On a recent Internet of Things podcast episode, we took a voicemail from Greg on our podcast hotline. Greg’s property has a fence in the back so it’s not close to the house.. He uses HomeKit today but is planning to add a Hubitat hub as well for Z-Wave support. Greg wants a Z-Wave deadbolt lock for the gate that doesn’t look smart and doesn’t have a keypad. And unfortunately, only certain network solutions can be used because of how far the gate is from his home network. Unfortunately, due to some limitations and a lack of good choices, smart gate lock products are still a challenge to find.
One problem right away is environmental. The outer portion of smart locks are obviously protected from the elements. However, the “indoor” part of a lock isn’t. Finding a lock that’s made specifically to weather the elements limits choices right from the get go. The second challenge is the distance of the gate lock from Greg’s home. He knows that, which is why he’s looking for a Z-Wave lock rather than something with Bluetooth. We looked for an off-the-shelf lock to meet both of these requirements but came up empty. Device makers are more focused on products that appeal to the broadest possible range of buyers, unfortunately. So smart gate locks with a long network range aren’t readily available.
At first, I though the Level Lock that Greg mentioned actually was a viable option. After all, it’s an Amazon Sidewalk certified device. Even though Greg doesn’t have or use an Amazon Echo in his home, I figured that purchasing one to use the Level Lock might be a consideration. But that won’t help because Level’s lock is only certified to use Bluetooth on the Sidewalk network, not the 900 MHz wireless frequency.
It’s possible a Bluetooth extender could resolve the network range challenge but we don’t know how far the gate is from Greg’s home. And the gate, as well as the frame the bolt goes into, has to be the same depth as a normal door. So that could require some gate modifications and mortising for the new deadbolt.
We do have some other workaround solutions to suggest although none of them are ideal. There are expensive, commercial wireless gate security solutions available, for example. But the cost is easily three or more times more expensive than a traditional smart lock. And these typically use some type of proprietary wireless connectivity, which is less than ideal. Still, it’s an option.
There are a range of Qwikset Z-Wave locks that might work, however, people will likely know that it’s smart because they use a keypad for unlocking the lock. If Greg doesn’t mind that, it should meet the range requirements needed, thanks to the Z-Wave radio. Again, since this lock fits traditional doors, the gate and frame for the bolt would need to be the same thickness as a standard front door.
Also, to protect the “inside” of the lock from the weather, Greg will want to fabricate some type of cover for it.
Interestingly, someone on etsy sells a gate lock solution for the August lock with a 3D printed cover. In this case, the cover could be modified to fit over the back of the Quickset lock. The August lock itself isn’t what we’re recommending here because it uses Wi-Fi. It’s the idea of designing a protective cover for the Quickset lock.
Unfortunately, short of some type of non-optimal, workaround solution, finding a smart gate lock in this case is still an exercise in futilily. Until at least one device maker takes the plunge to build a smart gate lock that can use a long-range radio technology, this market is stuck with such workarounds.
To hear Greg’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things podcast below: