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November 16, 2016

Cell Phone to Replace House Key: Advantages and Disadvantages to Smart Home

By Special Guest
Dean Barnett, President and CEO, International Tool Corporation

For some homeowners, the key is going the way of the dodo bird. For many homes throughout the world, the cell phone is replacing the traditional deadbolt and metal house key. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to this modern trend in smart home design - one that promises convenience at the price of security.

What is a Smart Lock?
Smart locks are electromagnetic devices designed to operate using communication protocols. The protocols available are Bluetooth, WiFi, and Z-Wave, with Bluetooth being the most popular. Using this protocol, locks may be opened or closed through a cell phone; they can program a door to open, for example, when you are ten feet away, struggling with groceries. They can also be opened through an app, email, or SMS text message, and you - the homeowner - can grant access to other individuals so that they can enter your home.

Part of a smart security system, smart locks also alert homeowners when a lock has been broken, or when a burglary is taking place, although authors at RFID Journal comment that homeowners would only know someone broke into their house after coming home. It would be better if this technology could communicate to police or other neighbors in the area, notifying them the moment a burglary is taking place. In this way, neighbors could come out immediately and attempt to stop the burglar - at least until police arrived. Sadly, we’re not quite there yet technologically.

Smart Locks - Disadvantages
For one, they can be hacked into. In addition, depending on how much access each lock needs in order to operate, your information may be on the network, giving more accessibility to hackers. Secondly, there is always a chance of a technological glitch as well as non-recognition. Depending on the style of the lock you may be locked out indefinitely until a locksmith comes to assist you. Thirdly and finally, the lock is powered by a battery device. This presents a host of problems, including the lock going flat, or not working following an electrical outage. However, this risk is mitigated by having software that alerts you when battery life is low. Low battery indicator can also show up as a colored light, or audio signal, prompting you to change the battery. One can argue that this in itself is a large inconvenience; with traditional deadbolts you install them once and never have to worry about this issue.

Smart Locks - Advantages
Disadvantages aside, the technology does indeed make life easier. Ultimately, they are designed to elevate the quality of life among its users.

Firstly, you never have to worry about carrying house keys around with you; your cellphone will take care of opening and locking. Secondly, smart locks cannot be picked as they don’t contain the same locking mechanism as deadbolts.

Thirdly, smart locks allow homeowners to let in specific people only during certain times of the day. As the “lock-master” you can grant access to other user’s cell phones, allowing them access or denying them access while being able to monitor who just walked in. For example, you may set a time for your housekeeper to only come in during the hours allowed for her day shift. No need to worry about her throwing a party during the night or during the weekend as the device can prevent her from accessing the home outside of the hours you set.

This can be further extended to children, offering a boon to concerned helicopter parents. Parents can check at what exact time children walked in the door after school or sport practice, receiving an alert as to which members of the house used the lock at a given time.

Final Thoughts
No security method is 100 percent foolproof. The smart lock has the potential to offer many conveniences at the price of security. What they lack in stability, the locks make up for in intelligence; having complete authority on who enters your home - and also getting this information sent to you as an alert will always be a big draw of this smart technology.

About the Author: Dean Barnett is the President and CEO of International Tool Corporation. He earned a Bachelors of Arts from the University of South Florida in Finance. Dean has been with International Tool since 1982 and has been President/CEO since 1990.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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