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What is a Smart Lock? The most important questions about electronic door locks
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What is a Smart Lock? The most important questions about electronic door locks

Get Inspired 20.06.2019 | Christine Deniz

More and more people are talking about Smart Homes lately, and networked door locks in particular. But how does one of these intelligent door locks actually work? Do you really have to be a tech wiz to understand the concept? In this article we’re going to answer the most important questions people ask about the Smart Lock.

How you can unlock your doors without a key

The principle behind digital or electronic door locks is not complicated. They come in different versions, but they usually work like this:

Nuki Smart Lock Installation

On the interior side of the door, you fix a mounting plate to the cylinder using a screwdriver or glue.

Then you put your existing key into the lock on the interior side of the door.

The Smart Lock itself is a small attachment that you place directly over the key and fasten to the lock.

This attachment has a little motor inside that turns the key in the lock, locking and unlocking your door.
However, the motor in the Smart Lock only turns the key when it receives the command to do so. To do this, the Smart Lock needs to be connected to the accompanying app on your smartphone. This is usually done via Bluetooth (though other wireless standards can be used).

It might seem a bit strange opening the door to your home this way. But there’s a good chance you already use a remote to lock and unlock your car door, so it shouldn’t take long for you to get used to this new convenience.

The “Key” factor: protecting your home

People are sometimes sceptical about the idea of a Smart Home in general and Smart Locks in particular – we’re talking about access to our home, after all. Ever since humans became sedentary, we’ve been looking for ways to improve our homes. And so, the key became very important, as it made it possible to safeguard one’s home against intruders.

You can also see just how important the key is by the fact that there was never any real alternative until very recently. Very few ideas have remained unchanged for so long. Only the latest state-of-the-art encryption methods, like the software used in digital door locks, are now able to replace the traditional key by offering at least the same level of security.

Is a Smart Lock secure?

How can you be sure that using a Smart Lock to lock and unlock your door is actually secure? When you’re locking and unlocking your door, what’s happening is that the little motor that turns the cylinder is connected to the smartphone giving the command via the app.

The attachment on the cylinder itself is not a security risk, as most devices are mounted on the interior side of your door and can’t been seen from the outside. In general, it’s not possible to tell the difference between a smart door and any ordinary door. The important thing is that connection, the communication between your smartphone and the device attached to the cylinder of the lock.

We tend to think normal keys are secure because each one is made to fit a specific lock. But with a digital lock, your smartphone is the key. But how can you be sure that other smartphones can’t control the Smart Lock without your knowledge? This is where the encryption process comes in. As the user, you determine access to your electronic door lock by linking your smartphone to the Smart Lock. From then on, communication between the two devices is encrypted in such a way that it cannot be manipulated by another smartphone. Likewise, your smartphone won’t respond to “requests” from any smartphone besides your own. This level of security requires really good software with a highly secure encryption scheme. The Nuki Smart Lock operates using what’s called end-to-end encryption, which is also used in online banking.

What makes a Smart Lock smart?

A digital door lock is just as secure as a conventional lock, but it offers you a lot more options. The Smart Lock also makes it really easy to solve all-too-familiar everyday problems using the magic of digitisation. With a Smart Lock, you no longer need to have spare keys made or hide keys under the mat. Just give access permission in the form of a digital key to friends, family members, people providing services, etc. With the right add-on, you can even control your Smart Lock remotely.

This is extremely useful in so many everyday situations: If you’re renting out a holiday accommodation, for example, you can save yourself the onerous task of handing over the keys. Just give your guests your super-secure access permission for the duration of the booking period only. Digital door keys are also very helpful in the care sector.

Be careful – not every Smart Lock is the same!

As we’ve seen, the most important thing here is security. This is why it’s essential for you to favour manufacturers that have been certified by well-known testing institutes, such as AV Test or Avira. While it may be bit tough to understand if you’re a non-expert, it’s still important for manufacturers to disclose their encryption scheme.
We from Nuki explain our end-to-end encryption scheme on our site. And in May 2019, Nuki was certified by AV Test as a “Secure Smart Home Product” for the second time.

Smart Locks are intended to make it easier to do some of the things you do every day. But what does that even matter if the installation process itself is a real chore? That’s why the Smart Lock by Nuki was designed for you to be able to mount it on the existing cylinder on the interior side of your door without much effort and without having to modify the door itself.

A good Smart Lock should also work for people who don’t really enjoy using their smartphone or who might not even have one. In that case, Nuki offers a number of clever add-on products for the Smart Lock, like the Keypad, which allows the lock to be activated by entering a code, or the Fob, a Bluetooth remote that unlocks the door at the touch of a button.

Christine Deniz
Faccio parte di quel gruppo di persone che afferma di "non intendersene molto di tecnologia”. Ecco perché per me è importante che anche i processi più complessi siano rappresentati in modo semplice e accessibile a tutti. Ciò che mi affascina della tecnologia Smart Lock è il fatto che questa permette non solo di sostituire la chiave - l'elemento principale di un'abitazione - ma anche di renderla ancora più intelligente con l'aggiunta di accessori. Un'innovazione per tutti, non solo per gli amanti della tecnologia.