Automatic Key Exchanges & Flexible Check-in

The first (and perhaps most obvious) problem that hosts face that can be solved by home automation technology, is the key exchange.

The simplest solution is a lockbox somewhere outside of the building, while the more complete solution can involve either a stand-alone digital door lock, or one that integrates with your centralized home-automation system.

Let’s dive into each of these:

Old-school Lockbox

Sometimes the best solution can be the simplest one. If you’re not renting your place all that frequently, and can’t really be bothered by changing a door knob – look no further. Most big box retailers and hardware stores sell them, and also offer key copying services. Pick up a lock box, make an extra copy of the key, and set it up somewhere outside of the house that’s easy for your guests to access. Boom – done.

This solves the basic problem. However, if you want to offer a more seamless check-in experience, log when people are entering and exiting the house, add/remove key codes, and lock/unlock the doors remotely – and even automatically – a digital door lock may be a better solution for you.

Stand-alone digital Door Lock

A stand alone digital lock is one that doesn’t require any other devices or systems to function. And they come in two flavors: internet enabled and non-internet enabled.

Non internet enabled locks are basically a step above a simple lockbox. These offer a better experience over a lockbox in that your guests no longer need to fumble with the awkward lockbox, and worry about losing the key or returning it back to the lockbox when they leave.

To set this up, you’ll need a couple simple tools like a screw driver, possibly a drill, and definitely some patience. You can find these at most hardware retailers like Home Depot or Lowes. Just follow the instructions provided and you’ll be good to go in an hour or so. Once you have the lock set up, you can follow the instructions to manually program codes (usually up to 10 or 20, but sometimes much more). You can then assign these to each new guest.

Internet enabled stand alone locks are similar in set-up, and have the added bonus of allowing you to change the codes, lock/unlock, and access the usage logs remotely via an app or website provided by the manufacturer. Usually they just require an extra step of adding them to your home WiFi network. Worry not – even if they lose internet connection, the lock itself will still function, and for both of these types of locks, even if they lose power completely, you can always use the physical backup key.

Integrated Digital Door Lock

This is the king of the castle when it comes to an automated door lock solution.

If you intend to take advantage of other home automation products out there, you might begin to notice that each manufacturer offers their own platform, requiring you to download multiple different apps or go to different websites to control your home. This is not only cumbersome to manage, but can also become a nightmare when dealing with customer support.

The solution is a central home-automation controller that all of your devices “talk to”. These can come in a variety of different flavors, built on a variety of different technologies.

WiFi, Bluetooth, Z-wave, zigbee, Insteon, X10… All of the available communication protocols can make your head spin.

The most important things to consider are versatility and reliability. Which platforms will allow you the most freedom of choice when looking for compatible devices, and which are the most tried and tested. We recommend Vera, for its compatibility with many devices, its endless configurablility and custom logic, and price. No monthly subscription required. Once you set up the Vera and your devices – that’s it.

Check out Part 2, where we explore smart tools to help you save on energy.