There is no question connected technology is changing the way we carry out simple, everyday tasks within our homes. The smarter our products are getting, the easier our lives are becoming, whether we are away from home or sitting on our couch. In many ways, this is due to the fact M2M (machine-to-machine) technology has taken over more parts of the home.
Take the thermostat as an example. Traditionally, this product only allowed you to adjust the temperature of your home (when your spouse wasn’t looking, of course). Timers made that task a little easier—and perhaps initiated some compromise between you and your spouse—but now we have seen products like the Nest Learning Thermostat from Nest Labs, www.nest.com, taking this idea even further. Nest actually learns your schedule and programs itself based on your usage patterns. It can also be programmed from your phone. The real benefit, however, is in the money savings it can offer by alerting users when they are saving energy. According to Nest, the smart thermostat can potentially lower your heating and cooling bills by up to 20%.The product has become one of the more popular connected-home products on the market today.
The question, then, is if we are willing to allow M2M technology to make all aspects of our lives easier, including our security. A new door lock called Lockitron, www.lockitron.com, is attempting to just that by bringing connected technology right to your front door.
Available in March 2013 for about $149, the smart door lock with built-in Wi-Fi will allow users to lock and unlock their doors with a smartphone app. This not only eliminates the need for keys, but gives users the ability to remotely unlock their front door for anyone they see fit, including a UPS driver.
The features are impressive. Users can invite trusted family members and friends to have access to the program, allowing someone other than the homeowner to lock and unlock the door. No more key copies necessary. The system also notifies users if the door is unlocked while they are away from home. That means parents and landlords can receive a text message every time someone unlocks the door, either with a phone or a traditional key.
There are several advanced features as well. Thanks to Bluetooth 4.0 and a function called Sense, iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 users can simply walk up to the door, and it will unlock itself, offering true keyless entry. Intelligent power management extends the lock’s battery life to one year, and the system will even send you a notification when the batteries are running low. In addition, the smart lock is compatible with any smartphone, and older phones can use the system through simple text messaging.
And while these features certainly make unlocking a door a more simple and tech-savvy task, they can also open up a number of new security concerns. Someone literally hacking their way into your home is a huge—and perhaps, valid—concern. Even so, Lockitron developers say the door lock system relies on the same protocols as online banking, and it is built on robust encryption using open, published standards. Also, if you lose your phone, you can disable its access to your smart lock by resetting your account password.
Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if a large number of consumers remain hesitant about giving their smartphone access to their front door. Some service providers are attempting to ease those concerns through extra security measures and additional products, like a video camera. Verizon Wireless, www.verizon.com, for example, offers homeowners the option of connecting a video camera with their smart door lock so that they can receive text messages and access video footage every time someone locks or unlocks the door. Motion sensors can provide even more security by sending users notifications every time motion is detected outside their front door. But then, of course, you have turned your door lock into a complete security system.
Like any connected service or product, mass adoption will depend on the comfort level of the consumer. As long as the industry takes the proper security precautions and educates the consumer about them, our lives do, in fact, have the potential to get that much easier.