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Smart Home

Yale unveils new Works with Nest smart lock

The new Yale Linus lock aims to be a fully integrated smart-home security device, and it looks promising.

Digital locks are some of the most practical smart-home upgrades out there, but a very legitimate concern is whether they just introduce digital vulnerability to the problem of home security.

This week Yale Locks & Hardware announced three major products for release in 2016 which they hope will not only reassure but also excite potential customers. Two of the newly announced products are locks -- one is Bluetooth-compatible, the other works with Nest Labs' line of smart-home products -- and the third is a security camera that will replace the traditional peephole. Both locks are key-less, but the Works with Nest-branded Linus lock is particularly interesting because of its integration with Nest's Weave technology, a feature that will, according to Yale, improve both security and home integration.

Justin Yu/CNET

The Linus lock will offer customizable levels of access to various guests and family, as well as give homeowners the ability to grant or deny access at any time, a layered system of permissions that mirrors what you'll find in most smart locks, like this Schlage deadbolt. This individualized approach to security makes the home conveniently accessible to visitors, too, letting families determine the times when guests, friends or even contractors can access the home.

The Linus lock will also store data on the comings and goings of up to 250 individual code-users, making such data accessible to other Nest devices and in the Nest app. Linus will transmit this data without using pin codes, though, to preserve data security. Instead it will communicate using what are called "slot locations" to identify individuals without compromising their security information.

Although the extent to which Linus's data will affect any given Nest-integrated smart home will depend upon the products surrounding it, Yale seems to be making home integration a focus for this lock. If Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide, for example, the new Yale lock will warn family members with voice and screen alerts before they enter the home. Similarly, the Linus lock will tell the Nest Learning Thermostat when homeowners enter or leave the house, helping it adjust home temperature appropriately. These touches are promising, but we'll have to wait till its release to test the depth of Linus's integration.

Every smart lock has to answer questions of how they will be powered, and whether their communication with your other devices (like your smartphone) will take place over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or some other network protocol. The Linus lock will rely upon relatively low-demand Weave connectivity, so the four AA batteries used to power the lock should last a full year and a half before you need to replace them. Battery power will keep the lock functional and secure -- and if the batteries do die, the lock has a terminal on the bottom to which you can press a 9-volt battery, allowing you to use the touchscreen as normal.

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Yale Locks & Hardware

Beyond its energy-consumption implications, Weave's network protocol also means Wi-Fi isn't necessary for Linus's home integration. The lock itself will feature bank-level encryption technology, and the mesh-style Weave network will allow it to communicate directly with other devices without passing data through a potentially vulnerable Wi-Fi network.

The physical lock will also be secure, benefiting from a reinforced structure; a bolt which Yale says meets and exceeds industry standards; and a new Door Position Sensor that alerts the Nest app to the positions of the bolt and door. And as with many smart locks, it has no keyhole -- a measure that means no one can pick or bump the lock. The touchscreen technology is like previous Yale locks, but with some yet-undisclosed new features, and the company is confident in its design: it is weather-proof and, according to Yale, "virtually indestructible."

Yale is also working to make this smart lock more accessible to a wider audience. For anyone who doesn't own a smart lock, completely replacing your current deadbolt with what basically amounts to a small computer can be intimidating, which is part of the reason retrofit locks like the August Smart Lock have been successful. Yale seems responsive to these apprehensions: The Linus lock will actually guide you through the installation process using voice instructions, something no other major company has done. Assuming this tool works, it will likely help ease the minds of people who, like me, are not naturally handy.

The key-less interface also provides the best of two worlds: you can use a code to enter the door without touching your phone, or you can just as easily grant yourself access through the phone's app. While others, like the Kwikset Kevo, have tried more creative approaches to opening locks (including Yale's own upcoming Bluetooth lock), the Linus seems to find a balance that will maintain both convenience and security.

Yale has not released a target date or price range, but the international company has said the Linus lock will drop sometime in 2016. For more information on Linus, stay tuned: We'll keep you posted as new information comes out.

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