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Review: Lockitron Internet-connected smart door lock

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Dreamed up by a hardware startup called Apigy, Lockitron is an easy-to-install app-connected smart home solution that promises to turn almost any common deadbolt into a smart keyless entry system.




Building on early success with a deadbolt replacement solution, Apigy designed Lockitron as a standalone product that can be operated over the Internet via Wi-Fi, or directly from an iPhone through Bluetooth 4.0. Like many hardware startups, however, Apigy encountered a number of problems during manufacturing, missing deadlines due to unforeseen complications and quality control issues.

Nearly two years after a successful crowd-funding campaign, Lockitron is finally shipping out to backers in quantity. Unfortunately, there are still problems with the current software and some promised features are noticeably absent.

Design



While the basic dimensions of U.S. deadbolts are standardized, internal mechanics like the degree of rotation required to actuate the lock varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, Schlage requires a 90-degree turn to engage and disengage the bolt, whereas products made by Kwikset need a more substantial 120-degree turn.




If adjusting for varying locking ratios wasn't hard enough, some locks have a deadbolt lever located centrally in the decorative mounting plate, while others keep the pivot point off-center in the fascia's lower third.

To work around these roadblocks, Lockitron employs a sensor suite and motorized turning ring that automatically programs locking start and stop positions, determines appropriate force and can even be activated by knocking. A rubber insert grasps the deadbolt lever and can be cut or 3D printed for the perfect fit.

As seen in the image above, Lockitron boasts a minimalist design, with a housing element made of sturdy metal covered by a glossy plastic faceplate and knob. Instead of running flush against the door, the top cover leaves about a centimeter of chassis showing. The recessed area hides indicator lights and a multifunction button, both of which are located on the unit's right side.

Installing Lockitron



Mounting Lockitron is a straightforward process and in most cases only requires a Philips-head screwdriver (included) to install. Apigy provides a C-shaped mounting plate that goes between the door and decorative deadbolt plate to create a solid anchor onto which Lockitron can latch. The C-plate features grooves to match up with common deadbolts assemblies, as well as tabs that interlock with Lockitron's chassis.




Installing Lockitron:

  1. Loosen the deadbolt screws from the interior door.
  2. Slide the C plate behind the deadbolt decorative mounting plate.
  3. Fit the mounting plate into the appropriate groove on the C Plate to help center it for Lockitron.
  4. Tighten the deadbolt screws while making sure the lever turns with the least amount of resistance possible. Deadbolts are fiddly, doors are drilled with a decent amount of inaccuracy, and if everything isn't lined up just right, you may have a lever that's hard to turn. Take the time to get it as smooth as possible.


Once all that's done, hold the Lockitron at an angle to the door, slip it over the tabs on the C plate, rotate until it's vertically straight up and down with the door edge, and it's mounted. It sounds hard, but actually wasn't bad -- just took a bit of fiddling to get right.




Next, we downloaded the app, which guided us through the process of setting up Lockitron's software. After entering our Wi-Fi network credentials, the app asked to connect our Lockitron with Apigy's cloud service by taking a picture of a barcode attached to the device chassis.

This next part is pretty cool. How do you get a device that's not on your Wi-Fi network, on your Wi-Fi network without a keyboard to enter in details? In Lockitron's world, you aim your phone's display at the upper right corner of Lockitron and the app flashes pattern of pulses captured by an onboard photo sensor.




After setup we encountered our first problem. We started out using a Kwikset deadbolt we had on hand. Since the app doesn't ask what type of deadbolt you have during initial setup, the default is to the smaller turning angle of Schlage locks, so the motor would never turn far enough to fully deploy the bolt.

We went out and bought a Schlage lock to finish the install only to find out from Apigy support that a hidden setup webpage allows users to reprogram Lockitron's turning radius. Doing so has a negative effect on battery life, but is necessary for Kwikset-type deadbolts.

A better solution would to have the app query what deadbolt we were using, or whether we needed a wider turning radius, before finishing setup procedures.

In use



Once Lockitron was installed and set up, we started to see the kinds of compromises Apigy made to get the product to market. For example, Lockitron currently relies on Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth for connectivity. Because Wi-Fi has a high energy cost on the included AA batteries, the firmware aggressively puts Lockitron to sleep to conserve power. Sleep/wake scheduling is seemingly arbitrary and manual activation is limited to turning the lock or knocking on the door.

When leaving the house, this isn't all bad. We unlock the door from inside, exit, pull the door closed, and it's still awake from unlocking it. From there, we can open the app and swipe to lock. This is mostly reliable, although the app sometimes incorrectly displays that Lockitron is asleep. We end up standing in front of the door, tapping and swiping, waiting to hear the lock. This takes longer than just using a key, and is kind of annoying.




We really had hoped to be able to sit in the car and lock the door, or even check the status and lock it if we've forgotten to lock it while we're out, away from the house. If Lockitron had a consistent connection to the network, we'd have been able to do this.

Returning home is equally difficult. Most people have to take out a key, insert it into the lock, and turn to open the door. Our former lock was a keypad deadbolt, so we had to enter a combination and open the door. Using Lockitron means we take out our phone, open the app, knock on the door, tap on the screen, swipe the screen, and unlock the door.

The idea of knock-to-wake is good from a power management standpoint, but lousy when it comes to actually opening a door. If it were raining and we had to wait in the rain for the door to wake up, that's a poor experience.



Conclusion



Lockitron is a novel idea and the hardware definitely has potential, but the current execution is not quite up to snuff. Most troubling is the lack of quick access and remote monitoring, as these are the very features that make a smart lock smart.

Bluetooth Low Energy or other low power system (z-wave with an ethernet-to-z-wave dongle at the router, not unlike the Peel universal remote control from a few years ago) would allow Lockitron to stay awake and accessible from the outside world, and not leave us with uncertainty over whether or not the door was locked. BLE has yet to be incorporated in any useful way, however.

Apigy is constantly rolling out software updates for better Wi-Fi connectivity, modified wake/sleep patterns, higher app monitoring accuracy and better mechanical operation. The company also plans to activate "Sense," a proximity-aware method of keyless entry based on Bluetooth 4.0 that was on the list of hyped features.

Hopefully Apigy will make the necessary changes to make good on its promises, but with a host of currently deactivated or sometimes-working features, using Lockitron is more of a hassle than it's worth.

Pros:
  • Easy install process
  • Solid hardware with big potential
  • Good app (when it works)


Cons:
  • Many features, including "Sense," not yet active
  • Poor sleep/wake cycling
  • Remote lock monitoring is spotty


Score: 2 out of 5



ratings_hl_20.png

Where to buy



Lockitron is available for preorder through Apigy's website for $179. Shipment time is unknown, though the company has yet to deliver all crowd-funding orders.
post #2 of 16
How long before Samsung buys it, do you imagine?

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #3 of 16
I would love to get the Kwikset product, but the biggest problem these devices have is the door themselves...specifically latching without any push/pull on the door.

Many of us probably deal with it all the time, but rarely notice....Heavy front doors will often be off by a millimeter or two, and when we latch a dead bolt, we pull or push the door ever so slightly to allow the bolt to latch....

Take the human push/pull out of the equation and these automatic dead bolts instantly fail. This can be a tough thing to fix with the door itself...even an attempt will be temporary as change in weather/temperature over the year will cause expansion/contraction....enough to throw off your dead bolt.

These products are genius, but you have to be one of the lucky ones with a cooperative front door.
post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

I would love to get the Kwikset product, but the biggest problem these devices have is the door themselves...specifically latching without any push/pull on the door.

Many of us probably deal with it all the time, but rarely notice....Heavy front doors will often be off by a millimeter or two, and when we latch a dead bolt, we pull or push the door ever so slightly to allow the bolt to latch....

Take the human push/pull out of the equation and these automatic dead bolts instantly fail. This can be a tough thing to fix with the door itself...even an attempt will be temporary as change in weather/temperature over the year will cause expansion/contraction....enough to throw off your dead bolt.

These products are genius, but you have to be one of the lucky ones with a cooperative front door.

Exactly!

You'd definitely have to check to see if your door needs pulling or pushing BEFORE you purchase this type of product.
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

How long before Samsung buys it, do you imagine?

 

This product was trying to ship for over a year, so i killed mine and got my money back. There are tonnes more options, I like the August bluetooth lock. Samsung will not waste its money on this crap company. Or since they make keypad locks here in Korea with a built in camera and  personal card (NFC) to get in- they will not waste their time with this inferior tech. 


Edited by revenant - 8/24/14 at 5:20am
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by revenant View Post
 

 

[...] There are tonnes more options, I like the August bluetooth lock. Samsung will not waste its money on this crap company. Or since they make keypad locks here in Korea with a built in camera and  personal card (NFC) to get in- they will not waste their time with this inferior tech. 

 

I also like the August concept a lot; sadly I can't get one, as it's not compatible with European lock cylinders. So basically this is a competitor to August. Which will be hard for Apigy, going against them; but competition drives innovation.

What name is that, anyway? Is that supposed to be a variation of apogee? If so, it is a bad one. I mean, if you start something, and can't even come up with a good name for it – what does that say about you; your creativity, and your attention to detail?

 

Samsung makes locks as well? With a built-in camera? Do explain, please. What does it do?

And as for NFC: If it requires a dedicated card, that's another card in your wallet. One that you have to get out each time you open your door (unless you only have one NFC card in your wallet, in which case it would work through the wallet; but I have several and they interfere with each other); and another card to keep track of, and that can get lost. Bad user experience. Unless it can be programmed to interface with your phone's NFC.

 

Do you have one of those locks? Or can you point me to their product page? Thanks!

post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

How long before Samsung buys it, do you imagine?

You must have Samsung confused with someone else; they don't buy, they steal.

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bb
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post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post
 

You must have Samsung confused with someone else; they don't buy, they steal.


actually, it does:

http://www.businessinsider.com/samsung-buys-smartthings-2014-8

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323375204578271254100159598

http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/why-did-samsung-buy-boxee/#!bJiE9P

post #9 of 16
With the possible exception of being able to program a lock to permit access for a limited period of time, like a delivery or an installer, it seems to me that all of these locks are an extremely complex solution with multiple failure points to a non-issue. I see these as Rube Goldberg machines.

And I certainly would be concerned about hacking and security. What do insurance companies think about these locks - will they still give you homeowners insurance if you use them?

Isn't it far easier and far less expensive to simply use a key? Our phones don't have to be used for everything. What's next - a phone app and a bunch of components that will flush the toilet?
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Sleep/wake scheduling is seemingly arbitrary and manual activation is limited to turning the lock or knocking on the door.

LMAO
How to enter the Apple logo  on iOS:
/Settings/Keyboard/Shortcut and paste in  which you copied from an email draft or a note. Screendump
Reply
How to enter the Apple logo  on iOS:
/Settings/Keyboard/Shortcut and paste in  which you copied from an email draft or a note. Screendump
Reply
post #11 of 16
Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post
You must have Samsung confused with someone else; they don't buy, they steal.


They seem to buy when they can’t steal.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by revenant View Post
 

 

This product was trying to ship for over a year, so i killed mine and got my money back. There are tonnes more options, I like the August bluetooth lock. Samsung will not waste its money on this crap company. Or since they make keypad locks here in Korea with a built in camera and  personal card (NFC) to get in- they will not waste their time with this inferior tech. 

 

The August has seen similar delays - has been in "pre-order" mode for a year or more...

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by pmz View Post

I would love to get the Kwikset product, but the biggest problem these devices have is the door themselves...specifically latching without any push/pull on the door.

Many of us probably deal with it all the time, but rarely notice....Heavy front doors will often be off by a millimeter or two, and when we latch a dead bolt, we pull or push the door ever so slightly to allow the bolt to latch.... [snip]

 

We found this to be true with our front door.  We have a Kevo installed.  However, it still works great.  You do have to pull when locking, but it's an easy operation to do with one hand... just touch the lock and pull the handle.  You could connect the two so that all you have to do is pull the handle for it to lock.

 

Unlocking doesn't require a pull.  It unlocks and the door pops open a bit, so there's no issue there.

 

The cause of the need to pull is that there's a seal around the door.  This creates pressure on the door to not want to be closed 100%.  When you're pulling, the door compresses on the seal and puts the bolt in place.  If you bore out the hole for the bolt, you'd end up with a door that didn't seal all the way.

 

There could be a fix for this from Kevo.  I've written to them but haven't heard anything back.  What's needed is for the bolt to be tapered, so that when it gets inserted, it wedges itself into the hole, thus applying pressure to seal the door.



 

zoetmb wrote:

And I certainly would be concerned about hacking and security. What do insurance companies think about these locks - will they still give you homeowners insurance if you use them?

 

Isn't it far easier and far less expensive to simply use a key? Our phones don't have to be used for everything. What's next - a phone app and a bunch of components that will flush the toilet?

 

I have the Kevo unit, and I'm not worried about security at all.  If you steal my phone without me noticing, and have my pin, ok, you could get into my house.  However, it would be much easier to steal my key without me noticing and get access into my house.  And if I did notice my key was missing, there's not much I could really do about it.  You could even steal a key, make a copy, and put it back, or even take a photo of my key and make a copy.  Any time I loan a key to someone, that person could make a copy... that exact scenario happened when we had construction done on the house.  The workers took the key we made and made a bunch of copies that we found.

 

As far as hacking the device itself, it's much easier to pick the mechanical lock than it would be to hack the encryption, so that's not really a concern either.

 

The reason why we got the Kevo is because we don't always need our keys with us, but we do always need our iPhones.  This becomes a great way to leave the house knowing that you've got your iPhone on you, and is easier than fumbling for keys and having one more thing to make sure to carry with you.  Plus, it's great for guests.

 

As far as a toilet flushing app... I'd buy that!  We have a vacation home where it would be nice to be able to flush the toilets every once and a while to keep them clean.

post #14 of 16
I just installed mine. It was a bit of a bother to get working, but I managed. However, it did not have the bluetooth work, and as you said, waiting for it to reconnect to wifi would be a deal breaker. That said, after contacting them, they were able to remotely refresh my bluetooth firmware, and the BTLE started working. It does not open on proximity arrival, but it does lock and unlock over BT allowing you to bypass the need for it to be woken and connect to wifi. But yes, I am still definitely waiting for them to work out the "unlock on proximity" without it unlocking and locking every time I walk past my front door. I also had to use the currently hidden calibrate function to get my lock to open just a smidgen more but it did work.

"Why not just use a key?" someone asks. For me, it is because it is one less thing I need to put in my pocket when I run out the door. The more I can have the phone do, the happier I am.

As an original backer, two years is a VERY LONG TIME TO WAIT. That said, to me they seem to have been right up front about their delays. It was a kick-starter campaign, so you need to expect hiccups. All the delays appear to have been in an effort to make sure that they sent out a product that worked reliably in the most minimal sense, and then they have been putting in all the missing promises bit by bit. They are standing behind their product and I think they will have it running as promised pretty soon here.
post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Pun View Post
 

 

Do you have one of those locks? Or can you point me to their product page? Thanks!


sent a pm

post #16 of 16

The problem I see with this is, my deadbolt lock becomes extremely tight during summer. will this provide enough power to turn it?

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