Product Review – Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt

Mark Christenson
President of Md7 International

As the Internet of Things becomes more and more prevalent, whenever I need to replace something at home, I find myself looking to see if there is an internet version—whether that is light bulbs, garage door openers, alarm systems, refrigerators, temperature gauges, etc.  One item I had to replace recently is a deadbolt.  We have had a keypad-controlled deadbolt on our house for some time, and it has become one of my favorite pieces of technology because I don’t need to fish around in my pocket for a key.  Also, if needed, I can provide the code to family members and give them access when I’m not at home.  However, the deadbolt functionality was a little like a flip phone in that it simply replaced a key with a keypad (and still had a traditional key-actuated function in case of dead batteries).  If I wanted to add a new code, it required a somewhat complicated, non-intuitive set of numeric keystrokes to set up a new entry code, and it required that I go through a similar, complicated, non-intuitive set of keystrokes to remove that code if it was only intended for one-time use.  And it still required physical contact with the deadbolt.  However, there is a new product from Schlage that claims Bluetooth functionality with an iPhone or Android device as well as remote connectivity and control through Apple’s HomeKit—the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt.

I ordered it from Amazon the day before Thanksgiving and it arrived the day after.  Installation of the deadbolt into the door was simple.  It took about 10 minutes to remove the old one and install the new one.  Following the instructions closely, it was also easy to pair with my iPhone via Bluetooth and configure codes and control the action of the deadbolt.  I can add and remove codes easily, I can set up “temporal fences” that only allow certain codes access at certain times on certain days, and I can get a nifty update on when and how the deadbolt has been used (opened by the button inside, via a device, which code was used, time of day, etc.).

The first 20 minutes with the deadbolt were awesome and showed me a bright new future.  It even works using Siri—I can invoke Siri and say “unlock front door” and a couple seconds later I hear the whirr of the deadbolt and I can walk in.  So far, so good.  Assuming all this would work remotely via HomeKit, I felt like I had stepped from the aforementioned flip phone to a smart phone in terms of front door access.

However, HomeKit functionality is only marginally better than “completely unusable”, and even that is being generous.  (This means that Android users, although left out of HomeKit, are not any worse off functionally speaking!)

First, getting the device to connect to HomeKit requires an Apple TV, either a 3rd generation with the latest Apple TV Software 7.2 or 4th generation running tvOS 9.0+.  Second, the Apple TV must be within Bluetooth range.  The deadbolt connects via Bluetooth to the Apple TV, which itself is the hub for Apple’s HomeKit technology.  Unfortunately, there is no HomeKit configuration screen, but rather it is supposed to work simply by ensuring that remote access is enabled for HomeKit on your iPhone, and that your Apple TV is connected to iCloud using the same iCloud/Apple ID as your iPhone. Sounds very easy and Apple-like, so I rebooted the lock, my phone, the Apple TV, my home network, the lock, my phone, etc.  For about three hours I had perfect functionality when I was within Bluetooth range, but it ceased to work when I moved outside of Bluetooth range.  Well, except that one time where I asked Siri to “open front door” and, when I went back home, it was open!  So apparently, it is not “completely unusable” but rather it works once, randomly, and that’s it.

I’m hopeful that firmware updates, HomeKit improvements, and Apple TV OS updates, or some combination of those will eventually provide the promised remote access.  However, until then, 95% of the desired functionality is available, and I just need to make sure I set up some remote codes ahead of time in case I need to share one with a family member in order to give them access.

Pros:  Easy to install, Bluetooth functionality and integration with Siri works well, profile of keypad is much sleeker than previous version

Cons:  Expensive, remote access via HomeKit is virtually unusable

December 17, 2015
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