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Hands on: Sesame Smart Lock

Knock, knock. Who's there? If it's you, Sesame will automagically unlock your door

We can’t wait to ditch our front-door keys, and Sesame Smart Locks makes it easy to do so.

Leaving the house used to require bringing three things along with you at all times: your phone, your wallet, and your keys. Those days are soon to become a memory, as we’re fast approaching the point where all you’ll need is your phone. Apps like Google Wallet now let you tap to pay at vendors like grocery stores and cafes, which lets you leave the credit cards at home, and a whole host of new smart locks could potentially make your house keys obsolete. One of the most compelling I’ve come across is Sesame, which is currently rocking its Kickstarter campaign.

It’s about as close as we can get to magic.

Two Stanford students developed the product: Che-Ming Ku, who is studying robotics, and Jongho Shin, who is majoring in cybersecurity, They’re a fitting pair to create tech that protects your home. “Technology is changing so rapidly these days, and you’re likely to upgrade your phone every year,” says Ku, “but you’re probably not going to change your lock every year because a new and improved digital lock is available. Sesame lets you upgrade your lock without any hassle.”

Simplicity is essential when it comes to something that’s already as easy as unlocking a door. “With many of these types of devices, there’s a learning curve that gets in the way,” says Ku. “Sesame is extremely easy to install and works with almost any deadbolt.” For the demo, he has posts containing various deadbolts. I select one at random, and he attaches the Sesame hardware and has it working with the app in less than five minutes. Really, it’s not much of an “install” at all, since you don’t have to tinker with the existing hardware. The inside of the device has sensors to detect exactly where the knob is, so it works out of the box with just about any deadbolt. And it uses simple 3M adhesive to attach to the door, making it easy to remove and attach on other knobs. On the odd chance that the mechanism won’t grip automatically, the package includes a spacer for achieving a good fit.

Aside from the supremely easy install, Sesame has a few other features that make it stand out. One is that you can use a custom knock to unlock your door, which can be performed on your phone or the door itself. You still have the phone with the app (and permissions) within range of the door, so someone randomly knocking won’t be able to get in. Another favorite is the voice-enabled function. Ku demonstrated via his Android smart watch, saying “OK, Google, open Sesame” to unlock the door. It’s about as close as we can get to magic.

As any smart lock should, Sesame has an electronic key that allows you to share access, which is handy for any time you have guests (Airbnb hosts, take note). The key can be timed out after a certain time, and the Sesame app provides a record of who is coming and going. It also records if someone unauthorized tries to enter or if someone tries to force the door open. Even if someone uses a physical key, the Sesame records the activity.

Most smart locks have a battery life of around 200 to 300 days, due to the built-in Wi-Fi. Sesame utilizes only built-in Bluetooth and thus is able to last up to 500 days (on Lithium 123 batteries). This limits the remote functionality, but people will have the option to buy a Wi-Fi accessory, which is a simple cube that needs to be plugged in within 30 feet of the door. With Wi-Fi, you can lock or unlock the door entirely remotely, as well as receive notifications on when other users have entered or exited. With the Bluetooth-only version, you can still get notifications, but only once you get within range of the device.

As of press time, Sesame is expected to start shipping in May and will be available in a variety of colors, including White, Champagne Pink, Metallic Gray, and Lacquer Black. The Bluetooth-only version will retail for $149, while the package with Wi-Fi is priced at $199.

Highs

  • Easy to install
  • Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi options
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Works with most deadbolts

Lows

  • Bluetooth-only option limits its functionality