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Deciphering the Differences in Smart Lock Networks

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Deciphering the Differences in Smart Lock Networks

Deciphering the Differences in Smart Lock Networks

The evidence is indisputable: people love smart home technology, and renters are increasingly seeking the same tech conveniences in modern smart apartments. Among the pivotal elements of technology in any smart apartment are the latest smart lock and its user experience. While some distinctions in smart locks are readily apparent—such as a keypad, mechanical key cylinder, color, handle, or thumbturn variations—others may elude the untrained eye, such as cylindrical, deadbolt, interconnected, or mortise models. Yet, the most significant and consequential difference lies beneath the lock’s surface: how the smart lock communicates with the head-end system. In this post, we’ll discuss three common technologies and a new emerging network technology.


1. Z-Wave / Zigbee Smart Locks:

Z-Wave and Zigbee are similar wireless technologies designed specifically for home automation and IoT devices. Here are some characteristics of Z-Wave/Zigbee smart locks:

  • Hub Required: Smart locks must communicate with a unit-based hub.  The hub monitors the locks and manages access events.
  • Mesh Network: Communicates directly with hubs or other Z-Wave / Zigbee devices extending the device range.
  • Interoperability: Devices from different manufacturers can work together seamlessly, making it easier to build a comprehensive smart apartment ecosystem.  Some unit hubs only integrated with pre-approved devices limiting some of the interoperability benefits of Z-Wave and Zigbee.
  • Power Efficiency: Efficient communications lead to longer-lasting battery life.


2. Wifi Smart Locks:

WIFI networks are commonplace and can be used for more than just computers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, etc.  Here are some of the pros and cons of WIFI smart locks:

  • Hubless: WIFI smart locks connect over a property's WIFI network and can connect to a centralized on-premise database or cloud-based software eliminating the need for in-unit hubs.
  • Require Property-Managed WIFI: WIFI smart locks must connect to a WIFI Wireless Access Points (WAP) managed at the property level.  This means that property managers can’t depend on the resident's self-provided internet connection.
  • Network Outage: If the property’s network drops then it may degrade the user experience.
  • Battery Life: WIFI is incredible, but it wasn’t designed for the battery efficiency requirements of smart locks.  Many WIFI battery locks offer reduced battery life compared to other smart lock networks.


3. BLE Smart Locks

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a wireless communication protocol designed for short-range connections with low power consumption. Here's what sets BLE smart locks apart:

  • Hub Optional: BLE smart locks are often more straightforward to deploy as they don't require a network of hubs like Z-Wave or Zigbee.
  • Mobile-Centric: BLE locks are commonly controlled through smartphones. They are ideal for those who want quick and easy access using their mobile devices.  Many BLE locks can be opened via BLE credentials, phones connect directly to the lock authorizing each opening.
  • Battery Life: BLE devices are known for their excellent power efficiency, which can lead to long-lasting battery life in smart locks.


4. Something Else / Shameless Plug:

SALTO Systems pioneered an alternative protocol that combines the benefits of the three technologies above plus more into a hybrid network powered by data-on-card i.e. the SALTO Virtual Network (SVN).  SVN can be combined with an energy-efficient wireless real-time network based on BLE connectivity; BLUEnet.

  • Flexibility: SALTO smart locks can be connected to an optional hub enabling BLUEnet wireless real-time connectivity (similar to Z-Wave/Zigbee) and can also receive commands directly from physical key cards/fobs or digital credentials using SVN.
  • Optional Centralized Hub: SALTO smart locks never require a hub, but when they do connect for real-time control,  they connect to a centralized BLUEnet hub.  BLUEnet hubs can be installed within the apartment corridors and a single centralized BLUEnet Gateway can connect with multiple unit smart locks within 50 feet.  
  • Credential Flexibility: SALTO smart locks can be opened remotely via apps, via BLE from mobile phones, using key cards, and key tags, or using NFC on Android or NFC via the Apple Home Key in Apple Wallet.
  • Battery Life: Whether the smart lock is programmed in a wireless real-time mode connected to a BLUEnet gateway or standalone using SVN, SALTO locks battery life typically lasts several years on unit doors.
  • Redundancy: Most users won’t notice a different experience at the smart lock even if the property network goes down, the internet breaks or the property loses all power!  PIN code, key card, key tag, BLE credential, NFC credential, and Apple Home Key still work flawlessly!


Deciphering the Differences in Smart Lock Networks


Choosing the Right Smart Lock for You:

The choice between Z-Wave, Zigbee, BLE, WIFI, and other smart lock solutions depends on your building’s specific needs and existing infrastructure. If you prioritize a variety of different smart devices then Z-Wave or Zigbee might be the best choice for your property as their hubs can connect to other in-unit IoT devices.  If your building has a property-managed WIFI network and doesn’t want other IoT smart things in-unit then WIFI smart locks should be considered.  If your building is lacking infrastructure then maybe mobile-centric BLE locks are the way to go.  Want a mix of everything, maybe SALTO SVN and BLUEnet devices will meet your needs.

Ultimately, all of the options above offer enhanced security, improved resident experiences, and operational efficiency compared to traditional mechanical locks.


Where Should You Go Next

The internet is full of information for single-family smart home technology but it’s not as easy to find great reviews or information online for multifamily proptech.  Trust the Pros!  Contact your local technology experts, security integrators, and vendors. These are the companies bringing the single-family experiences we’ve come to love into a package designed for the evolving multifamily market.  The Pros do this every day and can help evaluate your property's specific needs to find the perfect multifamily proptech solution for the unique needs of your residents, staff, and ownership.

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