How do smart locks work?
What are smart locks? And how do they work?
Smart locks are becoming increasingly popular as people look for more convenient and secure ways to control access to their homes. But how exactly do these futuristic-looking devices work? This article provided by Treasure Coast Locksmith will provide an in-depth look at the technology behind smart locks.
What is a smart lock?
A smart lock is an electronic locking device that allows you to lock and unlock your door remotely using your smartphone or other device. The core components of a smart lock include:
- A motorized deadbolt that extends and retracts to lock and unlock the door
- Connectivity – usually WiFi and/or Bluetooth – that allows it to communicate with your phone and other devices
- A credential system that allows you to set up unique codes, fingerprints, fobs, etc. to lock and unlock the door
Smart locks install in place of your existing deadbolt and generally preserve your existing lock and key functionality as a backup. This gives you the best of both worlds – the security and convenience of a smart lock combined with the reliability of a mechanical lock.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we can provide professional installation of smart locks while integrating them properly with your existing door hardware. Our experts ensure your new smart lock is durable, responsive, and highly secure.
How does a smart lock connect and communicate?
In order for you to control your smart lock remotely, it needs to be continuously connected to your home’s WiFi network. This allows it to communicate with your smartphone via a mobile app.
Here’s how that connectivity works:
- The smart lock joins your home WiFi network via the same process as any other smart home device – by connecting to your wireless router. This gives it a continuous connection to the internet.
- Through this WiFi connection, the smart lock is able to communicate with the mobile app on your smartphone. The app acts as the interface through which you can view lock status, lock/unlock the door, see activity history, and manage user access.
- Some smart locks also use Bluetooth to facilitate connections with your phone when you are in close proximity to the lock. This allows you to unlock the door as you approach without having to open the app.
- Advanced smart locks may also connect with a smart home hub like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit. This allows for voice commands and integration with other smart devices.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, our technicians are experts at getting any model of smart lock properly connected to your home’s WiFi and to your mobile device. We’ll ensure seamless communication and functionality.
How does the actual locking mechanism work?
While the connectivity is what makes a smart lock “smart,” the actual locking and unlocking functions depend on a motorized deadbolt mechanism. This provides the physical security just like a traditional deadbolt.
There are a few different ways this can work:
- Motor-driven deadbolt: The most common type has an electric motor that drives the deadbolt in and out of the door frame. This may be integrated into the assembly that replaces your existing deadbolt or be part of an adapter that augments your current manual deadbolt.
- Electromechanical: Some smart locks use electromagnets or solenoids that extend and retract the bolt mechanically when triggered by an electric signal from the lock’s circuitry.
- Full touchscreen: High-end smart locks may do away with the deadbolt entirely and have a completely keyless touchscreen assembly with motor-driven bolts that lock the door at multiple points.
In all cases, the motorization allows the smart lock to lock and unlock in response to wireless commands from your phone or other devices. The mechanics provide the same grade 1-2 residential security as found in a traditional deadbolt lock.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we’re experienced in installing and repairing all types of smart lock hardware to keep the locking mechanisms performing reliably.
What makes a smart lock secure?
Of course, security is the primary concern when replacing your door lock with a smart, wireless device. Smart lock makers use a number of strategies to keep your home protected:
- Encrypted connections: All communications between the lock and your phone are secured via encryption such as 128-bit AES or TLS/SSL. This prevents interception or hacking of lock commands.
- Secure credential options: Smart locks allow multi-factor credential options combining secure PIN codes, wireless keys/fobs, and biometrics like fingerprint scanning for robust security.
- Tamper alerts: Any attempts to physically break into the lock mechanism will trigger alerts to your phone, as well as optional 24/7 monitoring services.
- Offline functionality: If the internet goes down, most smart locks will still function fully using their keypads, keys, and other onboard credentials.
- Mechanical locks: As mentioned earlier, keeping your existing deadbolt intact as a backup ensures you can always secure your home mechanically if needed.
Reputable smart lock providers also offer guarantees against forced entry and will cover costs of break-in damage should it occur. Overall, smart locks provide the additional security and insight of being able to see how your door is being accessed in real time.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we only install and recommend smart locks from the most trusted, proven security brands. Our experts will ensure your new smart lock is highly secure.
How do smart locks work? and
What are the components of a smart lock?
While smart lock designs can vary somewhat across brands, most models consist of some basic hardware components:
- Exterior module – This contains the credential sensors, like a keypad or fingerprint scanner, along with the locking/unlocking buttons. It powers the lock and houses the main computing components. This part is visible and accessible from outside the door.
- Interior module – Also called the wiring module, this part fits on the inside of the door. It connects to the exterior module and carries power to the lock components. It usually contains a credential sensor for inside access along with connectivity hardware.
- Bolt – The bolt retracts into the door frame when unlocked and extends into a hole in the frame when locked. Typical bolts are 0.5-1 inches wide and made from stainless steel for strength and weather resistance.
- Strike plate – The strike plate is the stationary metal plate with a hole that receives the bolt. It lines up with the bolt’s extension and retraction path. Strike plates are also typically made of stainless steel.
- Main computing board – The brains of the smart lock are contained on a small integrated board inside the exterior module. This houses the processor, WiFi/Bluetooth chipsets, memory, and device firmware.
- Batteries – Smart locks operate on battery power, usually 4-8 AA batteries. Higher quality locks have better power management and longer battery life spanning 6-12 months per set of batteries.
- Motor – The electric motor powers the bolt’s movements to extend and retract it into the strike plate automatically when locking and unlocking.
These components come together to create a robust, secure, keyless access solution for your front door. Understanding how they work helps you choose and properly use your smart lock.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, our experts are intimately familiar with the internal workings of all major smart lock models. We can install, troubleshoot, or repair any smart lock component.
How do I install and set up a smart lock?
Installing a smart lock will be a DIY project for most homeowners. The process consists of three main steps:
1. Removing your existing deadbolt
Start by taking out your old deadbolt mechanism using a screwdriver. Remove the interior and exterior assemblies along with the latch/bolt mechanism. Depending on your skill level, this may require watching some tutorial videos to fully remove the old lock.
For any issues during smart lock installation, the experts at Treasure Coast Locksmith can handle the entire replacement process quickly and seamlessly.
2. Installing the new smart lock
Next, install the new smart lock following the manufacturer’s instructions. In most cases, this involves:
- Affixing the exterior module onto the outside of the door and connecting the wire cable.
- Attaching the interior module assembly onto the inside of the door.
- Inserting and aligning the bolt into the bolt hole on the door edge.
- Securing both modules in place with the included screws.
Some additional drilling or chiseling may be required if the new smart lock doesn’t align perfectly with the old bolt hole.
Treasure Coast Locksmith can expertly install any model of smart lock and ensure proper alignment with your door hardware.
3. Connecting and setting up
With the lock hardware installed, the last step is configuration:
- Insert the batteries into the lock interior module.
- Run through the in-app setup guide to connect to your WiFi network and link to your phone.
- Add authorized fingerprints and/or set up a master PIN code.
- Test locking and unlocking the door using the app and fingerprints/PIN code.
- Make any needed adjustments until the lock responds promptly and reliably.
Once setup is complete, add any other household members to the app and show them how to enroll their fingerprints or assign them custom PIN codes. Your smart lock is now ready for keyless home access!
The pros at Treasure Coast Locksmith can walk you through smart lock configuration and connectivity for seamless performance.
What are the different ways to lock and unlock a smart lock?
There are several methods you can use to lock and unlock a smart lock:
- Smartphone app – All smart locks today come with a mobile app that allows you to lock/unlock remotely. Apps give you visibility into who is coming and going.
- Keypad/touchscreen PIN – Entering a code on the built-in keypad is the most common way to unlock a smart lock from outside. Codes can be permanent or temporary.
- Fingerprint scanner – Many smart locks have built-in fingerprint readers. You enroll authorized fingerprints which instantly unlock the door when read.
- Biometric face recognition – Select high-end smart locks use face scanning via a small exterior camera to recognize you and unlock when you approach the door.
- Auto-unlock – Bluetooth detects when your phone is nearby, such as in your pocket, and unlocks automatically as you approach. This is extremely convenient for hands-free access.
- Key fob – Small wireless fobs act like smart keys and unlock the door when pressed and held close to the lock. Useful for giving access without sharing full app control.
- Manual key – All smart locks retain a traditional key slot that serves as a mechanical backup option for locking and unlocking.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we’re knowledgeable on all smart lock access methods and can help you use them properly and securely.
How do I manage user access on my smart lock?
One of the handiest features of smart locks is how they allow you to manage multi-user access to your home. There are a few ways smart locks enable this:
- PIN codes – Set up unique PIN codes through the app for each person. You can make codes permanent or temporary for scheduled access.
- Fingerprint scanner – Authorized fingerprints act as unique keys. You can register family members to unlock using just their fingerprint.
- Shared users – The app allows you to add and remove other users who can then access their own codes/fingerprints. Useful for providing access to relatives or home services.
- Guest codes – Create temporary daily or weekly codes for guests like dog walkers, cleaners, etc. The codes expire automatically when scheduled access is over.
- Key fob – Program reusable wireless fobs to act as access keys for certain users like kids, grandparents, or caretakers.
- Access schedules – For visitors, you can limit certain credentials to only work during scheduled times and days.
- Access notifications – See who comes and goes and when via instant app notifications whenever your lock is accessed.
Combining these controls allows you to configure and monitor access to suit the needs of your family and home. And if any users leave or credentials get lost, they can instantly be deleted and reassigned through the app.
The experts at Treasure Coast Locksmith can help configure your smart lock’s user permissions and access settings for maximum convenience and security.
What are the advantages of smart locks?
Smart locks provide some significant benefits that give them an edge over traditional keyed locks:
- No more keys – Smart locks completely eliminate the need to carry and keep track of physical keys. Your phone effectively becomes your key instead.
- Flexible access – Assign and revoke access to different users easily through the app with virtual keys, codes, etc. No more redistributing physical keys.
- Increased security – Advanced smart lock security features like encryption and tamper detection reduce vulnerabilities compared to traditional locks.
- Remote access – You can lock and unlock from anywhere using your smartphone. Never worry about getting locked out or letting in guests when you’re away.
- Activity tracking – Detailed logging allows you to monitor all lock activity. You’ll know who unlocked your door and when they did it.
- Keyless convenience – Auto-unlock, keypads, and fingerprint scanners make access seamless when your hands are full. No more fumbling for keys.
- Home automation integration – Connect your smart lock to other smart home devices for features like automatically locking doors when you leave the house.
- Peace of mind – Smart locks offer the latest home access technology while also preserving your existing mechanical deadbolt as a failsafe backup.
For most homeowners, the pros of smart locks easily outweigh the cons. The increased control, security, and convenience they bring makes home access smarter and simpler compared to old-fashioned metal keys.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we love the enhanced functionality smart locks provide homeowners. Let our experts help select the right smart lock model for your needs.
What should I look for when choosing a smart lock?
With many smart lock models on the market, it’s important to know what features to look for when selecting one for your home:
- Proven reliability – Look for locks from established brands with reputations for quality and reliability vs. untested off-brand models.
- Multiple credential options – Choose a lock that offers a mix of PIN codes, a fingerprint scanner, key fob, smartphone access, etc. for maximum flexibility.
- Simple installation – Seek locks that replace your deadbolt easily without requiring new drilling/wiring or expert installation help.
- Long battery life – Extended 6-12 month battery life prevents frequent battery swaps and door lockouts. Locks with user-replaceable batteries are ideal.
- Multiple users – The ability to add family members and restrict access is essential. Look for no or high limits on number of codes/fingerprints supported.
- Activity notifications and schedules – Real-time access alerts and scheduling ensure you know who comes and goes when.
- Smart home connectivity – If you already have other smart devices, select a lock that integrates with platforms like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, etc.
- Warranty and support – A minimum 1-year warranty provides protection. US-based tech support is ideal in case any troubleshooting help is required.
Choosing a feature-filled smart lock from an established brand gives you the optimal combination of convenience, security, and control for your smart home access.
The locksmiths at Treasure Coast Locksmith stay on top of all the latest options and can recommend the perfect smart lock for your needs.
What are the limitations of smart locks?
Smart locks provide homeowners with innovative technology for controlling and monitoring their door access. However, there are some limitations to be aware of:
- Battery power – Smart locks run solely on battery power. While battery life is improving, it requires periodic battery swaps every 6-12 months in most models.
- Connectivity dependence – Remote functions require an active WiFi connection. Offline use is still possible but reduces functionality.
- Mechanical overrides – While very difficult, almost any lock can still be broken with enough brute mechanical force. Smart locks retain this vulnerability.
- Potential for hacking – As with any connected device, smart locks conceivably can be targeted and compromised via cyber attacks, although this is extremely rare.
- Upfront cost – Smart locks have a significantly higher upfront cost, usually $200-$500, compared to basic keyed deadbolts.
- Lack of smart home standards – There are no universal standards yet for smart home platforms. Not all smart locks are compatible with all hubs or systems.
- Replacing door hardware – Fully keyless smart locks require drilling new bolt holes and may not work with all door thicknesses or knob hardware.
While the limitations are relatively minor for most homeowners, it’s helpful to be aware of the potential downsides. Addressing connectivity, hardware compatibility, and installation challenges head-on will ensure your smart lock works flawlessly for your home.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we can help you select, install, and support the right smart lock while avoiding any of the common pitfalls.
Are there security risks associated with smart locks?
As connected devices, smart locks potentially carry some cybersecurity risks. However, there are several factors that make security risks unlikely and manageable:
- Encrypted connections – All data exchanged between smart locks and phones/servers is secured via bank-grade encryption. This makes remotely hijacking commands virtually impossible.
- No connection to other systems – Smart locks systems operate independently, with no connectivity to sensitive home networks or devices, limiting exploit vectors.
- Tamper deterrents – Smart locks have built-in tamper detection that triggers alerts in the event of a break-in. Physically forcing entry remains very difficult.
- Unique credentials – Multi-factor authentication via PINs, biometrics, keys, etc. makes guessing or brute forcing credentials unrealistic.
- No central hubs – Decentralized architecture means there are no central hubs to attack that might compromise multiple systems or homes.
- Hardware backups – Mechanical key locks built into all smart locks provide guaranteed physical security fallback if digital systems were somehow compromised.
- Limited data – Smart locks don’t transmit sensitive
personal information that could be exploited outside the encrypted access credentials themselves.
For smart home devices, smart locks rank among the most secure. Following basic smart home security practices like using unique passwords and updating software minimizes what little risk exists. No system is 100% immune to any exploit but smart locks provide homeowners with very robust protection.
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we stay on top of the latest smart lock security features and protocols to keep your home protected.
The future of smart locks
Smart lock technology has evolved rapidly, but there are still more innovations in home access likely to emerge in the future:
- More biometrics – Face, palm print, and iris scanning could join fingerprints as biometric identifiers, providing maximum security and convenience.
- Decentralized access – Using blockchain-based credentials managed by the user rather than a central authority provides added security.
- Integration with other smart devices – Smart locks will interface more and more with lights, thermostats, appliances and security systems within smart homes.
- DIY installation advancement – Improved modular designs will increase ease of self-installing smart locks without changing door hardware.
- Expanded features – Additions like built-in cameras, air quality sensors, knock detection, and vibration/noise monitoring provide more insight into home activity when away.
- Materials innovations – Smart locks will leverage advanced materials like anti-bacterial metals, weatherproof coatings, and embedded heating elements to withstand the elements.
- Complete keyless entry – Higher end smart locks will move to having no physical key slot or exterior hardware at all – just sleek, invisible access sensors.
As smart home technology matures, you can expect smart locks to offer ever more sensors and integrations that make homes easier to control, monitor, and secure from anywhere. The future will be one of effortless, thought-free home access
At Treasure Coast Locksmith, we stay on the leading edge of smart lock innovations to bring homeowners the latest technology for convenient, secure access. Let us upgrade your home to the smart locks of the future today.
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Meet Dan. Our lead technician doubles as a skilled blog writer, expertly combining technical know-how with a knack for engaging storytelling. Boasting years of hands-on experience in locksmith services, he’s not only adept at resolving complex lock and key issues but is also a master of transforming those experiences into insightful and engaging blog content. His ability to translate intricate technical scenarios into simple, relatable narratives enables our customers to better understand our services. This unique blend of technical expertise and creative flair allows him to help educate our community on locksmith safety while consistently delivering high-quality service.