying a hub.
The two biggest hub controller protocols are Z-Wave and Zigbee, and they both support a variety of smart locks. However, Z-Wave and Zigbee aren’t compatible, as they operate on different frequencies. Some smart hubs can support either frequency, however.
Z-Wave is a wireless tech designed to operate at a low frequency and not interfere with Wi-Fi signals. The majority of smart device makers use Z-Wave, though some use both Z-Wave and ZigBee. It’s been used for years in the corporate sphere.
Zigbee is faster and cheaper than Z-Wave but doesn’t have as good a range. It’s also open-source, which means that it’s easy for security manufacturers to use it, but individual Zigbee devices aren’t guaranteed to be able to “talk” to each other if the manufacturer writes their own Zigbee software.
If you’re not interested in buying a smart hub or don’t want the hassle of setting one up, you may want to consider a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth smart lock. These types of locks connect directly to your home’s Wi-Fi network or your smartphone via Bluetooth and can be controlled with an app.
Wi-Fi is already installed in most people’s homes and doesn’t require a hub, but can cause issues if the home’s Internet goes down. It works by encrypting smart devices’ connections to the Wi-Fi router (which prevents hacking). Bluetooth has a shorter range than Wi-Fi, but it also doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection. RFID is similar to Bluetooth, as it uses a fob or card for keyless entry, but RFID is more commonly used in a commercial setting.
- Better range—you can lock or unlock your door remotely, such as for guests, and receive remote updates on lock activity
- Customizable codes—you can set codes to expire after a certain period of time to grant one-time access, or set a code to only work during certain times of day
- Hands-free option—it can recognize when the paired device is within range and unlock automatically
- Often battery-operated, so still work in the event of a power outage
- Not reliant on an Internet connection to work
For even better results, both hub and hubless smart locks can often be integrated with voice assistants like Alexa, Hey Google, and Siri, letting you lock the door with a voice command. (For obvious reasons, however, they usually won’t let you unlock the door with a voice command. If they do, there will likely be a spoken PIN.)
The majority of smart locks require a bit of renovation to the door, which can be an issue in some situations. Enter retrofit smart locks, which are designed to be installed over your existing deadbolt. These are particularly popular with renters and those who want to keep their existing physical keys, since the smart lock clamps over the existing hardware. Retrofit locks are the easiest way to add connectivity to your door security, as they don’t require replacing anything.
One downside of retrofit locks is that they make up a minority of the market, so there are fewer options for those who want a retrofit smart lock. There are many deadbolt-replacement smart locks that are relatively easy for novice DIYers to install, though, so if ease of installation is the main concern, don’t feel limited to retrofits.
These kinds of smart locks don’t require a key, code, hub, or even a phone, and yet they’re one of the most secure kinds of locks on the market. How? They use unique biological features—primarily fingerprints—to ensure that only certain people can open them. There’s no lock to pick, no fob to pickpocket, and no chance of guessing a code. From the homeowner’s side, there’s no chance of forgetting an opening device or code, either; the ability to open the lock is always literally at your fingertips.
Most biometric locks can hold over 100 fingerprints in memory, and they usually have keypads as a backup option. With app integration, these locks also have the remote access benefits of Wi-Fi locks.
The best part of smart locks is that there are many, many smart locks out there that combine multiple types of locking systems and controls. Most fingerprint locks will have Wi-Fi app-based features; voice assistants often have the ability to connect to hubs; you can find smart locks out there that will offer you six different ways to open them for maximum convenience and flexibility.
There are smart locks out there for different kinds of doors, too. Smart locks for sliding doors and garage doors fill unique needs that are different from locks intended for front doors.
So, which type of smart lock is right for you? It depends on your needs and preferences. If security is your top priority, go for a biometric lock. If convenience is key, go for a Bluetooth lock that can talk to the phone in your pocket without you lifting a finger. There’s a smart lock out there with just the right features for your individual wishlist.
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