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article imageOp-Ed: 'Smart locks' for homes, autos, and hotels

By Ken Hanly     Jul 15, 2017 in Technology
I use the term "smart lock" in quotes because some of the keyless electromechanical locks that I discuss in the article may not send alerts about the event it monitors or critical information about the state of the device.
In a smart home the smart lock would be connected to other devices such as a security camera, a temperature control system, air-conditioning, and so on creating a network of linked devices or part of what is called the Internet of Things, with all the devices being cable of being controlled from a central gateway and remotely through a phone or computer. By smart lock I will mean a lock that operates electrically and often embeds recent technology so that it can do other things as well as lock and unlock things.
As in a traditional lock the smart lock requires both a locking mechanism and a key. The standard lock requires a physical key to unlock the mechanism and also can be used to lock the mechanism. Smart locks do not use physical keys but cryptographic keys that authorise the unlocking or locking process. Until recently mechanical locks were standard on house doors, hotel room doors, and car doors. They are still featured in most homes. However, auto locks have changed drastically.
There is still the key which one inserts in the ignition and turns to start the car but the key is now associated with a fob or remote that can provide keyless entry to unlock the doors or open the trunk simply by pushing a button. The key is called a switch blade key because one can fold it into the fob as a blade in a jackknife can do when not being used. Unlike the older key the new keyless entry system has used developing digital technology to make entry to the vehicle easier. While these are not strictly smart locks, when combined with the features of the fob the auto-key certainly embeds recent technology as compared to the old key which often even involved different keys for ignition, doors, and trunk. Another change with the new fob key is the cost of replacement which can run from about $200 dollars even as high as $600 according to Consumer Reports as it has to be reprogrammed as well as cut.
Hotels have also quickly adapted to newer technology through use of the keycard lock. No longer do you get a physical key when you book into most hotels. You will most likely get a keycard a flat rectangular plastic card with the same dimensions as a credit card. It will usually have a magnetic strip on which a digital signature is embedded which will authorize the opening of the door when the card is swiped. There are different types of these cards. Cards with the Wiegand interface might be considered more like standard smart locks in that they connect to the rest of the entry system. Some new keycard systems use RFID technology that operate to open the lock even when the card gets close to the lock. You don't need a swipe mechanism. Offices often now use key card technology combined with other new technology such as fingerprint, and other biometric technology.
Smart houses will have locks that open using such devices as a cellphone which may have an icon that if pressed opens the lock or one could have a special fob for the purpose as with autos. Usually a key to open the phone can be sent to others electronically. It can be arranged so that the key functions only during the time set by the sender. Many of the locks also are connected to cameras that show people requesting access to a door. There are smart doorbells that allow one to see who and when someone is at the door trying to get in. In many cases combination locks are still used to open doors. There will be a keypad above the lock and a number will be keyed in that will open the door. Although these are keyless they do not represent any use of advanced technologies in themselves although they can be combined with newer technologies.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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