NFC-powered door locks are already a thing, allowing owners of compatible smartphones (or NFC rings) to get into their houses with a tap of their gadgets. But NFC is not the only transfer tech capable of powering a smart lock (plus, if you have to dig your NFC phone out of your bag, that’s not necessarily much quicker than using a traditional key). Well, Unikey has come up with a smart lock system that uses Bluetooth 4.0 to turn compatible smartphones into proximity-sensitive keys.
Their version of the smart lock — called Kevo — doesn’t require the phone to be tapped to the lock. Rather the phone-owner only needs to touch the lock with their finger to gain entry. The crowdfunded Lockitron smart lock also uses Bluetooth 4.0 — but that device is also continually connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, allowing owners to lock or unlock their doors remotely from anywhere. Which may or may not appeal to you, depending on how paranoid/security-conscious you are. Being Bluetooth-only and lacking a continuous hook into your home Wi-Fi, the Kevo smart lock doesn’t support a remote-unlocking use-case. But that does mean you can’t accidentally unlock your door when you’re miles away. The eKey owner has to be standing next to the door to lock or unlock it.
How else does Kevo differ from Lockitron? Its creators have crafted a slightly slicker-looking and smaller smart lock — which also includes a visual coloured LED indicator, so you can confirm by eye that the door has been locked (or unlocked). Kevo’s lock also supports mechanical key rekeying. But it’s also a little more expensive (at least than Lockitron’s reserve price of $179).
In addition to being compatible with iOS devices, the smart lock system works with a dedicated key fob for people who don’t have a phone or other device capable of running the Kevo app (which is currently iOS only). Whatever you’re using as your eKey — i.e. the key fob or iOS device — can remain in your pocket; you only have to tap the lock with a finger to lock or unlock it, as demonstrated in the below video.
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Importantly, Unikey says its technology is able to detect whether the authorized user is standing inside or outside the house — which is rather, er, key, in terms of preventing an eKey-less stranger from gaining entry from outside if there happens to be a nearby eKey inside. The company doesn’t go into detail about how they detect exactly where the eKey is located but say their technology is patent-pending.
Aside from enabling people to get in and out of their homes without fumbling around in a bag or pocket for their keys, the Kevo lock supports other features — such as the ability to share multiple eKeys, including single-use keys that can only work within a given period, and also generates a record of when your door is locked and unlocked, and by whom.
On the security side, eKeys can be deleted via a web portal or by signing in to your account on another device in case a smartphone or key fob is lost or stolen. And the system can send you notifications when the door is locked and unlocked.
Compatible iOS devices are the iPhone 4S and 5, the fifth-generation iPod touch, and third-gen or higher iPad and iPad mini. Kevo’s creators say they plan to make the app available for additional platforms once they are able to support Bluetooth 4.0, noting that app development for Android and Blackberry is “currently underway”.
The Kevo lock is currently on pre-order, due to ship in September, with a price tag of $219 from Kwikset in the U.S. The retail package includes one deadbolt, one key fob, two mechanical keys and two smartphone eKeys available for download. Additional eKeys can be provisioned via the Kevo app.