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Smart Home

Coming soon to an apartment near you: Smart locks with built-in cameras

The Latch M-Series smart lock is a mortise-style deadbolt designed for apartments and businesses, and it's got a built-in camera to keep an eye on who's coming and going.

Aside from using a key, you can open the Latch M-Series by punching in a code on the keypad, waving an NFC-equipped card at it, or pulling up the companion app.

Latch

Smart locks aren't just for smart houses -- they're made for smart businesses, too. Case in point: the M-Series Smart Lock from Latch, a startup founded by Apple alums in 2013. With Bluetooth smarts and a companion app, the M-Series is an enterprise-focused deadbolt designed to help landlords and business-owners offer smarter, keyless access to tenants, employees, and customers.

Aside from using a key to unlock it the old-fashioned way, you can open up the M-Series lock by waving an NFC-equipped card in front of it, or by punching in a code on the touchscreen. There's also a companion app that connects to the lock via Bluetooth and lets authorized users inside with just a tap.

Also included: a built-in wide-angle camera that snaps a photo every time someone uses the lock. That's an interesting addition given the popularity of smart, camera-equipped doorbells like Ring and Skybell HD, though I question what sort of impact it would have on the lock's battery life.

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A camera in the M-Series snaps a photo whenever someone uses the lock.

Latch

The deadbolt's design is noteworthy, too. The "M" in M-Series stands for "mortise," a recessed deadbolt design that separates the cylinder from the latch. Most smart deadbolts aren't designed to work with doors cut for locks like that, which might give Latch an opening with businesses and apartment complexes left out of previous smart-lock pitches, like Samsung and UniKey's effort to get the Kevo smart lock into places like hospitals and hotels.

August is trying something similar in the residential market with a mortise-style smart lock of its own, so this might be a niche to keep an eye on as the smart-lock category continues to grow.

Though it isn't available direct to consumers, the M-Series lock is available now for building owners willing to buy at least 10 units at a cost of $399 each. Latch also requires a minimum two-year service commitment from those customers. Latch tells us that contract pricing depends on length, and that the service allows building owners to manage tenants as they move in and out, coordinate access for maintenance workers, allow delivery companies to deliver into the lobby of buildings, and gives residents the ability share guest access with friends, family, and trusted services.

As for private residential applications and direct consumer sales, Latch's New York-based team will only say that it's planning on expanding in the future. Given that the company secured $16 million in private funding in the run-up to the M-Series' release, they might have the legroom to do so sooner rather than later.