New Smart Locks Make It Easier to Keep Tabs on Your Home

    Say goodbye to bridges and hubs and their extra costs

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    A new generation of smart locks slated to debut this year will streamline the setup process and could keep down costs, which typically run into the hundreds of dollars. These new smart locks, introduced at CES 2019, incorporate the WiFi chip in the lock rather than in a piece of hardware called a bridge or a hub that comes at an extra cost.

    Smart locks rely on an internet connection to let you keep tabs on activity at the locked door and grant access to the dog walker, cleaning service, and the repairman from your smartphone.

    But the WiFi chips necessary to make that connection have been notorious power hogs, so the solution until now has been to build those chips into a separate device—the bridge or hub that plugs into an outlet to provide sufficient power. The lock communicates with the bridge via Bluetooth or some other low-power wireless protocol, and the bridge relays the signal to your WiFi router.

    But multiple lock manufacturers tell CR that WiFi chips are getting more energy efficient, making smart locks that connect directly to WiFi possible. That’s not to say that these new locks will be able to match the battery life of hub-based smart locks.

    More on Smart Home

    “The battery life of Wi-Fi door locks will continue to be a concern, but the pros far outweigh the cons,” says Blake Kozak, a smart home and home security analyst with research firm IHS Markit. “For instance, until now, door locks have been held hostage by either mobile phones, and short range Bluetooth, or by a hub such as SmartThings.”

    CES 2019 also featuted other notable new locks that still require a bridge. Below we highlight seven forthcoming models, some of which require a bridge or hub and some that don't, from brands including Altro, Array by Hampton, Emtek, Kwikset, Lockly, Schlage, and Yale.

    We haven’t tested any of these smart locks since they aren't yet in stores. So if you need to buy a smart lock now, you can find some top-rated picks below, or check out our complete smart lock ratings.

    7 New Smart Locks for 2019

    Altro Smart Lock
    Expected price:
    Expected release date: End of January
    The Altro Smart Lock pulls double duty as a connected, keyless deadbolt, and a video doorbell. It connects to the internet via built-in WiFi, meaning no extra bridge or hub is required. Its features include cloud video storage, motion detection, auto-lock, auto-unlock, and shareable access codes. Altro says Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration are coming. This lock is cheaper in most cases than buying a smart lock and video doorbell separately.

    Array By Hampton Connected Door Lock - Non-Solar
    Expected price:
    Expected release date: Summer 2019
    The new Array By Hampton Connected Door Lock - Non-Solar is virtually identical to its predecessor, except it lacks a built-in solar panel that prolongs battery life. The lock connects directly to WiFi and features a built-in keypad for access codes, voice control via Amazon Alexa, a rechargeable and swappable battery pack (along with a spare), electronic keys, and geofencing.

    Emtek EMPowered Smart Lock Keypad Deadbolt - Connected by August
    Expected price:
    Expected release date: February 2019
    Emtek is bringing the smarts of its sister brand August to its locks, something Yale first did last fall with its Assure smart locks. One of Emtek’s new models is the Emtek EMPowered Smart Lock Keypad Deadbolt, a keyless smart lock with a touchscreen for access codes and all of August’s hallmark features, including control via the August app, auto-lock, auto-unlock, DoorSense for detecting if the door is open or closed, voice control via digital assistants, and more. In the Connected by August bundle, it comes with the August Connect WiFi Bridge and August Smart Module.

    Kwikset Halo
    Expected price:
    $229 for touchscreen version; $199 for keypad version
    Expected release date: Sometime in 2019
    The Kwikset Halo is another hubless, WiFi smart deadbolt, which comes in touchscreen and physical keypad versions. It connects to a Kwikset smartphone app for remote control and allows you to create up to 250 access codes for other users. Kwikset hasn't shared the full feature set yet. The lock is expected to come to market sometime later this year.

    Lockly Secure Pro
    Expected price:
    Expected release date: March 2019
    Lockly smart locks use a unique touchscreen keypad that the company calls PIN Genie. It randomly changes where numbers are located on the screen to ensure that anyone watching who memorizes the pattern won’t be able to repeat the PIN. One version of the company's lock also includes a built-in fingerprint scanner for more secure access. The Lockly Secure Pro technically isn’t new—it’s actually a bundle of the existing, fingerprint-scanning Lockly Secure Plus, the company’s new WiFi hub (for remote control and voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant), and a new wireless door sensor to tell you if your door is open or closed. The bundle costs $250 and is available in both deadbolt and latch/lever variants.

    Schlage Encode
    Expected price:
    $300 with Amazon Cloud Cam
    Expected release date: March 2019
    In a somewhat unusual move, Schlage is partnering with Amazon on the Schlage Encode and making the lock part of a Key by Amazon bundle with the Amazon Cloud Cam. Key by Amazon is an optional service for Amazon Prime members that allows delivery drivers to place packages inside your home when you’re not present. The lock works only with the Key app—not the Schlage app—for remote control, creating access codes, setting up voice control via Alexa, and more. Schlage tells us it will eventually release the lock by itself and let you use the Schlage app instead. You do not have to allow in-home deliveries if you buy the Key by Amazon bundle though.

    Yale Assure Lever Lock - Connected by August
    Expected price:
    $279 for push-button model; $299 for touchscreen model
    Expected release date: Spring 2019
    The Yale Assure - Connected by August lock lineup is getting bigger this year with the addition of a lever lock model. Smart lever (or latch) locks are handy for doors that lack a deadbolt. Since it runs August software, it comes with the usual features, including auto-lock, auto-unlock, electronic keys, access codes, DoorSense, and voice control. It will be available in touchscreen and push-button keypad variants, while the Connected by August bundles include the August Connect WiFi Bridge and August Smart Module.

    3 Highly Rated Smart Locks

    If you're in the market for a smart lock now, check out the models below, all of which have been tested by CR.

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    Home Content Creator Daniel Wroclawski

    Daniel Wroclawski

    I'm obsessed with smart home tech and channel my obsession into new stories for Consumer Reports. When I'm not writing about products, I spend time either outside hiking and skiing or up in the air in small airplanes. For my latest obsessions, follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@danwroc).