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Meet Kevo! Kevo by Kwikset is a unique security focused home automation product.  It’s a Bluetooth enabled dead bolt that also can use keys and FOBs.

Need a “smart” deadbolt for your front door, or any door of your choosing? Kwikset’s Kevo is something very different from the rest of the smart locks I’ve seen out there, as I’ll explain.

The Kevo has an MSRP of $219.  There is some online discounting.  It installs easily enough, and it works great.  The installation documentation was almost surprisingly good.

We’re talking home automation, or possibly business automation. The Kevo concept, I think, is really great. The secret, in this case, lies in its simplicity, and in Bluetooth.  Kevo locks do not talk to your home (or business) automation system, and therein lies the beauty and security, but of course, there are some other limitations.

Ultimately, the Kevo seems to provide real convenience. I waited a long time for one of these Kevos for review, asking for one way back when they were first announced.  The Kevo finally arrived, but it took me a few weeks to get to it. Let’s get started!

Update:  We received a Kevo Plus which adds remote capabilities, review pending.


Using the Kevo

Using the Kevo is fun.  I got to show off my Kevo to many of the 25+ folks we had here last week for Thanksgiving dinner.  Lots of comments like “cool,” “sick,” “wow,” “sweet.” Hopefully I have your interest by now, so here’s how it works once installed and you’ve gone through all the “setting up” which we’ll explain later.

The Kevo works three ways – Bluetooth, standard keys, and it also works with a FOB.  The Kevo comes with 2 house keys, and one FOB.  We’ll concern ourselves now with the Kevo’s unique way – Bluetooth. Let’s say I’m leaving the house to go somewhere.  My smart phone (iPhone in my case) is in my pocket, Bluetooth is turned on, and, of course, I’ve previously paired my phone to the lock. So, I open the door, step outside, and close the door behind me using the handle as always. Now comes the fun.  I take a finger, and touch anywhere on the outside of the lock (not the key area).  A very pretty blue LED light effect starts rotating around the lock face, as you can see in the picture, and in a few seconds you hear a whirring, and the deadbolt is set.  The blue led lighting stops and briefly a yellow light appears indicating the locked status.   No keys to find, and fumble with.  Literally it’s “touch and go.”

I can tell you that my wife or I often waste time at the door.  When we’re going somewhere together, she’s usually out the door first, waiting (at the SUV).  Then I come out, and start looking for my keys.  No more.

Touch and Go!

Coming home?  Same thing.  Walk up to the door, touch the lock, a few seconds later it’s unlocked.   On the inside of the door, you have a typical physical lever to close the deadbolt from that side. It puts the fun in opening the door!  Who would have thought? Another bonus.  Once in a great while when running out of the house, I forget my iPhone – usually when I’m using it to stream music music in one of the rooms in the house.  Well, if I walk out without my phone, I can’t lock the door, so, bingo, the Kevo doubles as a reminder that I don’t have my phone on me.



Kevo vs Internet - Electronic Security

I want to discuss security.  There are several aspects worth considering.

One concern about connected security devices, that if you want to be able to access your network remotely – you know, turn off your lights at home, when you are at the office, or on vacation, you typically use the internet to reach your home Wifi network. Even if the security part of your home automation uses Z-Wave, you almost certainly have it tied into that home wifi network, so you can access it from outside the house.

Figure that if someone manages to hack your home Wifi network, they’ll probably be able to access your security that also talks to the Wifi, and disable some of it.  That would be the case, even if the individual security devices (Kwikset also makes Z-Wave enabled smart locks) use a different primary technology as their native method of communicating.

Wifi is, as is popularly stated, a potential problem.  You read about it all the time.  Remember?  How maybe your smart refrigerator, or thermostat may be hacked relatively easily, your phone or laptop less easily, but still possible, or you just haven’t set up decent Wifi security (last name as a password, or no password at all…)

 

Click Image to Enlarge

The Kevo skips all those issues, since it  does not talk to any networks. None!  Nada!  Zilch! Zip, No!   The only potential issue I can think of is if the Kevo’s site were hacked for user names, emails, and passwords.  If that happened, of course, and Kwikset immediately notified owners, they could change their passwords and be secure again.

Kevo’s just a smart Bluetooth device.  Thus, no everyday way for a hacker to get access.   How is this security doable?  Easy.  You simply pair your phone, or tablet’s bluetooth with the lock itself.  That’s it.  Unless a device is paired to the lock, it has no way to control it.  You can’t do an initial pairing from outside the house, you need physical contact with the inside the house portion of the lock’s assembly.

I’m not on top of Bluetooth security, but don’t recall any issues making headlines.

Now, if say you are using an iPhone and it gets stolen, and they get past your phone’s security, you have a problem.  But that wouldn’t be Kevo’s fault.  BTW, I’m getting an iPhone 6 next week.  I’ll be switching to fingerprint security, so my Kevo will be practically bulletproof on my end.

Note that only the primary user sets up physically touching the lock.  Everyone else who gains access to the lock does it from notifications from the primary user.  I just had Kevo’s site send my daughter an “invitation” to accept her eKey.  She now has access (except for the 2500 miles between her location and my front door).

One thought that occurred to me when I first got it, that I thought might be a security issue, is the range of Bluetooth.  Normally that’s about 25 feet or so.  My thought was – “OK, I’m home, I’ve locked the front door by turning the latch, I go into the living room to do things.  What happens if a stranger walks up to the front door and touched the Kevo lock?  In theory, if my iPhone is within 25 feet, the door should unlock, since it’s in communications range.   I decided to test this out, and am pleased to report that is not possible.

Seems the Kevo’s Bluetooth reception is pretty directional.  My phone had to get within four or five feet of the inside of the door for the Bluetooth touch to work.  Just keep this in mind if your front door is set back in your house.  A kitchen window looks at the outside of our front door.  If I put my phone down by that window – about 8 feet from the door but facing the outside, touching the lock unlocks it.    My thought was that a lot of people drop their keys on a table by their door, but then who’s going to put their phone down there.  Well, keep that aspect in mind, but I don’t see it as a real issue.


Kevo and SmartKey - Physical Security

Physical Security:  If it can’t be hacked, how are the Kevo’s other protections?

There’s another security issue here too – which is:  “How good is the lock mechanism itself?”  That’s beyond my area of expertise, but Kevo uses Kwikset’s SmartKey design which is used, apparently, in many of their locks.  It seems to be what is called a Class 2 deadbolt (I am completely unfamiliar with such classifications) and that seems to mean there are other deadbolt designs harder to break into or break.  In other words, forgetting the fancy workings, if you want the absolutely toughest deadbolt to break through, this one isn’t it.

I don’t know about you, it seems to me that there are lots of ways of getting into most houses if you really want to get in, and you don’t mind breaking things (or setting off alarms).  C|net did a whole article about the deadbolt itself.  As with that articles author, I think few folks will be concerned.  As their article pointed out, a skilled locksmith (or locks skilled thief), can open virtually any deadbolt, and could physically force the Kevo, if you knew the trick and have the tools.

 


I assume (or rather hope) that the average thief isn’t that skilled.  And, they really don’t have any way of knowing that you have a SmartKey type of design. Ultimately the Kevo is still a deadbolt.  It will keep out all but the most determined, or talented.   Kwikset points out that their SmartKey lock, as a trade-off, is virtually immune to lock picking or lock bumping (lock bumping?)  At the end of the day, that seems reasonable.  I’m not in the least concerned.  If a thief is determined to BREAK – in, there are usually many ways – we have a lot of ground floor windows.  So, it’s up to our “alarm” system.   With windows around, I figure if someone breaks into my house, it won’t be through the Kevo on the front door.  Safe bet.

So, the point here is that the Kevo isn’t “bulletproof” from a pure hardware standpoint.  If you want the ultimate in deadbolt security, the Kevo apparently isn’t it, but, if you are happy with what is probably a typical level of deadbolt security, then the Kevo is likely just fine.  At least the Kevo is so easy to lock, that you never have an excuse for leaving without locking.


WATCH: The Kwikset Kevo in Use!

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