Can a smartphone replace your house key?
A startup called August, which makes a new smart lock, thinks it can.
August is another company exploring the buzzy “Internet of Things” trend, where everyday objects like garage doors, lights, and security systems are connected to the and controlled over the internet. Nest, the maker of a smart thermostat and smoke detector, is probably the most famous company in the space after Google bought it for $3.2 billion in January of this year.
While most homes aren’t powered by smart devices, the potential is huge, especially if someone can nail all the pain points we have with the stuff in our house by computerizing them. It’s a space everyone from Apple to Cisco to startups like August are noodling around with.
August only makes its namesake smart lock for now, but it’ll likely expand into other smart stuff. The lock has been around for about a year, but only in limited quantities. Starting now, anyone can buy it for $250 at the Apple Store or August’s website.
Here’s how it works.
If you have a standard deadbolt, you won’t need to be a trained locksmith to install the August lock. The only thing you need to know how to do is operate a screwdriver, and the installation process shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes in most cases. The August lock just replaces the little knob on the inside of your door that you usually use to lock up. You unscrew the knob, screw in a mounting plate, and the August lock snaps on. Still, if you get confused, August can hook you up with an installation professional to help you out.
Everything will look the same from the outside. You don’t replace the keyhole, so you can still use your key to get in the old-fashioned way if you want. The August lock uses Bluetooth to talk to an app on your phone. You can program it to manually unlock when you approach the door and lock again as you leave. You can also “assign” keys to other people with the August app and keep track of who’s coming and going from your home. For example, you can give your housekeeper access to your home only on the days and times he or she is scheduled to be there.
The lock is powered by a standard set of AA batteries, which the company says can last about a year under normal use. The app automatically warns you when you’re running out of juice. And because you can still use your normal key to get in, you don’t have to worry about being locked out of your home. August also lets you manually twist the device to lock from the inside.
August was designed by Yves Behar, who made a name for himself designing tech products like the Jawbone UP fitness tracker and Jambox Bluetooth speaker. It’s an aluminum cylinder that comes in four colors — silver, champagne, red, or gray — and has a front plate that pops off so you can change the batteries without removing the device from your door.
As geeky as August sounds, that’s not what the company is going for. Yves and August cofounder Jason Johnson see it as a mainstream product that eliminates a hassle homeowners have, not some superfluous party trick.
“Two million people get locked out of their homes in New York every year,” Behar said in an interview with Business Insider. “The thing Jason and I have heard constantly is ‘I hate keys.’ So it seems like a good problem to solve.”