There are many companies now producing 'smart' locks that allow you to open and close your front door lock, from anywhere in the world. The main feature seems to be the door recognising you when you're near and automatically unlocking it. Another popular feature is the ability to check wether your door is locked on your phone when your at work and allow you to lock it.

Does this improve the user experience over a traditional lock?

I have an mechanically locking lock that simply locks whenever the door is closed. You always need a key to get in. Example below:

enter image description here

When you leave the house, this type of lock adds direct feedback that the door is locked by trying to open it (it won't open). Since the result is always the same there's no worrying about that at work. After closing the door behind you and checking if it's locked, the smart lock won't be locked as you are still near (within wifi range / camera vision). If you try to open it, it will open. Therefore you might want to check that it's actually locked when you get to work.

The 'smart' lock removes the direct feedback from the interface (the door) for the benefit of not needing a key. (Unless you're battery is dead)

In a situation where security is key, what gives a better user experience?

  • Just for the record: most "smart locks" are trash. You could leave your door open and you would have the same security. Very few locks actually do it right at the moment.
    – BlueWizard
    Jan 8 '17 at 20:34
  • I think this may be too broad unless you are comparing a specific model or specific features. For example, if you want to be able to unlock your door for a friend while at work then clearly the smart lock has better UX. And you argue that the regular lock is better because it lock automatically as the door closes, there is nothing that stops a smart lock from doing the same, just the model you were looking at didn't have that feature.
    – DasBeasto
    Jan 9 '17 at 20:16

The process of opening/closing a door has two basic parts which are:

  1. Locking
  2. Unlocking

The system you show has the benefit of being convenient in the unlocking part. But the locking doesn't need to be convenient, because as you noticed, that undesired convenience comes with the detrimental of not providing the feedback that the door actually closed.

The security process when closing the door involves knowing that the door closed. The user can trust himself but can he trust that the system will work?

In my opinion the system as you describe it doesn't provide a better UX. It tries to solve a problem that wasn't there introducing other problems.

  • "In my opinion the system as you describe it doesn't provide a better UX" Can you clarify which system?
    – Martyn
    Jan 8 '17 at 23:11
  • @Martyn "The main feature seems to be the door recognising you when you're near and automatically unlocking it". Did I misunderstood how it works?
    – Alvaro
    Jan 8 '17 at 23:46
  • No, you got it :) I just wasn't confident if you where referring to the mechanical or smart lock.
    – Martyn
    Jan 8 '17 at 23:54
  • You mean to say the smart lock does not provide a better user experience, right?
    – Martyn
    Jan 8 '17 at 23:55
  • Yes, I mean the smart lock :) At least as far as I understood it.
    – Alvaro
    Jan 8 '17 at 23:56

I see major problems with intelligent locks:

  • When the power goes out I would be locked inside or outside my own home. The intelligent locks I saw are powered by AA batteries. The ones I saw have a regular key as contingency. But if I will take the keys with me there is no great advantage on the electronic mechanism anyway.

  • On electrical storms some electronic devices burn up. I do not know how resilient the internal electronics are. I bet they aren't.

  • My house wifi goes out of range 300 meters away from my house. It does not work that far, but my cell phone still receive the beacons.

  • Wifi mac addresses can be gathered and simulated by a criminal. If the lock have a criptographic challenge mechanism would be thrusstworty against remote tampering. But I bet it doesn't.

  • I do not know how resilient the electronics is against tampering. I bought the most expensive electric lock that was available in the home center and switch it few weeks later when I discovered that it was only needed to cut a exposed wire on the fence and put a battery to open the lock. It look like yours but instead of being activated by the smartphone is activated by a button inside the house.

I do not feel much confidence in the home security innovations as it is yet. On my opinion it is technically feasible to make great intelligent locks. But the ones I saw seems to be designed by a marketing intern that made a correspondence course of electronics. I now it is not the case. It is engineers that are focused in the aesthetics and image of security. But the result is gadgets that looks good, convenient, modern and secure. But actually are not.

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