Technological growth has been prevalent in the last decade. Things like IoT has been a long topic of discussion regarding the possibilities of the age of information. One of the most attractive features about IoT has been its interconnectivity, from yourself to a hardware, and with the hardware to the cloud, which simultaneously syncs data with all your other devices and brackets that are relevant. One of the most popular areas has been to change the way we interact with the internet at home, and today we start with a device that hasn’t experienced much innovation in the last couple hundred years, the home lock.
What Are Smart Locks?
Smart locks are household door locks that combine hardware electronics and software integration to carry a consumer experience close to that of a modern day smart device. Smart locks often can be controlled with low energy output signals like Bluetooth or Wifi, and has convenient software that can be used easily on the smart phone.
Many smart lock companies have also integrated a total solution of home security systems into their locks. For example, their main door lock can be also connected to their balcony door lock, which is also monitored by the indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, which also includes their safe. All this can be connected to one system, allowing the user to have a truly connected experience between the entire home’s security system.
Of All Home Devices, Why Smart Locks?
Smart home has been a hot topic especially in IoT mainly because it is easy to see the applications and pinpoint areas worth innovating. With smart locks, it is a no brainer that it will be the bedrock of home security systems, which is speculated to grow to a staggering 372 billion dollar market by 2022. With such high growth potential, everyone wants to jump on the action. Startups and manufacturers in the previous space are flocking towards this area to generate a more sustainable long run product line. Early adopters of these devices have also generated a substantial amount of feedback for development iterations.
Beginning with smart locks, it is the perfect introductory product to get the average consumer on board with the idea of a connected home system. The hardware makes sense, and as the millennials enter the market for housing, technology will no longer be a luxury but a necessity as part of the home buying/leasing considerations. A report conducted by AOL Finance reports that a survey done to 100,000 first time milleninial homebuyers found that 28% respondents valued smart home technology as the biggest priority when buying property. Another survey by Wakefield Research found it also true that 86% of millennial were willing to spend more money renting a place with smart technology. Smart locks have therefore been the cheap entry level hardware to get early adapters using on their own home, and for real estate developers to provide validity to smart home security systems. Developers are now targeting this next segment to compete in, appliances are no longer the only considerations, now it becomes
It is not just because of the market that makes this device the most appropriate driver of IoT in homes. It is also because of the convenience this experience can bring to the consumer by linking such system starting from the lock to the internet, and to provide control from abroad. With the combination of data, machine learning and capable hardware solutions to deliver such systems, this experience will be one that we can truly call connected.
The Future Beholds
To paint you a better picture, I am going to bring in my friend Tom. Tom is a forgetful person, and has had a bad history of not locking doors properly. When Tom goes out to work, he can check his phone’s smart lock application of the status of the lock. He can then make sure he locks his door via the app. When he gets home he realized that he actually forgot his keys at the office, but wait! He merely pulls out his phone and unlocks it from within because the lock is connected to his home wi-fi. Tom gets home, and Tom has eliminated one of the biggest problems in many forgetful people’s lives.
On a different level, when smart home security systems become a norm, this becomes instantaneously more powerful. Let’s borrow Tom again, and Tom has the most state of the art smart security system. He is at his office and is notified that there is an adnormal activity in his front lawn. He then checks the cameras and realizes that he got a package from the mail man, he discards the notification and sets the occurrence as standard. The system then remembers the mail man and is discarded of notification in the future. Tom then gets another notification on his way home from work that his guitar instructor has arrived earlier, he simply authorizes the lock to open and lets the instructor in before he gets home. Tom’s neighbor, a teenage boy accidently throws a baseball through his window. The broken window triggers an alarm that is notified to Tom, and through the surveillance, he can see that it has been the result of his neighbor. He has the option to shut it off or contact the authorities. He shuts it off, and proceeds to handle this situation personally when he gets home.
Tom’s experience with the smart security system is a mere scratch on the surface of what is possible. The experience can be endless and to truly understand it, we must embrace the most basic hardware beginning with smart locks.
The problem that we see this industry facing is broken into two aspects.
1: All the smart home systems are independent of each other, creating a classic chicken or egg situation for different standalone products.
There is a fragmentation in the market across different products as everyone wants to be the market leader in the space. People all end up creating their own close ended solution without adopting other’s. When there is no shared consensus on what platform to use, no one’s products become cross compatible with each other’s. This now becomes the driving force of why this hasn’t been widely adapted yet, the fact that nothing works with each other unless you buy the entire system from one brand. People want variety, and the power of choice, and when that is taken from the consumer experience, it will never reach world wide adaptability until this gets solved.
2: Various hardware products still don’t have the reliability of “regular non-smart products”
As many of these IoT products include firmware and an app to allow connectivity, many things will go wrong throughout the development process. What this means for the consumer is many failed occurrences that failed to deliver the product’s functions. When this happens, the ever growing impatient users will lose faith in the hardware, and deem it not as useful and reliable as conventional methods. Hardware products need to be developed in an appropriate manner through numerous field testing to lower the risk of failure. This is one of those areas that cannot fail, and when it does fail, it could potentially bring lots of risks to the users, and get caught in a downward spiral of growing impatience with the product and lost faith of product. New hardware development often times do well in labs but fail miserably in real life, dramatically increases negativity for the user’s experience. An example will be the heavy reliance on connectivity means like wifi or Bluetooth. If the source of the connection is lost, then the entire system must have offline measures to protect security on the hardware and on the software level. The software can be also be more prone to hacks and other cybersecurity issues, which if not taken care of, can lead to a more risky investment than a conventional lock. That is the worse position to ever be in as a hardware company.
Wait, What Does This All Mean?
What this means is that when the day IoT actually becomes more streamlined than it is right now, it will be the greatest movement of technological growth since the industrialization. When the hardware and software comes into alignment with the expectations of the public, that is when products like this will become a norm.
As smart home solution companies gather data on the current early adopters, the accuracy of software in preparation for things like machine learning in these devices will be gathered in no time. Your homes may soon be connected to the internet as will all your appliance products. And before you know it, the level of convenience and predictability will surpass
This does not mean smart security systems are perfect in any shape or form. The system needs to have strong encryption of data to protect the home owner from any hacks and theft of information. As more information becomes available the more prone systems may be subject to attacks and is arguably one of the most important element of a smart security system is that it needs to withhold any breaches to security on both the software and the hardware level. Oh the irony if it didn’t.
We hope to see the stability of the industry in the next couple of years, and hope with a higher user count, they can weave out the competitions in the space and remain those most competent solutions. As the generations who grew up surrounded by informational technologies become home owners, the adoption rate will gradually increase. When that occurs, hopefully other hardware will be able to follow along and join the revolution to what we know as the first step of interconnectivity.