Digital Life

Hands on review: LockSmart keyless Bluetooth padlock

A clever padlock which pops open with a tap on your phone, the LockSmart throws away the key.

We all have a mental checklist of things we grab before we leave the house, but our smartphones are determined to scratch everything else off the list. Phones aren't just encouraging us to leave our wallets on the bedside table, they're also working to banish keys from our pockets.

Dog and Bone's LockSmart means one less key to keep in your pocket.
Dog and Bone's LockSmart means one less key to keep in your pocket. 

From a distance the $139.95 LockSmart looks like a slightly chunky traditional padlock, but draw closer and you see there's no keyhole or combination dial. Instead it's a low-powered Bluetooth 4.0 lock which can only be opened using the LockSmart app on your Apple or Android gadget. Its Australian maker Dog and Bone, better known for its ruggedised phone cases, is also releasing a $109.99 LockSmart Mini along with a LockSmart Travel for luggage.

The lack of a physical key as a backup is a little disconcerting, but the LockSmart does its best to ensure you're not left in the lurch. It's rechargeable via micro-USB and promises up to two years or 3,000 unlocks before it needs a recharge, with a pop-up warning from the LockSmart app when the battery is running low.

The LockSmart is weatherproof but you'll obviously need to consider how you'll charge the padlock if it's located far from a power point. You'll also need to hope that your phone hasn't run flat when you go to open the lock at the end of a long day.

Open up

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By default the padlock puts itself to sleep after 20 seconds to save power. To wake it you need to press a button on the lock and wait a few seconds for it to connect to your phone via Bluetooth.

It doesn't work like a PayWave transaction, you can't just wave your phone to open the lock. You need to unlock your phone, launch the LockSmart app, select the lock and tap the onscreen button before it springs open. I wouldn't call it convenient, it's a lot more hassle than simply reaching for your keys.

For an extra level of security, you can set a passcode in the LockSmart app or use Apple's Touch ID fingerprint reader to unlock the padlock. This is a handy way to foil people who might have access to your unlocked phone.

All is not lost if you lose your phone, you can install the app on a new device and log into your account to access your digital keys.

Considering the LockSmart is about $100 more expensive than the equivalent old-school lock from your local hardware store, you're entitled to ask why you'd want to reinvent the wheel with something that's more complicated and potentially less reliable.

If you're just using the LockSmart like an ordinary single-user lock then it's probably not worth it, unless you're absolutely determined to abandon physical keys. It's true that keys can be borrowed, copied or stolen, plus of course traditional locks can be picked. If your security concerns are really that serious then maybe a lone padlock isn't enough to protect your treasures.

Share the key

The true benefit of the LockSmart is the ability to generate, share and delete spare keys on the fly.

Again it's a bit of a cumbersome process, you need to send the person an SMS which opens a webpage with an invitation to access the lock. They then need to download the LockSmart app, create an account and go back to the website to accept the invitation.

The process takes five to ten minutes, which isn't too bad if you're setting up your spouse with a permanent copy of your digital keys but might be too much of a hassle for a tradesperson who simply needs to unlock the side gate so they can mow your lawn.

The shared user must have Internet connectivity in order to unlock the lock. Unfortunately there's no way to force them to take extra security precautions such as locking their phone or adding a passcode or fingerprint to the digital key.

Key administration is pretty basic, all you can do is give each lock a name, see its activity log and revoke keys from specific users. It would be useful if you could set key expiry dates, generate one-time keys and limit keys to only work at certain times of the day or week. This would reduce the likelihood of someone abusing their privileges, although they're perhaps kept honest by the fact that you can see the lock's activity log.

So what's the verdict?

To get the value from the LockSmart you need to make the most of its key management features. Otherwise you're paying a $100 premium simply to take one key off your house/car keys which you still need to carry around with you anyway.

That said, if there's a troublesome padlock that's making your life complicated then the LockSmart could be your key to happiness.

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