For those who like gadgets and like finding ways to integrate useful technology into daily life, a smart lock might be just the gadget to get.
There are a number of smart locks on the market making it simple to find one in nearly every price range. I recently saw the August smart lock in action. It allows the user to let someone into their home remotely using an app on their smartphone and the “virtual key” can last for minutes or hours or weeks. So if the grandparents have arrived for a visit but have gotten to the house faster than you have made it home from work, it’s a simple tap to let them in or they can have their own virtual key, meaning there is no key to lose, misplace or forget to bring.
The door can be unlocked to allow the service company workers in so they can complete a repair or let the dog walker in or the babysitter. A family member installed the August smart lock and has liked how it works. The smart lock attaches to an existing deadbolt on the inside of the door, meaning the keys to the house still work as they always have. But lose a key and getting in is still not a problem. And if you lose your smartphone, the access to the smart lock can be disabled via a web page.
As other brands, the August smart lock includes options for voice control and sensors to tell you if the door is open or closed. For an additional monthly or annual fee, the device can come with a camera and ability to store the video for 24 hours or up to 30 days.
“August’s entry-level smart lock is quite affordable, making it a desirable choice for people dipping their toes into this device category,” SafeHome.org reported in a review. “They have a focus on innovation and a powerful platform to support their products, making these devices a worthwhile investment.”
August reports the installation takes minutes using a standard Phillips screwdriver. It comes with four AA batteries.
So if you wake up in the night and have that nagging concern you forgot to lock the door, you can use a voice assistant to do it using Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri and Apple HomeKit.
Have your hands full of groceries? No worries, the lock senses your phone and knows when you arrive or leave and automatically unlocks as you approach. This is a handy feature particularly if you arrive home after dark and in Minnesota that covers a lot of people once winter arrives. On a cold night, it means no more fumbling for the right key. That can prove handy for parents who need to get a child in the house quickly as well.
An auto-lock feature can be enabled, which is useful for people who may wake up the next day to find their keys still in the lock and their door open to anyone while they slept. It happens.
August’s website lists the basic smart lock at $149, that is without voice control. There are additional locks with more features for $219, $229 and the full feature that works with all three top voice control assistants for $279.
This summer PCMag.com did a review of smart locks for 2019 and listed the August Smart Lock HomeKit enabled as an editors’ choice followed by the August Smart Lock Pro plus connect. Other companies listed included: Schlage, Nest, Lockly Secure, RemoteLock, Yale and Gate Smart. Prices range from less than $200 to nearly $300.
August was also a top pick with CNET, both for homeowners and apartment dwellers.
So either with the holidays approaching or a way to invest in some home security and ease of access, a smart lock is a gadget that could be useful everyday.
Amazon recently introduced a bevy of gadgets from a ring -- called the Echo Loop to Echo Frames (for your glasses) to Echo Buds (earbuds) that bring Alexa even closer and “on the go,” as Amazon notes. Lift the Echo Loop and ask Alexa questions, take a call, set reminders, control smart home devices, calculate the tip after a meal.
The draw back on the Loop or Frames may be in getting all this data while you are out and about and everyone else is in listening range. The demo video shows people holding their hand up to their ear for Alexa’s answers questions on the right tip or what items are on the grocery list. The Echo Loop price at an invitation only number is $130 with the price after the introductory period listed at $180. The Loop is water resistant for hand washing but isn’t recommended for showering or swimming. Amazon recommends ordering a fit kit first to make sure there is a Loop that fits.
The Echo Buds retail for $130 and come with free three months of Audible, Amazon’s company with audio books, radio, TV and other entertainment options and media. The Echo Buds may make the strongest link to people’s visions of the future, a touch to the ear and a wealth of information is there if having a bud in your ear is something you’d want a lot. For some, that’s a normal everyday thing and for others it’s something they’d rather avoid until their hearing goes and they need to augment that with a hearing aid.
The Echo Frames are marketed as “never miss a moment with Alexa.” The Echo Frames provide an option to make calls, set reminders, listen to podcasts and described as “lightweight and compatible with most prescription lenses.”
Amazon reports its “open-ear technology directs sound to your ears and minimizes what others can hear. And with no camera or display, you stay in the moment.”
And if you were wondering, as I was, whether that means your glasses go off whenever anyone says Alexa, Amazon reports the microphones are “designed to respond to the voice of the person wearing the frames and turn off with a double-press of a button.” The Frames come in one size of medium/large and cost $180. Hands-free calling is an attractive option, one of the things I’ve liked about my Apple Watch as well, so I’ll be interested to see if the glasses, ring or earbuds take off.
Other new gadgets with Amazon include an Echo Dot with a clock built into it for those who want to just glance and see the time without asking Alexa. And there is an Echo Glow for $30 marketed as a multicolor smart lamp for kids that can be voice controlled when combined with another Alexa device.