I came home from a weekend away and discovered the lock on our back patio door no longer worked. Kay and I decided it was time to upgrade to a “smart lock” that allows us to lock and unlock the door remotely, provide security access codes to family members, and lets us leave home without a key. Part of what prompted this upgrade is a recent tornado warning. Kay and I were out of town and our son and daughter-in-law came to use our storm cellar and couldn’t get into the house. I had hidden a key a year before but forgot where I hid it, so they were forced to go to a neighbor’s house instead. By adding a smart-lock we could open the door remotely or just provide them an access code that they could easily remember, allowing them in at anytime without carrying a key.
I went to our nearby Lowes and found a Schlage Sense deadbolt lock. It was Apple HomeKit compatible and since we are an all Apple home, I figured that would be a good choice. Total cost was about $280 with tax, since I had to buy the lock and the bottom doorknob (it had also broken).
Installing the Schlage Sense
Installation was pretty simple. If you have ever installed a doorknob, installing a smart lock was just about the same. Took me about 10 minutes to remove the old deadbolt and doorknob, and reinstall the new one. I like to read instructions so that may have slowed the process down a bit. The unit installs just like any other doorknob and deadbolt, with the addition of installing batteries in the deadbolt.
Programming the Schlage SENSE using an iPhone
Per the directions, I skipped trying to program the unit from the keypad. It was much easier to just download the app from Apple’s App Store, start up the app, then point my iPhone camera at the box the deadbolt came it. The app read a barcode on the box and quickly paired my phone with the deadbolt via bluetooth – easy peasy!
I had to create an account on the Schlage web site – probably the only negative part of the deal. Schlage now knows where I live and they can ready the privacy info on my lock – when we lock and unlock it.
The lock ties to Apple HomeKit through my iTunes/iCloud ID. I keyed that into the Sense app and it linked up with the Home app on my phone. I am still not sure how all that works since I didn’t even know I had a home app on my phone. Seems it comes with my IOS.
One caveat I discovered was that the lock communicate via bluetooth, not wifi. If you know anything about bluetooth, it is a low-power radio frequency so only has a range of about 35 feet and doesn’t penetrate walls and such all that well. My phone could talk to the lock as long as it was in range, but once out of range it couldn’t lock or unlock or read the status of the lock. Supposedly my phone can connect with the lock through our Apple TV unit (which also has bluetooth built in) but our Apple TV unit is in a different room and not within reach of our smart deadbolt. I did some research on that problem and discovered I either have to have an Apple TV or an iPad within bluetooth range of the lock if I want the ability to lock and unlock door remotely while away from home. The lock works just fine as long as my phone is within bluetooth range.
Kay also downloaded the Sense app and since the lock was registered under my iTunes account, I had to give her permission to also control the lock. She has full admin privileges so can add codes, see the lock history, and lock and unlock from her phone.
Using SIRI with Schlage Sense
One cool feature of the Schlage Sense lock working with Apple HomeKit is that we can control the lock through Apple’s SIRI. When walking to the back door I can just say “Hey SIRI, unlock the back door” and quick as a wink the door is unlocked. I can check the status of the lock with a voice command, set up an access code, and basically do everything I need with the lock just by talking to my phone – or better yet, through my AirPods. This would be a really nice feature if I could get the lock set up to communicate with it remotely. I have an old Apple TV unit laying around and might set it up in the kitchen near the lock so that we can control the door remotely.
After a few minor glitches when we first started programming the unit – it got confused between being locked and unlocked – it now works just fine. When the door is unlocked (or locked) I get a pop-up alert on my phone, which is pretty cool. The only negative we have is that we need a bluetooth device (Apple TV, iPhone or iPad) within about 30′ of the device to be able to manage it remotely while away from home. Not a major deal breaker but something to be aware of. All in all we are very happy with the lock and look forward to adding additional smart devices to our home in the future. I am also excited about Apple’s HomeKit infrastructure and will be delving into that technology more soon.