The Jetsons-style home of the future is getting closer to becoming a reality. Thanks to the Internet of Things, nearly every household tool, from thermostats to baby monitors, can now be made to communicate with one another and our hand-held devices, operating independently and learning our behavior seamlessly. There's even a smart plant sensor that "provides real-time measurements of the factors essential for healthy growth" and sends vegetation updates to a user's smartphone.
But one of the most promising and practical parts of the Internet of Things relates to home security. A handful of high-tech smart locks have hit the market in recent years, aiming to eliminate clunky key rings while making homes safer. The latest, called the Linus Lock, is the product of a partnership between Yale Locks & Hardware and Google-owned Nest, the makers of a variety of connected appliances like the smart thermostat and smart smoke detector.
Here's how it works: Home owners control the Linus lock via the Nest app. They can lock and unlock the door remotely, share passcodes with friends or family or household workers, and revoke access at any time. The Linus can be set to activate after a specified amount of time so you never have to worry about whether you forgot to lock up. And it logs information about who comes and goes, letting users keep tabs on what's going on inside their house. If you lose your phone, you can revoke that device's authorization until you get a new one, the virtual equivalent of changing the lock and getting a new set of keys.
At first glance, the Linus isn't actually that different from most other smart locks on the market, like the August lock or Kwikset Kevo, all of which offer very similar features. But what separates the Linus is its ability to communicate directly with other connected Nest devices that have already infiltrated the homes of many Americans. "If Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide, for example, the new Yale lock will warn family members with voice and screen alerts before they enter the home," explains CNET. The Linus will also know when users leave the house and tell the Nest Learning Thermostat to change the temperature.
"This points to a future where the smart home begins to make more sense, where it can appeal to far more people," writes Cade Metz at Wired. "Controlling your thermostat from a smartphone app is one thing. Controlling a wide range of devices from the same app — and arranging for communication between them — is another."
In other words, the Linus brings us one step closer to creating a truly connected household, from the front door to the fridge.
But should we be handing our gadgets the keys to our homes? While smart locks seem promising, "a very legitimate concern is whether they just introduce digital vulnerability to the problem of home security," CNET says. Indeed, smart locks don't significantly improve security, but they don't impede it, either. If someone wants into a house, they'll find a way by breaking a window or busting down a door. "There's no lock — connected or otherwise — that's going to make you safer," writes John Patrick Pullen at Time. "These products don't change the fundamental truth that locks only keep honest people out."
What smart locks do offer is convenience, in that you no longer have to fumble around in your bag or pockets for your keys, along with improved control and surveillance over what happens in your home.
The Yale Linus lock will be released sometime in 2016.