Smart Locks: Your Essential Guide

Itโ€™s dark, youโ€™re hungry, and you finally grab the right key, but now you canโ€™t locate the keyhole.

A bit frustrating…!

Enter the smart lock and up-and-coming category of smart home devices that instantly recognize homeowners as they approach, turning on the entry light above the front door, opening the door with a reassuring snap of smooth mechanical motion.


Focusing purely on those approved to enter your home, on people rather than a dumb piece of metal, smart locks use advanced recognition technology, access codes, combinations of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, all to simplify and hasten your entry to the sanctuary of your home.

A Smart lock is always on guard, waiting for an encrypted virtual key to be transmitted from your smartphone.

By contrast, compare a traditional lock and key with smart locks.
Several vulnerabilities come to mind.

  • A key can be lost or misplaced.
  • A key can be copied in minutes at a hardware store.
  • Smart locks, on the other hand, use security protocols designed for bank systems, digital encryption technologies that canโ€™t be copied or broken.

Letโ€™s take an introductory look at what intelligent design brings to locks.

After the primary feature of security comes convenience, customization, and remote access.

Next-generation smart locks blend these features, using advanced wireless connectivity to form an identifying link between themselves and any smartphone equipped with the security App and virtual key.

Convenience crosses over to customization by including software and hardware options to hook up the lock to household smart systems, communicating with any other smart object in order to turn on household lighting and heating, all dependent on personalized settings.

The relationship between smart locks extends beyond the home thanks to a Wi-Fi-enabled internet connection allowing you to run everything while at work or stuck in traffic.

And finally, smart locks can operate as a standalone without the need to purchase a whole smart house automation system.


Each smart lock is a balance of technological features and familiar operation.

There are three different approaches that you might want to consider, when researching smart locks, namely:

  1. You can keep your traditional key, and opt to add a smart lock as an extra layer of security.
  2. Replace the entire assembly with a hybrid of technology and tradition in the shape of an illuminated keypad. Your only responsibility now is to remember to give every member of the family an access code. Donโ€™t forget or youโ€™ll have angry family members to deal with!
  3. The final alternative is the second generation in smart locks, a highly connected intelligent lock, one that drops keys and codes in favor of sensors and recognition software. This generation of locks detects the nearness of an occupant or guest carrying a wireless digital key stored in your smartphone.


Here are the main elements of a smart locking system

Technical architecture of a smart lock
End to end smart lock system

The Smart Lock Itself

Although smart locks come in a variety of styles, technologies, and finishes, they still use secure mechanical components made from toughened steel and tamper-proof alloys.

Smart locks do include an electronic component, making it the potential weak link in the system.

However, rest assured, manufacturers, use several layers of digital security to make all smart locks completely secure.

Encrypted smartphone signals use 256-bit codes to unlock the door, the latest Bluetooth and Wi-Fi protocols should provide you with some peace of mind against electronic penetration by an intruder.

The physical components sit behind the smart lock, safe within your home. The enclosure is a compact, complex arrangement of interfacing electronics, computer hardware, and moving parts, including a motorized drive.

A power assembly, energized by a set of batteries or live current, brings your smart lock to life. When the access signal is approved, the motor activates the pins and tumblers (slotted rotating discs), drawing back the bolt.

The mechanical components share an affinity with traditional lock parts, but the electronic hardware is what defines the lockโ€™s smartness.

The circuitry triggers an unlock deadbolt event when it senses the nearness of the correct electronic code, whether entered directly on a keypad or sent over the air from a smartphone.

Smartphone & App

Similar to other smart home systems an App is typically used to interact with your smartphone.

The app is used for the initial setup. Other uses include:

  • sending an electronic key to the lock.
  • Disabling and deleting electronic keys.
  • Accessing a history of smart lock activity.

Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is normally used to establish a dependable wireless link between your smartphone and the smart lock installed in the door.

A Smart FOB

Some people prefer to use a FOB to open and close their smart locks. Some key features of smart lock FOBs:

  • Unlike traditional fobs, these smart lock fobs are able to hold electronic keys.
  • The form factor is relatively small and is comparative to their mechanical counterparts.
  • Although rare nowadays smart FOBs can be provided to someone who needs to access your home but does not use an up-to-date smartphone โ€“ your parents, daughter, or son for instance.
  • Smart FOBs are fully manageable. In other words, you give a smart FOB to a contractor doing work in your house and set it up to only allow access at certain times of the day and week – Monday – Friday, 8 am – 5 pm for instance.
  • It is more challenging for potential intruders to make copies of smart FOBs. In the old days, all aspiring โ€˜burgularpreneursโ€™ need to do was copy your front door key at the hardware store.
  • In the event of a Smart FOB getting lost, it’s pretty straightforward to go into the Smart Lock software (typically running on the Cloud) to deactivate the FOB. No more need to go through the expensive process of
    changing door locks.

Smart locks possess built-in management software to distribute power to low-current components, normally replaceable alkaline batteries available at any store.

When those batteries do eventually run low, the lock can be set to send an alert to your smartphone or flash a message on the display of the lock.


The term Do-It-Yourself is perhaps thrown around too much. Fortunately, smart locks are simple to install, requiring no alterations to your doors.

Theyโ€™re designed to be retrofitted, to be fixed in the same location, using the same openings as your previous lock. Just follow the four steps described below:

  • Mount the lock just as you would a traditional lock, taking care to ease the front display panel and delicate electronics into place.
  • Now, take a few minutes to fit the batteries and configure the software.
  • Follow step-by-step instructions to set all functions and features, a little like setting up a computer peripheral.
  • Download the app and test the lock.


With smartphone Apps and intelligent software and hardware running the home, there are countless ways to customize your smart locks โ€“ here are some worth considering once your smart lock is up and running:

  • Assign codes to guests that expire after 24 hours.
  • Access the Web application and set the environmental controls to activate when a family member arrives home.
  • Configure the smart lock to sense the presence and automatically unlock when you are within a few feet of your front door.
  • Send text and email alerts to your smartphone or tablet to display certain events, such as a power outage or a possible intruder alert.
  • Use your own smartphone to send access codes to the cellphones of contractors or housekeepers.
  • Set video cameras to take stills of guests as they arrive at a party, and instantly unlock the door for them.
  • During school time, set up the smart lock to send out a notification when your kids arrive home in the evening.

Oh and if you are an aspiring smart home installer that wants to generate some revenue out of installing various flavors of smart locks then Check out my new course titled: Certified Next-Generation Smart Home Installer (NGSHI) Professional Program Training Program.

ICT professional, Author, Serial Internet Entrepreneur, Investor, Smart Home Enthusiast, and Creator!



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2 thoughts on “Smart Locks: Your Essential Guide

  1. Personally, I would not switch to a smart lock system. I feel like the old conventional method is still fine and nothing is wrong with it. I don’t believe in fixing what isn’t broken, and still feel the smart locks are still too new. Once they become a common thing, I will switch over, but not now. Thanks for the awesome info on smart locks!

  2. Hi Pancho, Of the various smart home product lines; smart locks are probably the least developed. Over here many of the doors have triple lock mechanism, which many of the smart lock vendors are not going to accommodate. And, yes there is confidence that many consumers are not feeling at the moment; but it should change in time. Great for AirBnB hosts!

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