Smart home startup August today announced an update to its existing Alexa skill. If you have a first- or second-gen August Smart Lock you should now be able to askto unlock the door for the first time.
August's $229/£150/AU$315is a Bluetooth lock that relies on AA batteries to power its built-in motor. It works with the related August app to lock and unlock a door remotely (within Bluetooth range). You can also extend virtual "keys" to friends, family and anyone else you might want to grant permanent or temporary access to your home.
The lock retrofits to many common deadbolts, making the DIY installation typically faster than replacement deadbolt locks with connected smarts. To extend access beyond Bluetooth range, you can buy either August's Connect Wi-Fi module or August's Doorbell Cam to act as a Wi-Fi bridge.
With August's Alexa integration, you can already ask Alexa to lock your door or to tell you whether a door is locked or unlocked. Being able to unlock a door adds a new level of functionality, but there are some inherent concerns associated with this type of access. An unlocking voice command carries security risks, since someone could theoretically shout at an Alexa device from outside. But like the Scout security system's disarm Alexa command, August requires a 4-12 digit secret PIN before you can unlock the door.
In addition to Alexa, August's second-gen lock also works with Apple's Siri-based HomeKit platform, giving you two different voice control access points to your lock. But to use Siri to control the lock beyond your home Wi-Fi network, you'll need an Apple TV to facilitate that connection.
I tried out August's new Alexa unlocking feature at the CNET Smart Home. When I said, "Alexa, ask August to unlock the office door," she replied, "OK. Can I have your PIN code?"
If you haven't already set a PIN code, you can add one in the Alexa app. I simply disabled and then re-enabled the August Alexa skill and this time it prompted me to set a PIN (see the screenshot above).
There was one small hiccup with the testing, though. We're currently using a Doorbell Cam as a Wi-Fi bridge to our August Smart Lock and I occasionally get a "Bridge Unavailable" response from it.
This was unfortunately happening while I was trying to test this feature. So, I was able to confirm Alexa understands the command, but I haven't yet successfully used the command to unlock the door. Instead, Alexa told me, "There was a problem with your request to check the lock. August was unable to communicate with the lock." I'll continue to troubleshoot the connection and update this post accordingly.
CNET Smart Home
What better way to review smart-home tech than from a house meant for that exact purpose?
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