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Smart Home, Safe Home

Smart locks don't just secure the front door, they've got control and convenience locked down, too

Smart Home, Safe Home

As an industrial automation engineer, it was hard for Morgan Leon* to get excited about his home security system. It was incompatible with his other automation systems; it concentrated control with the monitoring company, and it offered little in the way of customization or innovative intelligence. He wanted a solution that would be as simple and personalized as it was seamlessly integrated. Control4 and a set of smart locks would give him all of that—and earn his house the nickname “Fort Knox.”

Leon is typical of more and more homeowners who are looking for— and getting—integration between their home control and security systems. Gone is the notion that a safe home is simply one that secures the house from wouldbe intruders. Today’s smart home empowers owners to control and monitor their premises in myriad ways thanks to the happy marriage of smart locks and home automation. "I wanted it all," says Leon.

Getting Smarter by the Day

Since their advent, smart locks have evolved dramatically. Once a clunky mechanical device, they grew into electronic locks before moving on to their current form: a truly intelligent device that incorporates modern microelectronic controllers with the lock mechanism.

Consider that the first massmarket lock widely available in North America was the Weiser Powerbolt in the mid-1990s, which remained the go-to lock for a decade. It wasn’t until the mid- 2000s that Kwikset adopted its own version for Black & Decker. However, it would still take until about 2007 for the next big development, when Schlage launched its own residential platform that included both lever and deadbolt versions. The success of Schlage's lock established a new standard in the electronic lock category.

A rapid-fire series of innovations have followed, including Kwikset’s 2008 launch of its new Smartcode platform, followed by a host of others, most notably products from Schlage, Kwikset and Baldwin that added radio frequency (RF) capabilities. Yale recently released its own version, the Real Living Locks, which include the ability to integrate with a home automation system and to pass information back and forth to the controller via low-power RF. Specifically, once a pincode is entered into the lock's keypad or touch screen, that information can now be transmitted to the controller. In turn, the controller uses its intelligence to either log information and/or trigger events for the homeowner.

So what does this look like in real life? Imagine this: You come home after work, punch in the code on your lock’s touch screen, and before you’re even past the landing, not only is your alarm disarmed, your Control4 home automation system has turned on your favorite TV station, adjusted the thermostat to the ideal temperature, and created the perfect post-work ambiance with the lights. It’s a little more of what Leon had in mind when he set out to replace his security system

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Unlocking Possibilities

Leon originally contacted Beyond Hi-Fi co-owners Joe Allen, Matt Shoemaker, and Rocky Snider to install a single controller system for a home entertainment system. When he became aware of what else was possible, he proceeded with lighting control, followed by a Control4 OS 2.0 upgrade with an integrated security and camera system replete with smart locks.

“He is technically minded, like I am," commented Shoemaker. "He is inspired to create a home that feels and acts like a member of the family. He loved the additional notifications that smart locks offered up to him and challenged us to integrate every feature.”

When all was said and done, Leon’s two-floor, 4,000-squarefeet home was equipped with a Control4 system that enabled him to command everything—from the security system, cameras and door locks to the lighting and music— with the touch of a single button. Now, when he arms the security system, the house goes to sleep: All of the audio, video and lights turn off; every lock checks itself and bolts automatically on demand. When he disarms the system in the morning, this process happens in reverse.

“In this day and age, homes have many complex independent systems running at any given time,” says Allen. “These include lighting, sprinklers, security, cameras, A/V, pools, fireplaces, and much more. The strength of Control4 is its ability to talk, listen, and manage all of these different systems while providing an interface that is intuitive and easy.” The following are some of the key security features that got Allen and Shoemaker jokingly calling the Leon residence “Fort Knox”:

Key Fob

Much the same way a keyless entry system works on a car, a key fob is a keychain-sized gadget with buttons that, in this case, unlocks a home—but that’s just the obvious programming preference. When the Leons get home from grocery shopping, their key fob opens the garage door, disarms the security panel, unlocks the smart lock in the garage entry and turns on the lights, audio and video to their preset preferences.

Mockupancy

If the day gets long or the Leons are on vacation, the lights will initiate what Allen calls “mockupancy.” Essentially, a sequence of lights will turn on and off to create the impression that the house is occupied. These will occur randomly throughout the evening, but are carefully designed to simulate movement from one area of the house to the next. For example, the lights will turn on in the master bedroom followed by the hallway, kitchen, and den—as if someone was walking from one end of the house to the other. “It doesn’t look like a disco party,” points out Shoemaker. “It’s very realistic.”

The Always-Home Perception

Leveraging the front door camera, the system creates an "always home" perception for strangers who come to the house. If the doorbell is rung or the system senses motion, Leon gets a notification through his phone. He can then decide to interface directly with whomever is at the door by placing a call that transmits through a camera above the door. He can then speak directly to the visitor, see them through the camera, and if need be, unlock the door remotely. "It’s reassuring to be alerted when my family comes and goes from home or when an uninvited solicitor comes up my driveway,” says Leon.

User Codes & Notifications

The smart locks installed at the Leon house are customprogrammed to work with Control4 lighting and A/V control to provide each user a personal code that actives a unique welcome scene. Notably, these can be configured to unlock only certain entrances. For example, when the neighbor comes over to use the shop and garden tools, the entry code he’s been provided works exclusively for the garage exterior door. For extra measure, the activation of his code will also verify the status of the other locks, automatically locking them if necessary. The same goes for others who have even more limited access, such as the landscaper whose entry code only grants access to the garage.

The individual user codes also mean that Leon can keep track of the comings and goings of anyone else enters (or attempts to enter) the home. For example, the system lets him know when his teenage daughter comes home from school or leaves to go out. By combining Control4 with Baldwin locks Home Connect Technology, the system can also automatically time the locking of all the doors with an exit delay, followed by a text message alert to Leon that the house is fully locked down.

“I take great comfort in always knowing my family is safe and secure,” says Leon before concluding: “Every house should have at least one smart lock. The peace of mind is priceless.”