(UPDATE: sauce07 on Reddit pointed out that Kevo charges its users $1.99 for each eKey created in their mobile app (virtual or temporary key you might hand out to a friend, etc). You can see this on their FAQ under “How can I get additional eKeys?” Wow, what an annoying and consumer-unfriendly feature. Once you buy their locks, you’re locked in to paying them. Lame. That’s a HUGE difference between August and Lockitron. I’d recommend avoiding Kevo.)
(UPDATE-2: August hasn’t actually taken any pre-orders, yet just email sign-up. Kevo is actually bulkier than is portrayed in most of their marketing; there’s a big box that sits on the inside of the door, as seen here. And August requires that you replace part of your existing lock.)
Smart locks is one of the hottest areas of the emerging connected devices space. Like Nest is doing for thermostats, it seems that anything that’s a commonplace in the home has the potential to be disruptively better when paired with a smartphone and connected to the internet. Not having to carry keys is one thing, but in the age of AirBNB and Exec, being able to hand out temporary electronic keys is becoming indispensable. Worried about security while you’re away? There’s Canary for that.
We’ve written about early smart lock entrants Lockitron and August before (see: Who Will Win the Smart Lock Race, August or Lockitron?) — and Lockitron has racked up millions of dollars worth of pre-orders, while August collected over 26,000 email addresses in the first days after their launch.
Today, UniKey, a company that first surfaced on Shark Tank, begins pre-orders on their connected door lock product, Kevo. Unlike Lockitron and August, Kevo is going down the white-label route with big-box store brands Weiser and Kwikset (both ultimately owned by parent company Black and Decker.)
What is Kevo?
Kevo provides keyless entry by pairing one’s smartphone (for now just iPhone or dedicated key fob) via Bluetooth 4.0 to the lock, permitting entry by simply touching the lock (a minor inconvenience which prevents accidental unlocks.)
Kevo also lets owners send, receive and delete temporary electronic “eKeys” and to see a log of lock activity or set up notifications based on their usage.
Kevo is a deadbolt replacement, not an attachment or add-on to your existing lock, and it’s battery-operated (thus impervious to power outages.)
Comparison of Kevo, Lockitron and August Locks
Kevo: smart locks that replace deadbolts with a smart, connected lock that permits keyless entry and virtual key-sharing via mobile apps. Traditional industrial design. One year battery life. $219 on Amazon
Lockitron: adapter that fits over your existing deadbolt (with no changes necessary to your existing lock) to add-on smart functionality such as keyless entry and virtual key-sharing. Attractive but somewhat bulky industrial design. 6 to 12 month battery life. $179
August Smart Locks: installs by replacing the interior portion of existing deadbolt to permit keyless entry and virtual key-sharing. Modern, attractive and futuristic industrial design. Battery life up to a year. $199
Important note: Lockitron is the only solution that doesn’t require the user to muck with their existing lock. This means if you’re not handy, there’s no locksmith involved and you save $100+ from the get-go.
Perhaps the most important comparison points — and most unknowable since these products aren’t in the market yet — is the software user experience and the software security of each of these products. On the later point, since Lockitron is the only product that can connect to the internet without proxying through a user’s phone via Bluetooth, in theory it is the only lock of the lot that could receive new firmware from it’s manufacturer (without user intervention) in case of a security breach. This seems important especially if you plan to add a smart lock to a vacation or rental home where that you’re unlikely to visit frequently.
What does it mean to make smart locks?
The so-called internet-of-things is being driven by internet entrepreneurs with a vision to create a more connected world. But as each category is tackled in turn, you must wonder: are these companies making virtual key sharing systems, or are they making locks?
Nobody worries much about Nest because a thermostat is just a control mechanism anyway. In fact, you assume that the software folks will do a better job of the core functionality. But with locks, the underlying code is the lock mechanism itself. Lockitron and August both side-step this issue by being mere add-ons (fitting over or working with the existing deadbolt system and letting it do its job) — it seems like a more humble position than replacing the lock.
However what Kevo has done by partnering with Kwikset and Weiser might be the best strategy. Kwikset / Weiser have been in the business of making locks for over 100 years, and the models being made available for pre-order today are based on their best-selling locks of all time. For consumers it means ditching the dumb lock and upgrading the entire mechanism. This design seems less prone to jam or become loose over time. Relatively speaking, whether your forking out for an August, Lockitron or a total lock-replacement (Kevo), you’ll spend roughly the same amount of money.
The Kevo presale begins today. It will be interesting to watch this play out.