Locks have existed for thousands of years. Their function, to restrict access (a door) and operation (insert key, twist key, open door) is simple. Their internal design however, that allow locks to work is complex. The pins, grooves, and cylinder must all align perfectly with the proper key or the cylinder won’t turn, the bolt won’t throw, and the door won’t open—that’s the whole point. Though the pin-tumbler type lock is certainly vulnerable by an expert, the basic design has continued to discourage burglars to this day.
Until recently, the pin-tumbler lock design has been immune to the advancement of technology. That is no longer the case. While keypad entry and wireless locking systems have been in commercial buildings and high end cars for years, that technology has now migrated to the residential housing market, primarily due to the acceptance of the smart-phone. Now, you can walk up to your front door fitted with an electronic door lock and with your smart-phone, touch or wave at the lock and it opens. It begs the question: “Why do you want to continue using keys?”
The design of an electronic door lock involves parts called “actuators.” These connect the bolt or the cylinder to a small motor, completely buried within the door or frame itself. The motor is controlled by an electrical impulse, which may be triggered in a number of ways: by an electronic card reader, by a keypad or by a wireless remote control sensor. Either way, the electronic door lock is configured to start the motor-driven actuator only once it has received the correct electronic input.
Pros and Cons
Each method of lock (pin-tumbler versus electronic) has pros and cons. Physical keys, such as metal keys, key cards or handheld remotes, can be lost or damaged, while numerical key codes can be forgotten (or learned and memorized by the wrong person). Key codes can be quickly and easily changed by the user when necessary, while changing physical locks and keys is much more involved, requiring specialized hardware and expertise. Power failures are problematic for purely electronic door locks, causing them to remain locked or unlocked until the electricity has been restored.
On most electronic door locks, you’ll find some combination of physical and electronic locking control on the same door. For example, you may have a physical key for setup and emergency backup, but use the remote or keypad to lock and unlock the door on a day-to-day basis. This provides an extra layer of convenience and safety for the user, but may also provide additional functionality as well.
Electronic digital door locks normally have a numerical keypad on the outside of the door, while on the interior side, the lock is a large brick that houses the electronics, a motor drive system, and a battery enclosure. The batteries generally last about a year, and, since nobody wants to be locked out of their house because of dead batteries, digital locks also have an indicator that warns you when the power dips low. The digital door locks are programmed with a master code with the flexibility to add additional access codes for members of the family, guests, babysitter and workers around the house. Note that these additional access codes can be erased at any time (via your smart-phone) using the master code when no longer necessary.
Can a hacker break in to your electronic digital door lock system? Digital systems, by their very nature, are subject to being vulnerable to attack, particularly if connected to the Internet. However, hacking a digital door lock system requires more effort than picking a conventional door lock, and there always exists the option for a burglar of simply breaking a window to gain access to a house. All residential door locks, mechanical or electronic are simply deterrents, not a guarantee of safety that should be complemented with an integrated home security system.
Home Control Automation
NEXUS Home Security offers as part of its Wireless Home Control Automation system wireless electronic door locks (Kwikset) that can be controlled and monitored remotely. The home security and control system can be programmed to lock the doors at set times during the day, just in case you forgot. Remote monitoring apps can allow you to use your smart-phone to see if there are any unlocked doors, and lock them from anywhere in the world. In the worst case, you can unlock your door remotely for quick, access to fire, medical or police personnel if an emergency occurs when you’re away from home.
Using the Wireless Home Control Automation system, the electronic digital door locks are “linked” to home thermostat and lighting control modules integrated with Z-Wave wireless antennas. These integrate devices, connected to the home security system, are a network that is all accessible via the Internet to let you monitor and control your house, from the comfort of your living room sofa or halfway around the world. So, when you´re driving to work and you can´t remember whether you locked the garage door, a quick scan of your smart-phone will let you know and with a simple push of a button, the door is locked.
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