9 Smart Locks Making Your Smart Home Secure
Doors have existed for centuries as a way of establishing a controlled entry point that can be easily guarded against intruders and as an effective repellent for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here’s a little known fact about doors. If you ever need to properly kick down a door, don’t stand in front of it awkwardly kicking away. Turn around and while facing away from the door, use a donkey kick. The power you get out of a reverse kick is simply amazing. Try it the next time your spouse locks themselves in the bathroom. They’ll get a real kick out of it. In today’s day and age though, kicking in a door might result in the police being called automagically. It’s because of something we call the “Internet of Things” or IoT and it’s all about connecting everything to the cloud, including “smart” door locks.
Last week, we did a piece on 9 Smart Home Startups Reducing Your Utility Bills which our lovely readers seemed to enjoy, so this week we decided to do a follow-up piece on smart home locks. It’s not because we love talking about solving first world problems, but rather that there is a whole lot of money to be had in this space for investors. Just a few weeks ago, a $23 billion Swedish lock maker called Assa Abloy bought smart lock startup August Home. If you’ve ever rented out your dwelling on Airbnb, you’ll know just how handy electronic door locks are. They’re so handy in fact, that Amazon thinks you should use them to allow their delivery drivers in. All this talk about smart locks had us wondering who some of the players are in this space. Here are nine names to watch, starting with the startup that was recently acquired.
Founded in 2012, San Francisco based startup August Home had taken in $73 million in funding from a whole slew of investors including Qualcomm, Comcast, and Liberty Mutual. All that money was spent on developing smart home access solutions that replace traditional keys with a smarter lock that’s controlled by a smartphone and knows when you’re leaving or coming home to unlock or lock the door instantly. Additionally, it also knows which users are home and has optional accessories such as a keypad entry and a doorbell cam that features an HD camera and two-way audio. While they offer a variety of smart lock products, the most expensive one is certainly the coolest. It just integrates with your existing lock which remains fully functional as seen below:
That smart knob you see above fits over your existing lock and is compatible with Google’s Home Assistant, Amazon Alexa and can also be controlled remotely. A few months ago, Walmart announced their intent to use August locks to allow delivery drivers to put your groceries in the fridge so they don’t spoil. A top of the line smart lock like the one seen above will set you back $279, or you can opt for the “basic” August Smart Lock which comes in $149. The acquisition of August Home is expected to close this year.
Founded in 2014, New York startup Latch has taken in $26 million in funding so far to develop “the world’s most advanced smart access system”. Their smart locks come in three different flavors including one, the Latch R, that can control electronic access points for commercial use like turnstiles, elevators, or parking garages. The founder of Latch and designer of these locks is an Apple alumni, and it shows in how sleek the end product looks:
The devices range in price from $299 to $399 and are only available for projects that will utilize 25 units or more. The accompanying software hints at the fact that Latch is primarily going after the property management market as their ideal target customer. One cool feature is that the locks come equipped with a wide-angle camera that can take snapshots of people that pass through doors and then log the photos in a historical record that’s accessible via app. Latch has also been recently integrated with iOS Home app and Hey Siri so you can command Siri to lock the door while you’re watching the TV in the living room.
Update 08/02/2019: Latch has raised $56 million in new funding to accelerate its growth, installing its technology in more apartment buildings. This brings the company’s total funding to $152 million to date.
Founded in 2010, Orlando Florida based startup Unikey Technologies has taken in $17.9 million in funding so far from investors that include Samsung to develop a platform for smart access technology that involves partnering with other firms that are looking to develop smart access solutions. UniKey claims to have invented the first residential smart lock back in 2010 and has 12 patents protecting their technology. They utilize an “Intel inside” business model which has resulted in 17 partnerships to date including one with large lock manufacturer Kwikset which resulted in the Kevo smart lock offering. From the time you engage Unikey to the time you can hit the market with a new smart lock product is about 6-9 months:
Over 350,000 locks are presently powered by the Unikey platform, and they’re also looking at other verticals to apply their technology to, such as automotive, where people can access their vehicles using their smartphones.
Founded in 2014, Akerun is a Japanese startup that has taken in $3.7 million in funding so far to develop a smart lock solution that came out of a government incubator program. Akerun’s key substitute is the Akerun Remote that allows users to lock or unlock from a smartphone, a desktop web browser or the smartphone app. The company just recently introduced the handsfree unlock feature which enables automatic unlocking when close to a door. Akerun is targeting hotels, real estate agencies and shared rooms which need to give multiple persons access to a room. According to Photosynth CEO Kodai Kawase, the company is looking to make their smart lock more than just a smart lock but a “smart lock robot”. Sounds kind of cool, or it could just be some bad engrish.
Founded in 2014, Swedish startup Glue Home has taken in $3 million in funding so far to develop a digital smart lock system that’s focused on helping logistics, retail and services companies to deliver things more efficiently to your home. In other words, they’re creating partnerships with other Swedish companies so that installing their smart lock is more like having your own personal concierge who lets people in and out of your home as needed. The Glue Smart Kit comes with the smart lock which you will need to install (it didn’t look that easy frankly) and a Wi-Fi hub so you can control it remotely anywhere in the world. Unless you’re living in Scandinavia, you probably won’t be using this lock anytime soon.
Founded in 2014, Nuki is an Austrian startup that has taken in $2.3 million in funding so far to develop a keyless smart lock that can be unlocked with a button press, a Bluetooth fob or a smartphone app. The target market for Nuki is the Eurozone, and the smart lock is installed on the inside of the door over the top of your existing door lock with a bit more work (some gluing may be required). Here’s a look at all the types of locks that are supported:
Once installed, all the standard features you would expect are available like proximity detection for automatically unlocking the door, and access control to allow other people access along with an activity log. The whole package costs around $347 and can be bought from their website.
We’ve mentioned on quite a few occasions how crowdfunding should just generally be avoided along with OTC stocks, ICOs, and human resources. This next company is a good example of why you don’t get involved in Kickstarter projects unless you have money to throw away and the patience of a saint. Silicon Valley startup Candy House raised $1.4 million through a very successful crowdfunding campaign to bring their “Sesame” smart lock to market. Sesame replaces your keys with your phone, it fits on your lock in seconds, and has some cool features like supporting “custom knocks” and “open sesame” voice commands:
That crowdfunding campaign was back in 2015, and it looks like they are still mucking around with the product. All those Silicon Valley haters who think the “venture capital model is broken” should take a quick look through the 8,661 comments on this campaign to see what a isht show these things can turn into without some heavy-handed guidance from VCs to keep founders on track and bring their “time to market” estimates back down to earth.
At the beginning of this article we mentioned Airbnb, and it’s no surprise to come across a startup that has aligned itself with Airbnb in order to integrate smart door locks with the Airbnb booking platform. Founded in 2004, this Colorado company has been around for a while but took in $1 million in funding a few years ago. This past August, they made the news when about 500 of their locks were “bricked” based on a bad software update. What that means is that the devices connected to the cloud froze after a software update and couldn’t be rebooted. The only way to fix that problem is to send the lock back to the manufacturer, thus the use of the word “brick”. According to an article by Tech Crunch, the issue affected just 8% of their locks (around 500) which also tells us that their total locks in the field are around 6,250.
Founded in 2013, Silicon Valley startup Nexkey has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding so far to develop a simple-to-use and highly secure electromechanical locking device. Since they are operating in stealth mode, there’s not a whole lot more we know about what they’re developing. At this point though, it would have to be something really innovative because we’ve already seen a whole bunch of smart lock startups that accomplish basically the same thing. On that note, we’ll bring this article to a close.
Update 10/10/2019: Nexkey has raised $6 million in Series A funding to expand outside of California to the rest of the United States. This brings the company’s total funding to $10.8 million to date.
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