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How to Lock Your Home From Your Smartphone

I don't always lock my house, but when I do, I use my smartphone.

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How to Lock Your Home From Your Smartphone

Kwikset Smartcode Deadbolt

Photo: A. O'Donnell

Have you ever left for a trip and thought to yourself: "Did I remember to lock the front door?" This question can bother you the whole time while you're away. Wouldn't it be really cool if you could lock your home's deadbolt locks remotely or check to see if they're locked via your smartphone?

Well my friends, the future is now. With a little cash, an Internet connection, and a smartphone you can make your home a 'smart home' that you can control via your iPhone or Android smartphone.

Let's look at what you need in order to remotely control your home's door locks, lights, thermostat, etc.

Z-Wave is the marketing name given to the mesh network enabling technology used for 'smart home' control. There are other home control standards such as X10, Zigbee, and others but we're going to focus on Z-Wave for this article because it seems to be growing in popularity and is supported by some home alarm system manufacturers and service providers.

To setup remote controlled deadbolts such as the one seen in the picture, you will first need a Z-wave-capable controller. This is the brains behind the operation. The Z-Wave controller creates a secure wireless mesh network that is used to communicate with Z-Wave-enabled appliances.

Each Z-Wave appliance, such as a wireless door lock or light switch dimmer, acts as a network repeater which helps to extend the range of the network and provide communications redundancy for other devices and appliances connected to the network.

There are several Z-Wave controllers on the market including MiCasa Verde's Vera System which is a DiY friendly Z-Wave controller that doesn't require the user to pay any service provider fees (other than their internet connection).

Many Z-Wave home control solutions are offered by home alarm service providers such as Alarm.com as an add on service. They rely on the Z-Wave network created by the alarm system controller such as the 2GiG Technologies Go!Control Wireless Alarm System which has a built in Z-Wave controller.

There are a ton of remote controllable Z-Wave-enabled appliances out on the market including:

  • Electronic deadbolt locks
  • Light fixture dimmers and switches
  • HVAC Thermostat Controllers
  • Motion Sensors
  • Flood Sensors
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Remote controlled outlets and power strips

How can you lock your doors and control other appliances in your house from the Internet?

Once you have the Z-Wave controller setup and you've connected your Z-Wave appliances per the manufacturers instructions. You will need to establish a connection to your Z-Wave controller from the Internet.

If using Alarm.com or another service provider, you will need to pay for a package that allows for control over your Z-Wave appliances.

If you elect to use the DIY solution from MiCasa Verde, then you will need to follow their instructions on how to setup your wireless router to accept connections to the MiCasa Verde controller from the Internet.

Once you have a service provider or have setup your connection to your controller, then you will need to download the specific Z-Wave control app for your controller. MiCasa Verde provides iPhone and Android Apps and Alarm.com has Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry versions of its app as well.

The two main Z-Wave-enabled deadbolts on the market are Kwikset's Smartcode with Home Connect and Shilage's LiNK. Your controller might only be compatible with a certain brand of electronic deadbolt so make sure you check your Z-Wave controller's website for compatibility information.

Some neat features of these Z-Wave deadbolts are that they can determine whether they are locked or not and can relay that information to you on your smartphone so you won't have to worry about whether you locked them or not. Some models also let you engage or disengage your security system via the lock's keypad.

If you want to get really creative, you can even program your interior Z-Wave enabled lights to come on as the deadbolt lock is disengaged from the keypad.

Z-Wave light switches / dimmers and other Z-Wave-enabled appliances start at around $30 and are available at some hardware stores as well via online retailers such as Amazon. Z-Wave-enabled deadbolt locks start at around $200.

The main potential downside of this Internet/smartphone connected smart home technology is the potential for hackers and bad guys to mess with it. It's one thing if a hacker does something bad to your computer, but when he/she starts messing with your thermostat, door locks, and lights, then he/she might negatively affect your personal safety in a tangible way. Before you purchase a Z-Wave device, check with its manufacturer to see how they implement security.

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