Ever since Lockitron hit the scene a couple years ago, dozens of other hardware startups have jumped on the smart lock bandwagon and produced their own take on the idea. Today, there’s no shortage of them, but no matter what model you choose, none are particularly stellar when it comes to battery life.
Genie, an upcoming smart lock from a startup of the same name, aims to remedy this problem. Using a novel network connection scheme, the lock (which is still in the early prototype stages at this point) will reportedly be able to operate for a full year on the same set of batteries. This stands in stark contrast to most other locks, which typically require new batteries after just a couple months.
Also, just to be clear, we’re talking about locks that can be closed and opened remotely, not just locks that open when you get close, like Kevo.
Speaking with TechCrunch, Genie founder Joel McAndrew sheds some light on why such high battery life is tough to pull off:
“One of the main issues facing smart lock developers is power management and ensuring battery life is at an acceptable level,” he said, pointing to the problems Lockitron has had with battery life. “Current devices must play a trade off between the usability of the device (how frequently the device checks for a wi-fi signal) and the battery life.”
Generally speaking, smart locks (specifically, ones that allow remote unlocking) need to ping your network for updates every few seconds as they wait to receive a command. This sucks ups a lot of power, especially over WiFi connections, and when combined with the power it takes to open/close the lock itself, it can drain a battery quite quickly.
To circumvent this problem, the Genie takes a slightly different approach. To help manage power, the lock will come with a special communications hub that you plug into your router. This hub acts as a middle man between the lock and your network, and talks to the connected door handle via Bluetooth Low Energy — a much more energy-efficient network protocol. That communications handoff essentially means the smart lock’s battery drain is kept to a minimum because the thirsty Wi-Fi radio is being powered by the grid, and the batteries inside the door handle only need power BLE transfers.
Of course, this scheme doesn’t come without a tradeoff: you’ll have to invite yet another hub into your house in order for it to work. If you’ve already got a lot of other smart devices that rely on hubs to connect to your home network, that might be a dealbreaker.
Genie isn’t quite available for purchase just yet, but the company has opened up preorders and has expressed plans to jumpstart production with a crowdfunding campaign in the near future. We’ll keep you posted with updates on that front, but in the meantime you can find out more here.