A new entrant in the tech war for your door

October 22, 2014, 9:47 PM UTC

In the home of the future, you can skip the keys. Just tap your phone, and presto, your door swings open.

A new company with a high-powered designer is the latest one hoping to take that vision to the masses. That company, August, introduced its version of the so-called smart-lock to the public last week.

The lock is the brainchild of CEO Jason Johnson and renowned designer Yves Béhar, who also designed the Jawbone fitness tracker and led the design for the One Laptop Per Child project. August hopes to win the hearts of early adaptors and bring more people to the smart home market, with a design that emphasizes sleek aesthetics and ease-of-use.

While people may like the idea of smart homes, according to research firm IHS, only 5.6 million smart platforms have been installed globally. But the number is expected to rise to 44.6 million by 2018.

Smooth and round, August’s lock has the heft of a medallion or a gilded hockey puck and allows users to unlock their doors by using their phones. Customers can also let in a babysitter or a maid by issuing them a temporary wireless key.

“We’re approaching it as a consumer product rather than a piece of technology” says Béhar.

The lock, which uses Bluetooth, fits smoothly over an old-fashioned door with the help of two screws and some wing flaps so customers can retrofit their doors without altering the appearance. Users open the door by holding their phone app up to the lock or tapping a button on their phone screen.

Skeptics have raised concerns about how well August locks, which cost $249, can hold up under security attacks. Registering for the app requires two layer authentication. But during a recent product demo, the process was slightly buggy and difficult to enter email addresses for Android phones. Johnson defended the company’s security by pointing out there’s also two layers of encryption on the lock.

August has raised over $10 million in venture capital funding for their lock, one of the early forays into the world of smart home security. It faces a lot of competition from both well-established brands and start-ups. Yale has its own line of smart locks while Kwikset released its smart-lock, Kevo, last year. Meanwhile, start-up Goji plans to release a sleekly designed smart-lock that will take pictures of people who knock on your door and sends it to your door. This lock is August’s first product, but they don’t seem too worried about the competition.

“We’d love to see other people enter this market,” says Johnson. “It helps us if more people start using smart locks.”

Johnson envisions a world where keys are unnecessary, and speaks of them as jagged and ugly.

“We’re about changing the way you interact with your home.,” he says. “We have keyless cars, why not keyless homes?”

Johnson won’t go into further specifics about August’s long-term vision, but he did say in less than 90 days, August will be unveiling and shipping a new and complementary product.