Yale’s latest smart locks and doorbells let you watch and unlock from afar

You might trust an 8-month-old Silicon Valley company with a lot of vowels missing in its name to stream Game of Thrones to your TV, control your bathroom lights, and maybe even set your thermostat, but when it comes to keeping your house locked up, you may want to trust someone who’s been doing it for a while. Fortunately, 148-year-old Yale is doing more than just keeping up appearances. The company brought two slick new smart locks, along with a video doorbell, to the 2016 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas.

These are far from the first locks Yale has offered that let you unlock them digitally — the new part is how.

Linus

The Linus smart lock is Yale’s first lock that works with Nest. That means if you’re already rocking Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat, Protect smart smoke alarm, or Nest Cam, the Linus will sync right up with them. The immediate benefits of an always-connected lock are obvious: You can check remotely to make sure you locked it, let guests in remotely, and even deactivate key codes you’ve given guests from anywhere.

The benefits of talking to other Nest products are subtler. The Linus tells your thermostat when you leave the house so it can turn down the heat, and also tells the Nest Cam when you arrive home so it can stop recording. If smoke or carbon monoxide are detected within your house, the Linus touchpad will sound an alert before you walk in, in case the inferno and smoke billowing from inside don’t tip you off.

Yale Linus
Yale Linus Nick Mokey/Digital Trends

Since there’s no conventional keyhole, there’s no mechanical mechanism to pick, but also no way to open the door without electricity. Fortunately, the four AA batteries that power it are supposed to last a year, alert you well before they wear out, and for the inevitable procrastinators who will still wait until it’s totally dead, you can touch a 9-volt battery to terminals outside the lock and zap it with just enough juice to get in. The lock will go on sale in 2016, but Yale hasn’t yet announced what it will cost.

Assure

Yale’s new Assure Lock has a simpler premise: It lets you unlock your door with your smartphone, no other hardware needed. Previous Yale locks have required ZigBee or Z-Wave hubs to function, but this one uses plain old Bluetooth.

That means when you approach the door, it automatically connects to the Yale app on your phone and recognizes your digital “keys” within. The touchpad on the door will light up in a plus sign to acknowledge you. Just twist the phone 90 degrees, like turning a key, and it will unlock.

Yale says this twist of the wrist was critical to keep your door from unlocking whenever you’re merely nearby – like inside the house or merely walking by. While other smart locks like the August simply unlock when you’re in range, they do leave the door quite literally open to accidental unlocks.

Yale will begin selling the Assure in spring for $220.

Look Door Viewer

Yale’s final KBIS unveil was the Look Door Viewer, a video doorbell that detects when people approach your door, allows you to see them from the Viewer smartphone app, and even allows two-way communication through an included mic and speaker. You can use your phone, or the included screen that mounts on the inside of the door, where a peephole would ordinarily go.

Yale Look Door Viewer
Yale Look Door Viewer Nick Mokey/Digital Trends

It runs on four AAA batteries and will last anywhere from a few months to a few weeks, depending on how sensitive you make the motion sensor and how much foot traffic you have in front of your house. Like all of Yale’s offerings, there’s no subscription involved — just a one-time purchase price. You can order the Look in two flavors: The $180 Wi-Fi model, or the $200 ZigBee and Z-Wave model. It will become available in the first quarter of 2016.

Different languages

All three of Yale’s new locks have the sturdy feel you’d expect — and demand — from the device that guards the entrance to your kingdom. All three also illustrate an enduring issue in the connected home market: None of them talk to each other. If a friend comes to the door and rings you on your Look doorbell, you can’t open the door from your office because the Assure needs you to be nearby for Bluetooth to work, and the Linus speaks Nest, not ZigBee or Z-Wave.

Older Yale locks do communicate that way, but as with all products in the connected home arena these days, you’ll need to choose carefully.

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