This is something that has happened to every one of us at least once in our lives, and usually more than once – getting locked out of the house. Maybe you forgot your keys, or maybe you thought that there would be someone indoors waiting to open the door for you. No matter what the specifics,we are all familiar with the complete frustration of being so near and yet so far to the sanctuary of our homes, barred from entering by a lock that seems to smirk at you in barely contained malice until you procure a key or a locksmith. An August Smart Lock, though, will never look askance at you, nor will it forbid you from entering your own house. So what exactly is it?
Fix what is not broken
There is a saying that goes “don’t fix what isn’t broken”. Many would argue that traditional locks and keys have been around for thousands of years and humanity has not suffered because of it. But we hardly do anything the way we have for thousands, or even hundreds of years. We walk around with palm sized devices in our pockets that give us access to all the information from all of human history in the blink of an eye, we go to work with people from different nations, in different timezones, and soon enough our food will be delivered to us by unmanned aircraft at the click of a button. In a world such as this, carrying around a cumbersome set of keys which easily gets lost the moment you look the other way seems positively archaic. August takes locking systems out of a bygone age and into the 21st century.
Developed by designer Yves Behar and serial entrepreneur Jason Johnson, August integrates with your smartphone or tablet through a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) connection. Behar’s design chops (Jawbone, OUYA) mean that the lock itself is a work of art – a sleek aluminum disc with a circular row of LEDs that glow red when locked and green when not. The lock itself fits on top of your existing locking system so that from the outside, your front door will look exactly the same. But the functionalities are what really make it stand out from other market players such as Lockitron or Kevo Lock.
A “warm, friendly and elegant” locking device
“Safer, simpler and more social are the areas we’ve focused on,” Behar says when speaking of the device. Using it is as simple as standing in front of your door and have it automatically unlock for you and then lock behind you. But the social aspects of August are really what make it click, to excuse the pun. With August, you can add trusted people to the list of those you want to have access to your home. So you could easily change the settings to let your dog walker enter the house at a certain point of time in the day, or the plumber if they are scheduled to arrive. The app logs each entry into your house, so you know exactly who came in and how long they stayed. Imagine how easy it would be to let guests in at a party with August – instead of the constant annoying buzz of the doorbell, your friends would just walk in.
Being able to share your space with friends and family is a big part of the way August has been designed. Behar wanted everything about the system to be “warm, friendly and elegant” , and this is in keeping with the social aspect of the lock. If you live in a shared house with housemates, for example, this can be very useful. One person in the house could install the app on their smartphone and share the virtual key with others in the house. Each lock would then have a multitude of keys, and with plans afoot to release the API, this would mean that between a couple of services and the people in the house you could easily have have 10 people using “the app of this ‘Internet of Things’ object,” as Behar says. “That’s a very unique network effect.” August can also have wide ranging applicability for people who let their homes out to guests, on platforms such as Airbnb. You could give your guest access for as long as they are scheduled to stay and then revoke it; and the app lets them share photos and comments using the Guestbook function. Behar and Johnson are planning to tie up with companies that deliver groceries and other necessaries as well, although we think that the ultimate coup would be a partnership with major mail delivery services such as UPS and FedEx.
From the bunch o’ keys to “the Internet of things”
August is powered by internal AA batteries, so even if your power is out, you have no cause to worry. And just like your smoke alarm, it will beep when the batteries are close to running out. In the event that you lose your phone, the app will be locked and all virtual keys wiped automatically. The locks have no way of identifying the addresses they are installed at, so anyone wanting to gain access to your house with not-so-honorable intentions will be unable to gather any information from your phone. The real challenge, however, will be to convince people that switching from the traditional bunch o’ keys model to the “Internet of things” is a good idea. Home security is something we all feel very strongly about; our houses are our inner sanctums and trusting their security to something we don’t understand very well, like Bluetooth, might take some doing. August’s selling point, in this case, is the social aspect. If we know that we can easily give the people we trust access to the place we want them to be, then there’s all the more reason to adopt the technology with which to do it.
August goes on sale later this year at the not-very-inexpensive price of $199, but according to Behar, other smart alternatives such as biometric systems are cumbersome, prohibitively expensive and only really “for rich people.” At the forefront of taking the conversation about home security from keeping intruders out to letting your loved ones in, August is one of the first stepping stones towards making the smart home of the future a reality.