A better front door: What will it take for smart locks to succeed?

smart lock

Just a decade ago, the web was in the midst of transforming consumer behavior through e-commerce, online banking and information discovery. Now the internet is shifting users’ psyches again — this time through the Internet of Things (IoT). Starting with home automation and wearable technology (Google Glass, Nest, Apple HomeKit), IoT is on the cusp of pervading other facets of consumer life and industries.

Even if IoT is the next big thing, various hurdles must be overcome before society can coexist with massively ubiquitous, intelligently connected devices. Important questions revolving around security and safety need to be addressed before widespread adoption can take place; even with current home IoT products, such as smart thermostats and lighting, privacy and security issues abound.

Smart locks — smartphone and/or app-controlled door locks — are a particularly interesting example. Though various smart lock products have been on the market for some time now, consumers have been relatively slow to adopt the technology—and that’s understandable. Before trading the security of the traditional lock-and-key combo for the convenience of a smart lock, consumers have to be convinced that these locks are valuable enough to enable them to overcome insecurities and reservations. Here are some of the key features that may be required to move smart locks into the mainstream.

The good old lock and key

The front door is all that separates one’s home from the outside world. Subsequently, potential smart lock adopters are overwhelmingly concerned with the inherent dangers of digitization. What if a hacker spots a smart lock–secured home, and is able to compromise its security? What if smartphone access to the smart lock fails, either via user error or a software bug? Smart lock products should look like standard locks so as not to draw unwanted attention, and in the event that smartphone or app control is lost, the smart lock must allow for operation with a standard key as a fall-back measure.

It matches your house

Many home owners regard their houses as extensions of themselves. Smart lock products must allow for simple customization of look and feel to match the décor and trimmings of the structure or building. The smart lock must be as easier to install than a standard lock (with no perceived need for a locksmith) , and as easy to use as a conventional lock and key combo—any number of people, with varying technical proficiency, may require access (e.g., the janitor, housekeeper, or grandma).

Full benefits of connectivity

As IoT devices, smart locks should go above and beyond merely replacing a standard lock and key. Connectivity should expand and enhance their functionality—features such as access monitoring and logging to the cloud, remote unlocking via the web and other unique, internet-enabled capabilities should be available. In parallel to the benefits of being connected, communications and data transmission must also be secure and encrypted. Furthermore, as mission-critical electronic devices, smart locks must use batteries with extensive lives, and perhaps allow for some alternate forms of charging such as solar or kinetic motion.

Additional bells and whistles

Again, as a new alternative to an age-old contraption, the smart lock should provide consumers with enough incentives and value propositions to leave the conventional lock and key combo behind. Features such as video recording and monitoring through an integrated peephole camera, automated answering through an embedded microphone and speaker, and scheduled locking and unlocking are just some examples of potential features that may give consumers enough of a confidence boost to install a smart lock product.

Eric Gould has over 25 years of experience in the world of technology and has shipped over 20 related  products. He has worked for the Harvard Business School, IBM, Apple Computer, Netscape, McAfee.com and Paypal. Most recently he was the president and COO of a wearable tech company that was creating an alternative to Google Glass. Follow him on Twitter @ericcgould.

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