From almost 2,000 feet above the streets of Manhattan, the shapes of the millions of people moving about the sidewalks to and from the island’s countless buildings were barely discernable. Though impossible to see, almost all of these flea-sized specks of New Yorkers undoubtedly had one thing in common: in their pockets and bags jingled the little metal passports needed to enter the structures that play host to their diverse urban lives.
Soaring above the steel-and-glass forest of skyscrapers, our helicopter whisked us away from the city and toward a place that is working to transform the way people access it, as well as anywhere else that people call home.
That place is the Assa Abloy innovation hub in New Haven, CT, the East Coast base of the world’s largest lock manufacturer. One of the most prominent of this Swedish corporation’s brands is Yale Locks, which was founded in the mid-19th century by Linus Yale. His seminal invention, the pin tumbler lock, changed the way people around the world secured their homes and possessions; the basis of this technology is still used in almost every key-based lock today.
Arriving at the Assa Abloy facility in Shelton, CT.
In 2015, the company is working to revolutionize the way we protect and access the most valuable things in our lives on the same scale as the pin tumbler lock. No longer will we have to worry about forgetting our keys or ever getting locked out again. Its newest inventions rely on things we always have on us: smartphones and fingertips. And not only are these locks more convenient, they’re smarter, too: they let you always know who’s coming and going, and at what time.
Along with 10 other reporters, I was helicoptered to Connecticut to get a glimpse of these new security devices, as well as the complex assembly processes and rigorous testing methods utilized to ensure they’ll stand up to the test of time.
After an introduction to the company, we went on a tour of the facility led by Martin Huddart, president, Access and Egress Hardware Group at Assa Abloy. Huddart guided us through displays of the newest security hardware from Assa’s brands, including a large amount of commercial products, such as security fences, hurricane, tornado, blast, and bullet-resistant doors, fire exit technology, and smart locks whose record-keeping ability deters employee theft from anything from hospital medicine storage to airline liquor carts.
Martin Huddart, president, Access and Egress Hardware Group at Assa Abloy discussing the features of the company's various smart lock solutions.
Also shown were examples of residential applications of smart locks, as well as a demo of Yale’s software on a Control4 touchpanel (Yale also partners with almost every big name in control, such as Crestron, Clare Controls, Elan, URC, and an array of telecommunications provider solutions).
Next, we walked through the manufacturing floor, where we witnessed precise robotic assembly equipment, then on to the stress-test area. Here, door levers and lock components are subjected to tests that ensure they can perform typical opening processes up to eight million cycles; locks and weather-exposed components are subjected to a range of extreme conditions such as constant rain, freezing cold, and salty air; and locking mechanisms are put through abuse and violent battery to ensure they’ll remain secure regardless of what’s thrown at them.
A Linus lock undergoing a stress test that simulates a torrential downpour.
Finally, we returned to the conference room to learn about the new products Yale will be introducing early next year. The first lock, named Linus, after the company’s founder, is the simplest solution. Designed to replace the deadbolt lock on the door, it looks just like a glossy black, rectangular oval framed in metal. Once you activate it by touch, a digital keypad appears, and users can enter their passcode to gain entry. Designed to work with Nest home products, the lock allows remote access from the Nest app, and users can lock or open the door from anywhere via their smartphones. Administrators can assign each user a personalized four- to eight-digit entry code (which can also be used to know who’s coming and going, so you can know what time your teenage daughter got in last night) and up to 250 codes can be assigned.
The next step up is the Assure Lock with Bluetooth. In addition to offering the same touchscreen keypad access functions as Linus, the Assure adds the ability to use a smartphone as a simulated key. Simply approach the lock holding your phone vertically, then twist it to the right, and return—just as if you were turning a key—and the door unlocks. Users can send keys to guests who’ve downloaded the Yale app, and revoke them at any time. The Assure lock is also home control upgradeable.
Close-up of the Assure Lock with Bluetooth. With a touch of the Yale logo, the a digital keypad appears on the black screen, allowing for keypad entry.
The final new offering is the Look Door Viewer, which functions essentially like a smart doorbell and peephole. Installed into the same hole as an existing peephole, the Look is activated by IR motion sensors when someone approaches, sounding a doorbell and activating an 3.7-inch LCD screen inside to show who’s there. The camera, which has a near-180-degree viewing angle, also automatically captures images of the visitors and saves them to an SD card. Users can also access the camera though an app on their phones or tablets. The Look comes in two versions: a Wi-Fi model, and a choice of ZigBee or Z-Wave compatible model.
The new Yale locks offer numerous advantages, according to the company. First, they are based on a Thread Group secure mesh network, which works well with Nest products and saves a substantial amount of battery life (up to a year and a half with normal use). This Nest communication also enables them to trigger actions with other devices such as thermostats, and can even warn you at the door if there is a dangerous condition, such as high carbon monoxide levels. Also, these offerings can remotely inform users whether the door is completely secured (other locks can only tell if the bolt has been extended, the company says). Yale’s unique system can report that the lock has been successfully bolted into the catch in the doorframe.
Yale is planning to release these three new products in Q1 of 2016; exact release dates will be coming soon. As someone who is prone to forgetfulness, the day when I no longer have to obsessively check my pockets for my keys before leaving home can’t come soon enough.