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Yale unveils a keyless NFC smart lock at CES

Announced at CES, Yale's newest smart lock turns NFC-equipped phones into digital keys.

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Ry Crist/CNET

There's a growing number of new locks seeking to smarten up your front door. The newest from Yale is a keyless deadbolt that brings near-field communication (NFC) into the mix.

Newly announced at the 2015 International CES and due out in February, the Yale Real Living NFC Deadbolt will retail for $225 (about £145, or AU$275). Pair it with your NFC-equipped Android device, and you'll be able to tap your way inside. If you don't have your phone handy, you can unlock the door by entering a code on the lock's touchscreen.

Along with locking and unlocking the deadbolt remotely, Yale's app will allow users to send digital NFC keys to others, receive notifications when those digital keys are accepted and used, and also control when they will and will not work.

Users get five digital keys to start with that they can issue out to whomever they like. Keys can be color-coded in the app, or paired with photos to link them to specific people or locations, and a single digital key can be set to open multiple locks.

However, after those first five, additional digital keys will cost $2 each on Google Play. That's an unappealing pricing strategy, and one that might put Yale at a disadvantage compared with the August Smart Lock , which offers free, unlimited e-key distribution. Still, it's not quite as egregious as the new Kevo Plus, which unlocks that deadbolt's full smart potential and provides unlimited digital keys -- but charges a service fee.

In the event that the Yale deadbolt's battery runs out, you'll be able to connect a 9-volt battery to nodes at the bottom of the lock, giving it just enough juice for you to enter your code and get inside. Codes can be anywhere from four to eight digits, and the lock can hold up to 12 separate codes.

The NFC deadbolt shares the same basic design as previous Yale Real Living locks , and claims to be both weather-tight and virtually indestructible. The keyless design isn't new for Yale, which already offers keyless versions of its Z-Wave and Zigbee-powered smart deadbolts. Eliminating the cylinder eliminates the threat of the lock being picked or bumped.

That shifts the focus to digital security, and to that end, Yale is leaning on its parent company, Assa Abloy, which develops electronic lock software. Specifically, both the NFC deadbolt and its app are powered by Seos, a multiplatform mobile access ecosystem for issuing and managing digital keys that's currently used in hotels, hospitals, and commercial environments.

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