Last time, we reviewed the Schlage Connect Smart Lock and identified some potential issues with its use on Shabbat. This week we will review the August Smart Lock and see if it presents any favorable functionality for the shomer Shabbat smart home.
The August Smart Lock is designed to work with your phone via Bluetooth connectivity. From the August app you can open and close the lock with a tap of your phone. The app uses geofencing technology to know when you have entered or exited the geographic area of your home and can automatically open and close the lock. This feature allows you to walk in and out of the house without using a key or even entering a passcode. It does assume that you will always have your Bluetooth-enabled phone with you. The lock retails for $149 , but if you will want to control the lock from anywhere outside Bluetooth range, you will need to also purchase the August Connect for about an additional $70 . The August Connect will add a Wi-Fi bridge to your connectivity so that you can control the lock from anywhere. You simply plug the bridge into a wall socket within Bluetooth range of the lock and it will connect the lock to your home Wi-Fi. This bridge will be the key—pun intended—to a possible Shabbat solution. It gets a little involved, so stay with me.
What is unique about the August Smart Lock is its implementation. The August lock is not an independent lock. It must be paired physically with a traditional key/lock on the outside of the door. Basically, you keep your existing lock on the outside of the house and add the August lock just to the inside. This means that there is no outside electronic keypad associated with the August Smart Lock. August does offer a standalone keypad as an add-on, but it is an option and not the typical installation. This design makes it look promising from a Shabbat perspective.
A new feature that August recently released is DoorSensetm. DoorSense allows the lock and app to know not only if the lock is locked but if the door is closed as well. August is the first smart lock to address the problem of getting a locked signal when the door is not actually closed. DoorSense is only available on the Pro Lock and the oblong version of the lock (pictured above). The feature is identical to a traditional house alarm door sensor that will indicate when the door is opened or closed. The DoorSense functionality does not present a new problem for Shabbat, just more of the same.
One of the downsides to the traditional smart lock with an outside keypad (like the Schlage we reviewed last week) is that even if you remove the battery for Shabbat, the only way to lock the door after leaving is with a key. A key is only a viable solution, of course, for those living in an area with an eruv. Additionally, if there are multiple family members who need access, everyone would need to carry a key. The August lock provides an opportunity to resolve these issues.
Since the August lock is only installed on the inside of the home, you can install any lock on the outside. The way to take advantage of this design is to pair it physically with a traditional push-button mechanical lock. Yes, in this tech column, I am recommending the same lock your grandparents may have used . This unique marriage of old-world and new-world technology has the potential of being a true match made in heaven. The setup addresses the shortcomings of the Schlage lock in that you can lock the door upon exiting without a key, and then return home to open the door with the outdoor mechanical lock.
This setup would be perfect if only the August Smart Lock did not send a log signal with every lock and unlock, as presumably every smart lock does. As we discussed with the Schlage, a log will be triggered even if you open or close the lock with the mechanical password on the outside of the home. While removing the battery for Shabbat remains a viable option, removing the battery on the August lock is a little more involved than severing the connection on the Schlage. If only there was a way to bypass the log…
I would like to propose just that…we bypass the log. Since you will not be using your phone and its Bluetooth connectivity on Shabbat, your lock only connects to the world via the Connect Wi-Fi bridge mentioned above. While this bridge is important for use during the week, for Shabbat observance it is the source of the problem by sending the log. If you place the bridge on a smart switch and schedule the bridge to be off on Shabbat, you can avoid the log. In this way it may be similar to the bypass used for traditional alarmed doors and windows.
Now is an appropriate time to remind readers that I am not a halachic authority. I am not stipulating that this solution is necessary, or for those who choose to implement it, that it in fact solves all Shabbat issues. I hope I have helped you become a little more knowledgeable and have provided a creative solution to those concerned with some of the potential issues raised. If you have comments or suggestions, please feel free to be in touch. Shabbat Shalom.