Is it time for a smart lock?

(Photo by NHSM)

It’s no longer news that the world’s going digital, but the simple cylinder lock has stuck around, mostly because this simple device, despite having been around for hundreds of years, is effective and strong.

The modern pin-tumbler lock was invented by Sir Linus Yale in 1848, so, even if you want to start counting from there, this is a remarkably resilient piece of technology.

The thing is, digital technology is, well, cool and convenient. Many of us will at least wonder whether installing a digital door lock at home is a good idea.

Why get one?

The biggest reason for getting a digital lock is keyless entry. It’s a practical advantage,” says Yale’s Gavin MacDougall.

Installing an electronic lock means no duplicate keys need to be made. The advantage here is that if keys are lost or stolen the digital technology used to open the door can be reprogrammed, and you won’t have to replace the lock.

With the new smartphone apps linked to the lock you can even unlock your door when you are away from home, say if your husband has locked himself out and left his smartphone at work.

Also, some of these locks can be linked to systems that alert you if the door is unlocked, for example via SMS to your phone.

Is newer safer?

There is no simple answer to that question. “A standard, old-fashioned mechanical lock is stronger than some digital locks,” says MacDougall. “But there are digital door locks which have high security mechanical cylinders as the base, making it just as strong, if not stronger than a traditional lock, with the extra electronic security added in.”

The trick is to pick the right one. “The reality is that some digital locks give higher security than your average traditional house lock, and some lower,” says National Home Security Month spokesperson Hayley Elwen.

“Each application is different, and there are many different options, even including biometric access – such as using a fingerprint reader to open your digital door lock. It’s best to have a chat to a technical expert who can advise the best option for the door and application in your home,” she says.

Also, remember that criminals often bypass locks to get into a home, either by entering through an unlocked door or by breaking down a door or through a window. Any security device is just part of an overall system.

But, mostly ...

It’s the future. While South Africa lags behind the developed world on this, smart home systems in which devices from the TV to the fridge are automated and linked to a central control device such as a smartphone are on the rise.

“Technology companies are looking at your smart lock being the start of waking up your smart home,” says Elwen.