School of Smart Locks: Why Your Customers Should Make the Switch

The key to residential access control it turns out may not involve a key at all. Find out how intelligence at the door is an all-around smart option.

School of Smart Locks: Why Your Customers Should Make the Switch

(Image courtesy of Kwikset)

Residential door locks have undergone a metamorphosis the past few years. Keypads, wireless technology, biometrics, networked connectivity, integration capabilities and more are placing more intelligence and user convenience at the doorstep than ever imagined possible.

Known as smart locks, these devices may be even smarter than many people realize. “These technologies have really propelled the evolution of the product category from ‘smart locks’ to access control for the home,” says Mark Jenner, director of technology alliances at Allegion, maker of Schlage locks. “They not only allow users to lock and unlock a door remotely, they also provide the convenience of setting up user profiles for all members of a household, frequent guests, contractors, and more.”

Here, we take inventory of the sales potential for such products and the perks for people who are ditching their physical keys for the convenience and added security smart locking devices have to offer.

Tech Opening New Doors

Let’s jump into the above-mentioned emerging technologies that in recent years have dramatically impacted smart lock advancements.

Keypads: Garrett Lovejoy, director of product management for ASSA ABLOY Smart Residential, contends that keypad locks have long been the entry-level option for consumers beginning to explore smart lock and digital entryway upgrades. The availability of both keyed and 100% keyless keypad locks offer consumers the option of keeping a physical key or going key-free and tamperproof, or upgrading altogether to a full smart lock.

“Keypad and touchscreen technologies provide users with convenient and secure access through unique codes,” he says. “Users can set codes for guests or service providers for specific days/times that need temporary home access, or for children or other household members who may not have a smartphone. A keypad lock also removes the need to hide a physical key for guests.”

Wireless: Nick English, director, sales for Kwikset Residential Access Solutions, emphasizes that there’s no question wireless technology has made smart locks much more desirable.

“Installation is far easier with no hard wiring to worry about, which also makes installation far less expensive. More importantly, as wireless technology has evolved, it’s become more reliable, and consumer concerns about connectivity have unquestionably been reduced,” he says.

Bluetooth, WiFi and protocols like Z-Wave and Zigbee help facilitate seamless integration among home security/automation providers, affording consumers a wide range of wireless choices.

“It should be noted that while many commercial applications still make use of hardwired smart locks for functions like key card authentication, wireless technology now dominates the residential arena. Most people already have WiFi capability in their homes powering their Internet connection, so WiFi is a relatively easy sell,” adds English.

The August WiFi smart lock allows for upgrading legacy deadbolts. Users can remotely lock or unlock the door, check door status, grant virtual guest keys, and see who’s coming and going. Or they can use their favorite voice assistant to control their door. (Image courtesy of August)

Biometrics: Biometric access for smart locks is largely borne out of widespread biometric access capabilities in most smartphones, says Lovejoy. Considering the average smartphone user unlocks their phone 150 times a day, largely with face or fingerprint verification, many smartphone users now expect the same convenience from their smart lock.

Hence, many smart locks now include a biometric access option, especially via fingerprint or touch. English agrees the use of biometrics in smart locks is expanding rapidly. To this point, he says, biometrics is basically centered around fingerprint detection, using a thermal or optical scanner to store the fingerprints of anyone authorized to unlock your door.

“Not only are more manufacturers putting these capabilities onto their locks, but the range of biometric parameters is expanding; some manufacturers are even using iris identification, facial recognition and voice authentication,” says English. “With some locks, the recognition is built into the lock, while others use the biometric capabilities already installed in their smartphones. But the use of biometrics is catching on. It’s about security, not only about protecting your home and family but protecting access to the lock. Biometrics plays a key role in that area.”

Networking: Networked connectivity became a game-changer for the smart access industry. And, as English explains, homeowners can network their smart lock through their personal automation system on a platform in their own home. This could be provided through their home security and/or Internet provider. Smart lock technology advancements have allowed for a number of ways to connect to networks and manage locks remotely.

Integration: “It’s not only essential that a smart lock work on its own; it’s important that it integrate with other smart devices,” English adds. He notes that if you have a lock that requires a smart home hub to realize its full range of features, you’ll want a lock that has the versatility to work with all the popular home automation systems. He maintains this will give you flexibility in which hub you choose, as each one features its own unique capabilities.

“In addition to smart locks, there are myriad other integration scenarios, including with voice assistants, video doorbells, security cameras and more. The evolution of this capability is enticing to consumers as it creates scenarios whereby devices can naturally work together. For example, you can set up a scene where your doors unlock when a smoke or CO alarm is triggered. Or you can pair your lock with a video doorbell, which will allow you to see who is at the door before you unlock it.”

Smart Integrators Selling Smart

The expanding capabilities of smart locks can translate into significantly more sales for dealers and integrators who leverage them with existing and new residential customers. For those working with customers who already own home security or automation systems, adding smart locks is an easy next step to “smartening” home access, Lovejoy points out.

“Adding a smart lock to an existing security camera system can make monitoring front door activity even more seamless. Customers can receive notifications every time movement is detected by cameras and ensure their door is locked, or remotely issue access codes when they notice an unexpected guest has arrived. These regular touch points remind customers of the value of their smart home system.”

Jenner advises every security integrator evaluates the growing opportunity in the single-family rental market. This includes both long- and short-term vacation rental markets.

Keyed and keyless keypad locks, such as this Yale model, offer consumers the option of keeping a physical key or going key-free and tamper-proof, or upgrading to a full smart lock.

“Property managers and owners in these markets are seeing the value of connected locks on their properties as tools to more efficiently manage their business and provide a better experience for the guests and/or tenants. This technology enables self-touring solutions for long-term rental properties and more frictionless guest experiences for vacation renters to enter their property without the hassle of a physical key exchange. Access control serves as the entry point for additional sales opportunities.”

Despite any bells and whistles, at their core, smart locks are about security for the residential customer. “Some of the newer capabilities give dealers and integrators additional sell points. For example, manufacturers are incorporating biometric technology into newer models to bring a higher level of security. Since locks are all about security to begin with, this is a message that will resonate with many customers,” says English. “And updated versions of some of the most popular chips, such as Z-Wave, not only provide higher security but they also make device enrollment into a home automation hub easier.”

Speaking of easing user processes, English says the integration of smart locks with voice assistants has simplified accessing smart devices like locks. “So as voice control becomes more popular, there should be an accompanying rise in the popularity of smart locks.”

With the growth of the smart home industry on the rise, the residential smart lock market is also set to expand, Lovejoy predicts, particularly as the technology continues to leap forward with increased connectivity and range, new integrations, etc. “For dealers who are starting to migrate over to the residential market, it’s important to understand the evolving smart home market and what products and features are most appealing to consumers, ranging from those looking for simple, entry-level products to more advanced options.”

Courting Consumer Appeal

There are a multitude of reasons why many residential customers view smart locks as a very attractive option. The convenience of PINs instead of physical keys means no more worrying about accidental lockouts or lost or stolen keys.

Temporary codes allow homeowners to control who’s accessing their home without having to give authorized users keys. Since they can be set for specific time periods, temporary codes also ensure access will be revoked once the scheduled service/visit is over.

Connecting to home automation systems to gather important info like audit trails lets the homeowner know who’s been coming and going, and when. (The days of kids sneaking in unscathed after curfew look to be over!)

Web-enabled control for remote access allows homeowners to grant access to their home anytime and from anywhere via an app. And bedside control of their front door is super convenient and provides peace of mind. It also enables users to dim or turn off interior and exterior lights.

There are additional devices that end users can adopt for added security beyond their front door. Nonconnected electronic locks for interior applications — or anywhere that remote access and control of a lock is a noncritical function — is an oft-overlooked opportunity by residential security integrators, Jenner points out.

“Nonconnected electronic locks may not have an RF radio to connect to a security and home automation system or only have an RF radio to communicate with a user-friendly mobile all for programming and setup but provide convenience and security with appealing features like the use of PINs over physical keys. These locks provide a cost-effective solution for home offices, wine cellars or storage rooms. They represent an incremental revenue opportunity for integrators already installing a security system in the home.”

Just the Start of Smart?

English emphatically says there’s no question smart lock technologies and feature sets will continue to progress at a steady pace. He believes they will offer functionality we can’t imagine. However, he emphasizes the imperative to chart product roadmaps by always being mindful of the voice of the customer.

“These capabilities will make smart locks smarter, while bringing increased security, convenience and improved quality of life to consumers. The key to these advancements is for manufacturers to listen to both the dealer/integrator and the consumer. Ultimately, consumers will be the optimal source of new-feature development. They use the smart locks on a daily basis and will know better than anyone the features that should be added to create a better product.”


Erin Harrington has 20+ years of editorial, marketing and PR experience within the security industry. Contact her at erinharrington1115@gmail.com.

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