Smart Locks and Smart Keys: The Same Thing or Different?

You can be forgiven for that look of confusion on your face whenever you hear your friends discussing smart home technology. There are so many terms that it is hard to keep up without a program. Worse yet, some of the terms don’t even make sense. For example, consider ‘smart lock’ and ‘smart key’. Despite keys and locks being two different things, smart locks and smart keys are one and the same.

Vivint Smart Home explained in a recent blog post that smart locks are sometimes referred to as smart keys. Their explanation isn’t exactly clear in terms of why, but it appears to have something to do with capabilities. If this writer is understanding the Vivint post correctly, a smart key is essentially a smart lock with more advanced features.

Here are the basics of an entry-level smart lock:

  • It is electrically powered
  • It is wirelessly connected
  • It features keyless entry
  • It can be remotely accessed.

If you have a lock that boasts these four features, you have a smart lock. A similar lock with additional features could probably be considered a smart key, at least according to Vivint.

The Smart Key Difference

The significant difference between the smart lock and smart key seems to be in the technology. An entry-level smart lock is pretty useful on its own. You can do some great things with it. But a smart key takes things to the next level. It has on-board technologies that make the entry-level smart lock seem like a rudimentary device for home automation rookies.

Here are some typical smart key features mentioned in the Vivint blog post:

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  • Voice Access – A smart key doesn’t just offer keyless entry via a keypad; it also offers other ways to lock and unlock your door. Voice access is one such option. Speak a verbal command to lock your door on the way out. Speak another command to unlock it when you arrive home.
  • Fingerprint Access – Another alternative access method with a smart key is fingerprint access. It is the stuff of sci-fi movies and novels. Just touch your thumb or finger to the lock and it deactivates. Open the door and walk right in.
  • Event Scheduling – One of the smart locks Vivint sells allows customers to schedule certain times for doors to automatically lock and unlock. That’s pretty handy. Imagine scheduling all your doors to lock at 10 p.m. You will never have to worry about locking things up before going to bed.

Although not mentioned in the blog post, a good smart lock can be integrated with a smart home hub for added functionality. One of the more exciting examples of such integration involves geofencing. You can set up a virtual fence around your property and tie it to your door locks. Whenever your cell phone leaves that area, your locks automatically lock themselves. When your phone re-enters the perimeter, the locks unlock.

Smart Keys Still Have Keys

Smart locks and smart keys offer a variety of ways to access them without physical keys. Whether it is a keypad, a fingerprint, or a voice command, not having to fumble with keys is a big plus. But does that mean you don’t get physical keys with one of these devices? No. Keys are part of the package.

Given that smart locks are electronic devices, there’s always the chance that they will fail. Manufacturers cannot risk people being locked out of their homes due to a dead battery, an electrical malfunction, etc. So they still design mechanical features into the locks and provide physical keys for emergency entry.

Homeowners with smart locks are advised to carry keys with them. Leaving the keys at home defeats the purpose for having them.

Why Invest in Smart Locks

Now that you have a better understanding of smart locks and smart keys, here is the million-dollar question: why invest in them? Why not keep the locks you already have? Both are fair questions given the fact that a good, heavy-duty lock could easily outlast you as a homeowner.

Vivint listed quite a few reasons in their blog post. At the top of their list was convenience. Smart locks are convenient in the sense that they can be accessed remotely. Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t remember whether you locked the front door. No need to get out of bed to check. Just pull up your smartphone and check that way.

Here are some of the other benefits mentioned by Vivint:

  • Better Security – Smart locks eliminate the risk of forced entry through bump keys. That makes them more secure than traditional door locks. In addition, smart locks can be integrated with a full home security system for better security overall.
  • Real-Time Notifications – Most smart locks come with companion apps that allow you to receive notifications whenever the door is locked or unlocked. Notifications provide real-time information about who is entering and leaving your home.
  • Remote Entry – Just as remote access lets you check your doors from anywhere in your home, it also gives you the ability to let people into your home when you are not there. Out-of-town relatives can send you a text to let you know they have arrived. You can remotely unlock the door to let them in. The same goes for the driver delivering a package.

Additional features can make installing smart locks or smart keys one of the best moves a homeowner could make for convenience and security. Of course, products differ in the features they offer. But as time goes on, they can all seemingly do more and more things. That’s pretty exciting to anyone who appreciates home automation.

Whether you call them smart locks or smart keys, they represent the next iteration of lock technology. Perhaps a few decades from now, every home will be equipped with first-floor smart locks. Just how smart will the locks be then? We probably can’t even imagine it at this point.

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