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Is a Smart Lock a Smart Idea?

GEICO Staff

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By Ellise Pierce

Forgot to lock your front door? Now it can be done with just a few taps on a phone thanks to the smart lock.



What is a smart lock? It's a way to lock and unlock a door without using a regular, metal key. There are many variations, but smart lock allows the opening and closing of a dead bolt electronically using a numeric code or touchscreen—often in conjunction with an app on a smartphone.

Smart locks are becoming increasingly popular—the global market for them is expected to hit $24 billion by 2024, according to one report, and the fastest growth is happening in the residential space. That means an ever-growing number of home smart locks with various functions and options. But is a smart lock a good choice, or is it another fancy gadget one can do without?

That depends, says Joel Dhein, president of the National Crime Prevention Association. In terms of helping to keep intruders out, having a deadbolt in good condition—and using it—is a more important consideration than how it's operated. The decision to swap locks hinges on wants and needs. (One note: if renting, check with the landlord before changing the locks.)

Here's what Dhein sees as the pros and the cons of smart locks.

Pros of Having a Smart Lock

Ease of Entry

With a smart lock, there won't be fumbling for keys or jiggling the key in the lock to get it to open.

Convenience

If expecting guests or a house sitter to come by while away from home, special codes can be input for each person or group along with an expiration time for each code. Also, if there's a worry that someone with a key (like a former property owner) may try to enter the home, the code can be changed, saving the hassle and cost of changing the lock.

Peace of Mind

Another benefit of having codes is that one can track who's come in and out, knowing if and when a child has arrived home. Also, with many smart locks, one can see whether the door is locked or unlocked from a phone, so double-checking its status can be done from anywhere in the world.

Protection from Lock Picking

Traditional locks may be subject to lock picking or lock bumping—methods that thieves can employ to try to open locks without the original key. Some smart locks don't have a key slot, thereby removing the risk of this kind of break-in. That doesn't, however, necessarily make smart locks more secure.

Connectivity with the Rest of Your Home

If other smart home devices are used, it might be possible to interconnect them so that smart lights turn on when the door is unlocked.

Cons of Having a Smart Lock

Reliance on Phones and Networks

Smart locks communicate with a phone, usually via bluetooth or wi-fi. If a phone is stolen, is lost, or it dies, one could get locked out if a backup plan isn't in place—like logging in to the account on another device. Also, if a power outage shuts off the wi-fi, features that rely on a wi-fi connection—like remote unlocking—won't be able to be used.

Potential for Hacking

While some smart locks remove the threat of lock picking, they may be subject to attempts by hackers to override the entry code that can unlock the door. On the plus side, the system may be able to notify—the owner and the police—if an unauthorized user accesses the system.

Batteries

Unlike old-school locks, smart locks are battery-operated systems, and batteries can die. Pay attention, and change the battery before it runs out of juice.

Cost

Smart locks can cost significantly more than standard lock-and-key systems, and a pro may be needed to install the lock and sync it to the bluetooth and wi-fi. Smart locks can also be pricey to fix if they malfunction.

Are the pros enough to outweigh the cons? That's a personal decision. However one decides to lock and unlock the door, remember that there's no substitute for a dead bolt.

This article was originally published on GEICO.

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