Technology is an awe-inspiring organism; constantly mutating, pushing forward and changing the way we interact with the world around us. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most mature force from the latest wave of technology that disrupted the home space, and every day we are closer to the “smart home” of the future.
But what makes a home automation product a success? Everyone has their own expectations, but I think it boils down to a few key characteristics. It needs to be easy to use, integrate with other smart products or control non-smart products, it needs to be practical, and must smartphone app control. To go above and beyond it should learn and adapt to habits as well as automatically adjusting to external factors. The Ultraloq UL3 Bluetooth smart lock earns the badge of a truly smart product, packing some unique features like fingerprint scanning and touchscreen controls.
The Ultraloq comes to us from U-tec in Silicon Valley, and launched last year via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. As of last month more than 10,000 of these beauties made their way to backers, and we have had one set up for a few weeks in the office to check out ourselves. Because home automation tech is advancing rapidly, we see a lot of products that seem clever in theory, but in execution fall short of making the true “smart home” a reality. This lock is surely not one of those.
What makes this lock different?
The Ultraloq UL3 BT comes with the claim of being the world’s first Bluetooth enabled fingerprint and touchscreen lock. From what we can tell, there may be some competition for that title with Samsung’s SHP-DP920 monstrosity of a lock, which extends over a foot in length and makes any door look absolutely ridiculous. We are going with the Ultraloq on this one, which also comes in a non-Bluetooth model.
The key differentiator between this lock and other smart locks is the variety of methods you have at your disposal for unlocking the door.
The immediate cool factor of using your fingerprint as a key is not lost on us, and makes this lock feel futuristic. The security is highest with this method of entry, and unless someone takes your finger you know this isn’t getting hacked. I like the idea of using this method for homes with kids, so parents can feel safe knowing their child won’t get stuck outside after school because they lost a key.
Tried and true, pin codes are easy to set up and offer the most flexibility of use since they can be shared. The OLED touchscreen keypad is super bright, but is designed to not show wear or illuminate from the side to protect the code from peepers. The benefit to using the code over the fingerprint scanner is that you can set up codes for people without them being present, which could be great for rental properties or house guests arriving while you are at work.
You can also unlock the Ultraloq via the accompanying app, of course. This could be useful if you are at home and want to unlock the door for someone but aren’t nearby or are busy. I can also see this completing the access/security circle if you have a smart monitor like Toucan home surveillance, which can alert you to someone’s presence at the door, allowing you to disengage the lock via Ultraloq’s app. It should be noted that the Bluetooth 4.0 connection does limit the range, so unlocking from more than 300 feet is out of the question.
To open the lock without using a pin code, your fingerprint, or the app you can knock four times on your phone to disengage the bolt, even when it is in your pocket. I suppose that this is just another way to interact with the lock; personally it would be easier to just use a fingerprint and probably more reliable.
There is also a key hole tucked neatly away on the underside of the lock in the event of a neglected battery change, although the three AA batteries should last up to 8,000 uses or about a year.
Many smart locks attempt to overdo the “smart” aspect and end up with something that is less practical than a standard lock. If I take my dogs for a walk, or step out for a jog I would prefer to leave my keys at home. If I can leave my phone as well and still have access when I return, great! The ability for this lock to fit into whatever the situation calls for is an ultra-intuitive feature.
You can set up to 95 users, which is more than you would have at home, but if you have a business (or a killer video production setup in our case) that you want to protect it gives you security without hindering access.
The physical design of the lock is sleek, with either a satin nickel or bronze finish on the IP65-rated case to keep it dustproof and waterproof. Weighing in at 5.5lbs it definitely does have some heft to it, with the Zinc alloy construction adding some considerable poundage over a standard set.
The Ultraloq app
The app itself is easy enough to use to set up different accounts, view activity logs, disengage the lock, and mirror over the settings to additional locks. There is also a feature where you can select the different levels of operation in the event you want to make changes on the fly.
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