Has Netatmo just killed the “dumb” door locks?

So far, traditional locks have seemed safer. But the French company's first smart lock, unveiled at CES 2020, could be a game changer.  

The problem with smart locks, as they are mostly implemented today, is not that they’re intrinsically unsafe (although some of them really are). It’s more that, except for the shared feature of making it easier to remote control your door lock, they don’t really improve the experience of a regular mechanical lock. That’s why Netatmo new Smart Lock and Keys won’t win a prize for the most original naming, but will certainly shake up the concept of smart locks themselves and, hopefully, ignite a refreshing change in how companies approach smart locks engineering.

Netatmo’s new Smart Lock prioritizes the control over a set of NFC keys instead of the lock itself. The user will have the option to open the door through the Netatmo app, but the main goal is to enable and activate the physical electronic keys as the main “security token” to open the door. The keys can be programmed and controlled through the app, while guests can use a special stripped down version of the app as a virtual key. The interaction with other smart home elements is available too, thanks to Apple Home Kit integration (so, yes, you’ll be able to turn on your lights when you open your apartment door).

The main element of the Smart Lock is the cylinder, which has to be installed in place of its mechanical counterpart. It connects to the Netatmo hub via Bluetooth, instead of Wi-Fi. The absence of a motorized deadbolt - you need manual action to unlock the door one the safety pins are cleared - is probably the best design decision Netatmo could make. It has the double advantage of maintaining a manual interaction with the door, limiting the possibility of leaving the door accidentally open, and saves a lot of energy: the four AAA batteries inside the lock will have to be replaced roughly every two years. In case the lock runs out of power, the user can perform an emergency unlock by connecting an external battery via a USB-mini port.  

It’s this series of well thought features that shows Netatmo might have nailed its smartlock design, avoiding the security pitfalls of competing locks. It also shows how the company, recently acquired by LeGrand Group, has approached the smart lock problem from an industrial perspective, rather than a strictly consumer-driven one. Instead of flashy features and claims (“you can unlock your door through the internet!”, “The postman can access your apartment when you’re not home — as if it’s ever been a good idea to start with!”), the company focused on traditional security and expandability of the system. The Smart Lock is the first one of its breed to obtain A2P, BX+ and SKG certifications, the top security standards for European locks. Moreover, multiple smart locks can be installed in the same building or even different properties (such as your home and your office) and opened with only one programmable keys, solving an actual issue of traditional locks, i.e. the need to carry around huge sets of keys and the cost of having to reproduce them. 

Netatmo unveiled the product during CES 2020. It will arrive on the EU markets only later this year. The final price hasn’t been finalized yet, but the lock is expected to cost between 300 and 400€. What’s good about the pricing: you won’t be pushed any monthly subscriptions via the app: the price is fixed and all additional services are free. 

Nobody can’t say right now if Netatmo’s approach to smart locks will be a winning one in a market increasingly crowded with competing smart solutions. What we’re confident about is that smart locks will be more and more popular in the future ad they will become an element of our digital life we’ll all get all accustomed to. By implementing their product with security in mind and steering away from useless features, Netatmo has taken a refreshing approach that, in our opinion, will help secure consumer trust and make the company’s solution way more interesting to a breadth of industrial partner in the real estate industry. 


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