We’re used to buying smart home devices for our own personal use, but this new kind of smart lock won’t be available to individual consumers. Instead, Latch is making its first smart door lock available to real estate developers, so that apartments will come fully equipped with the high-tech entry system. Because Latch is a smart lock, there are no keys required; the lock is operated by passcode and smartphone integrations.
For most city-dwellers and apartment-renters, installing your own high-tech smart lock is out of the question, because your landlord needs to be able to access your apartment, too. That’s why Latch is targeting luxury apartment buildings in order to give tenants access to the lock through their standard rental agreement. Latch is even going so far as to discourage renters from passing out keys, unless a tenant insists. Latch can open with a traditional key, but its creators stress the passcode as the primary operation for locking and locking the door. Tenants will be able to issue temporary passcodes to visitors like dog-walkers and family members. And as with other smart locks, Latch features setting options that will unlock the door as soon as your smart phone is within range.
Some of the obvious concerns with Latch-equipped apartments have to do with privacy and security. Theoretically, building owners and managers would be able to access Latch’s detailed logs of door activity, including each time a specific Latch device is opened or closed. Owners of large apartment buildings have the benefit of a sort of attendance log in case incidents or emergencies take place, but renters, who have access to their own information as well, have little choice about the tracking of their presence within Latch apartments. Latch door locks also feature hidden cameras that snap pictures of guests at the door. “Latch deeply values consumer privacy and intentionally limits the data they collect to increase the security and safety of the building,” Luke Schoenfelder, co-founder and CEO of Latch, told Digital Trends in an email.
So far, Latch has raised a total of $16 million in funding to bring its first smart lock to market. Much of that funding came from real estate partners who have invested in Latch in order to secure early or exclusive access rights to the system. Two buildings in Manhattan are already slated to implement Latch in the 435 units shared between them. In the future, Latch is considering marketing its product to individual consumers, although that’s not a part of their early business model.
Updated 2/12/2016: Updated to amend pricing data and add Luke Schoenfelder’s quote about privacy.)