Home automation is where the Internet of Things runs headlong through your front door. And, there are a bunch of devices around for securing that front door. One is the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt. Schlage isn't a particularly well-known brand in Australia but they're a big deal when it comes to door furniture in the US. And the Sense is a nifty door lock that lets you remotely control the deadbolt from a smartphone as well as linking it to other devices so you can automate what happens when you enter or leave your home.
Installing the Sense does require a little bit of nous with a hole saw. You'll need to drill a small hole into the side of your door for the bolt and a larger one for the main body of the mechanism. I'm not particularly good on the tools so I'd get some help for that part of the installation process. Fortunately, the Schlage folks provided me with a ready-to-go piece of time with those holes pre-drilled. But you could always hit Airtasker or some similar service to get a trade to do that part of the installation.
Over the coming weeks I'm going to be looking at a bunch of different home automation gear. I have several goals in this journey covering making things easier to use, energy saving and home security. But I can already see some challenges along with all those opportunities.
With the holes were drilled, I was able to do the rest of the installation in about 15 minutes. There are clear instructions as well as instructional videos you can look for on YouTube.
Incidentally, Schlage releases firmware and app updates, so the Sense I tested required a firmware update before I could use it.
Once installed, I used the Sense app (there are iOS and Android versions) to configure the lock. I've got some other connected home gear at home - switches, lights and climate sensors - so it made sense for me to get it working wth those. For me, that meant leaning on Apple's HomeKit framework but there are also IFTTT recipes you can use and support for Amazon Alexa.
As well as being controllable from an app, and with my HomeKit setup there's Siri as well, you can open and close the lock using a knob from inside the house or a key from the outside - just in case the four AA batteries that power the Sense run flat. The batteries are good for about a year.
There's also a keypad so family members don't all need to carry a key. You can allocate up to 30 keypad codes and they can be locked down so they only run on certain days and times. For example, one of my friends has a Sense installed at a property he uses with AirBNB. He can give guests a code that activates at their arrival time and stops working at their departure time. Similarly, he has a code that runs for three hours once a week for his house cleaner.
In the past, this kind of use meant having a stash of keys you had you manage or leaving a hidden key somewhere.
The lock mechanism was very smooth. If you get everything lined up correctly between the door, the lock and the jamb, the bolt moves in and out very easily.
The fun really starts when you get the Sense working in concert with other devices. For example, I was able to create an "I'm Home" scene in HomeKit (Scenes are Apple-speak for programs you create that connect multiple devices according to rules). When I said "Siri, I'm home", it unlocked the Sense and turned on some lights that hooked up with HomeKit.
You can then create a "Goodbye" scene that locks the doors and turns everything off when you leave.
Price, availability and recommendation
If you're looking at getting started with home automation, the Schlage Sense isn't the best place to start. With a recommended price of $400, it's a hefty investment. I'd suggest looking at options around lighting as that's a lower-cost way to get into home automation.
But if you're moving into the world of home automation and have already got a few other devices in place, then being able to better manage front-door security and use it as a trigger for other events is a very handy capability for your smart home.