What We're Working On: My Smart Locks

My house is getting smarter, and until I finish building my robot butler the next step in the process is installing a smart lock on the front door. The Okidokeys system seems like a good place to start because it works with the existing deadbolt and still allows for manual operation, so it’s not a huge commitment.

The Install

This is really simple and if you’re a regular DIYer, pretty intuitive. Remove the inner thumb-turn on the deadbolt and replace it with the Okidokeys unit.

What We’re Working On, My Smart Locks, Justin DiPego

It screws directly to the lock and it sits firmly in place.

What We’re Working On, My Smart Locks, Justin DiPego

You have several choices in face plates, to match your existing hardware.

What We’re Working On, My Smart Locks, Justin DiPego

The exterior key reader is even easier. It sticks in place with an adhesive backing. However, no attempt was made to make the reader blend with your old fixtures.

What We’re Working On, My Smart Locks, Justin DiPego

The Set-Up

This is where things started to go south. It's not intuitive and following the written instructions led me to a dead end when the app wouldn’t open past the login screen. A call to customer service solved the issue, which was a selection I failed to make, but didn’t appear in the instructions.

What We’re Working On, My Smart Locks, Justin DiPego

I have to say that Todd H. from Level 2 Support was diligent, helpful, friendly and genuinely concerned with solving the problems, and after spending a morning on the phone with him we felt like buddies. With the troubleshooting done, I finally had my phone, an RFID key card and an RFID key fob synched with the lock and the reader.

The Operation

First, let me say that the hardware of the lock is sound. It feels robust and locks and unlocks the door well when the electronics are operating properly. Now that that’s out of the way, the electronics of the operation are less than satisfying. Setting aside all the time on the phone with Todd, once set up, the lock and reader did what they were told to do about one third of the time. Tell the app to lock your door and the lock flashes a red LED to say “I hear you, but I won’t do it.” Similar things happen with the reader on the outside of the door.

Let’s set all that aside again and talk about the times when everything’s working perfectly. Leave your house. Close the door. Turn on the reader. Wait for it to wake up. Hold your card or fob (or gummy rubber, bright green wrist band - which I didn’t try because I’m not in middle school) up to the reader. Wait for the reader to recognize the key. The lock locks. That’s a lot of steps for something that’s supposed to make your life easier. In fact, the ancient technology of an actual key is a lot faster.

The problem lies in the powering of the system. The designers aimed to keep this a low impact DIY, which is a good thing. To achieve this it’s powered by AAA batteries, and to keep the batteries from running down the reader isn’t constantly on, waiting for a card to read. That’s why you have to turn it on and wait for it to wake up every time you use it. Humbly, I’d like to suggest to the designers that the reader should be wired in with your existing doorbell, so it has a constant supply of power and can read your card instantly, allowing you to leave and enter with a simple swipe.

Until that or another solution comes along, I have to call this one not ready roll out.