There are dozens of connected locks on the market today with some requiring a total lock replacement or a device over the deadbolt to turn the latch. But in addition to a radio, maybe a keypad and a motor, these locks all had something any visitor from a few centuries ago would recognize:They all can accept a key. Otto, a new connected lock that will sell for $699, is different.
The Otto lock is connected and keyless.
Sam Jadallah the founder of Otto has discarded the key not only as anachronism, but also as a weak point in the lock itself. “After all, it can be picked,” he points out in an interview. The Otto lock is a round lock that replaces the deadbolt and locking mechanism with a simple cylinder made of steel. There’s no keypad or overlay to add volume. The electronics are packed tightly inside the cylinder which takes up almost exactly the space an existing deadbolt uses both inside and outside the house.
To lock the door, the user just presses the lock as they leave. To unlock it, the user needs to press the lock while their phone is within Bluetooth range and outside the door, essentially turning the phone into a digital key. If the phone isn’t available or the battery is drained, the user can input a code by turning a dial on the outer ring of the lock to cycle through the numbers.
Locking the door from the inside is done manually by turning the dial around the lock or by pressing it with a finger. With the emphasis on boosting security by doing away with a key the engineers at Otto had better be confident of their device’s physical, network and application security.
Jadallah says the company uses AES-256 level encryption for the Bluetooth connections. The physical device has a secure module inside that handles cryptography, offers a secure boot and can generate codes between the app on the phone and the device itself.
Physically, the lock is made of stainless steel and Jadallah says that other than smashing the lock screen, it’s physically hard to damage or cut through the deadbolt. Even with a damaged screen the lock itself will still turn.
The locks can’t actually be remotely opened by the company, which means a server side hack won’t open all of the Otto locks out there. It also means that if you lose your phone, can’t remember your code and no one is inside that you better have another way into your home. With no key, a locksmith can’t help.
Fortunately the lock offers the convenience that many other connected locks provide–namely the ability to let others access the home when granted permission and remote lock and unlock capabilities. So if your spouse or roommate has access, they can unlock the door for you, if you can reach them without your phone.
The Otto uses coin cell batteries, and Jadallah says they should last about 3 months with the Wi-Fi (for remote access) and Bluetooth radios working. The design is pretty for those with a modern sensibility, but I can’t help think about my Mother-in-Law’s ornate front doors that have brass lion head door knobs and related hardware. Even in black, silver or gold, the Otto hardware is going to look out of place on some doors.
For many, the price tag is going to cause sticker shock, but I actually do think this is a evolutionary product that will appeal to a certain early adopter market seeking tech cachet. Much like the Nest thermostat changes the way we talk about HVAC in our homes and the June oven added smarts to an appliance that was truly dumb, the Otto lock is trying to use connectivity to change how we view and interact with a long-established product.
That will be worth it to some. But so far nothing has convinced me this is a product for the mainstream, or even a product that will get people to buy into the smart home. It might become a luxury device for technophiles, but without a business model that can sustain software and constant updates for the device there is a risk that in time the lock becomes worthless if the company goes out of business.
When asked about the cost of supporting the lock over time Jadallah said that those costs aren’t built into the price of the lock and that in the future the company will offer premium features. Without a key, this particular connected device doesn’t follow the typical (and important) rule that any connected device should work even when offline. It will work without internet access or power, but it won’t work without a phone. And it certainly loses its value if its software and security aren’t maintained.
But, to move forward takes risks, so I do like where Otto is heading. I hope it gets there. I’m just not sure how.
Otto was founded four years ago, and is backed by Greylock Partners and Fortune Brands, the company that offers Moen faucets, MasterLock locks, Therma Tru doors, and SentrySafe safes.