Smart locks and doorbells provide an entryway (pun intended) to home automation services.

Doors are typically considered a means to an end — the way in and out of the residences you’re providing with amazing AV systems. But they can also open your business to the lucrative smart home automation market. Sure, you can leave installation of smart locks to electricians and locksmiths, but you would also be leaving a good deal of business behind.

For an example of smart door success, look no further than Tommy Bartnick from California-based Malibu Wired Inc. Malibu Wired is doing a lot of business these days in smart doors as part of its automation package.

Read John Sciacca's review of the Kwikset SmartCode 888 Electronic Deadbolt

“We handle all the aspects of automation — including HVAC and pool control,” says Bartnick. “Instead of having a different company for each of these different things, we take care of it all. We are a one-stop shop for a client, including security, whether it be an alarm camera or a door lock. And that's how we fell into it. We wanted our customers to come to us for everything. And door locks are really popular.”

Of course, in Bartnick’s territory of Los Angeles and Hollywood, smart doors are nothing new, even if they weren’t always quite so smart. “You remember DoorKing?” he asks, referring to the one-time omnipresent intercom security system. (You probably recall seeing every movie and TV detective use one when investigating crime amongst the well-to-do. You know the one — it was usually attached to large metal gates swinging open forebodingly as the PI enters.)

“Here in California there was no way you couldn't go to any middle-range to upper-middle residential area and not see a DoorKing device — everybody had it,” he says. Nowadays there is a new king in town. “Out of all the companies, Ring has kind of taken over.”

The benefit of having a smart door device like Ring become so popular is that it cuts down on the time you have to spend explaining the benefits to a client. “I would say almost everyone knows something — some type of article, or they've seen it on movies or TV. It's great — you don't have to start the education process from the beginning. Plus, the ads are all over Facebook; Nest and Ring pop up, and people are picking it up that way, too.”

Tommy Bartnick (right) and Casa Rico Tequila owner Justin Urich work on a new tasting room that will include smart locks and access control. Behind them are Malibu Wired’s Yale Assure lock touchscreen and Control4 intercom displays.

Tommy Bartnick (right) and Casa Rico Tequila owner Justin Urich work on a new tasting room that will include smart locks and access control. Behind them are Malibu Wired’s Yale Assure lock touchscreen and Control4 intercom displays.

Well-Established Field
Of course, Ring is not the only game in town. There are many players in this field, including some well-known names in the lock industry such as Yale, August, and Kwikset. “What I generally like to do is find out if the client has a preferred brand and, if not, educate them on what the pros and cons are,” says Bartnick.

As an example of identifying the right smart lock for the right application, Bartnick cites a client of his who owns a three-story apartment in Venice on the beach. The owner lives on the top level and rents the lower two. “He has a huge support system on his level,” says Bartnick, “but the two below are AirBnB rentals and he didn’t want to interact with the client. He just wanted to give them access to the lock for one day or one week so they could unlock it, and get in and out. When they're gone, it automatically erases that code and you're done. An August smart lock did him perfectly — it has temporary keypad selection programming.”

Yale is another favorite, and it offers a feature that most clients would find welcoming: “Yale has a model that is very modern with a touchscreen interface. For some reason, clients forget about the battery in those units and they die. Sure, it gives you several reminders…but things happen. The Yale model allows you to put a battery in the bottom of the unit to charge it up for a few minutes so you can get into your house and change the actual batteries inside.”

Of course, these smart locks can also connect to a larger, whole-home automation system — and play a key (pun not intended that time, but it works) part in it. Malibu Wired is also a Control4 dealer and has an experience center on-site where it shows how Yale locks can interact with the full control system, including the new Control4 Intercom Anywhere.

“With Control4 and certain smart locks, like Yale and Kwikset, you can have a keypad code and lock your front door,” says Bartnick. “With the lock and Intercom Anywhere combined, you'd have a smart lock and a video intercom system in one.”

One of Malibu Wired’s Ring installations, along with the new Yale Assure lock SL.

One of Malibu Wired’s Ring installations, along with the new Yale Assure lock SL.

Service Tips
So people want smart doors and there are a number of respected manufacturers in the field — but does that mean you should sell them? Let’s start by looking at possible profits:

“I would say the markup will probably be at best 30 percent,” says Bartnick. “So you go in and you buy a lock at $400 MSRP. You can figure you make about 30 percent on that lock and then the install fees, which, for exchanging a standard lock, I would say it would be one hour of actually doing the work and then maybe another 15-20 minutes of setting up the app on the client's phone. Education on these devices are really fast — there's not a lot of back pages for options. It's set up a code, unlock or lock. If you're quick and you can get your days scheduled in, I think you could probably do maybe six of those a day.”

As a caveat, Bartnick offers, on a job where you are only installing a lock, you probably won’t do a site visit first. You have to rely on the owner’s description of their door, which can lead to trouble. “You're walking in hoping that the owner described his door correctly, because if you go there and the door's not what you discussed, you're not going to be able to retrofit these door locks very easily. They need to fit in the standard deadbolt location, and if it is something unique, like a glass door they forgot to mention, it’s not going to work.”

Check out TechRadar's take on the Best Smart Locks.

As far as video doorbells go, most can be retrofit into the existing doorbell wire. But older houses, with older wiring, can present challenges. “We had a house that was built around 1938,” says Bartnick. “We sold a Ring unit, but the doorbell wire was really old and we ended up having to use a power supply instead of the power line that comes from the doorbell. So we connected it to a 20-volt portable power supply and it still would not get significant power because the wire was so brittle and old, even though it's only 40 feet away. We ended up having to run a new wire to the doorbell, which you really don't want to do — you want to retrofit in and get out right.”

As with anything going onto the network, cybersecurity is going to be questioned by the client — especially when a failure means giving over full access to your home. “For someone who's just going to be doing a door lock, they probably already have their own network in place and that's where the issue lies — not really about the door lock being hacked,” says Bartnick. “They're going to be hacking their whole network in some way, and unlocking this device.

“But, realistically, if someone really wants to get in your house, they're going to get in. If they can't unlock your smart lock, then they are going to break windows. So, for me, your best bet for security is the Ring intercom or some type of camera system that you pay for a monthly or yearly service where they store your video footage. The police officer could see a picture of someone breaking into your home. That's what's going to save you in the end.”

Start of Something Big
Smart doors are a good way to introduce your clients into whole-home automation. It’s affordable and it is something that will have an immediate impact on their quality of life, as it will be used multiple times every day.

“You're using it every day versus some other things that you may not use as much,” says Bartnick. “We always say audio systems and lighting systems are your best investments hands-down because you use them every day. I use them every single day when I get up, turn on the lights in my house, and then I put on the music in the kitchen. When I leave the house, I hit my locks — so I put that as the number three most-used thing in the house.”

And your shop has the potential to own them all….

Related