August Smart-Lock Turns Your Phone Into a House Key

Forget key chains: A new device and app let you open doors with your smartphone.

ByABC News
May 30, 2013, 2:54 PM

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif., May 30, 2013 — -- Our smartphone can control our house thermostat, our light bulbs and washer and dryers. Why not the lock on our front doors?

That's exactly what Jason Johnson and Yves Behar thought when they created August, a new technology company that will be selling a $199 smart-lock later this year. Similar to other smart devices, the idea behind August is that your phone communicates with an everyday object, in this case a device that you attach to your door.

That base station or base plate, which is made of aluminum and attaches to the interior portion of your deadbolt, connects to your phone via Bluetooth. When you have the app on your phone and it is in close proximity to the base station on the door, the door will unlock or lock, depending on what side of it you are on.

The hardware is meant to be simple and elegantly designed, but many of the features are in the app and software. With the iPhone and Android app, you can unlock or lock the door without actually having to press or do anything. Using the proximity sensors and Bluetooth, when you get to the door you don't have to look for your phone or keys. It will automatically unlock the door.

You can also send keys in the app to other people just like you would an email. It also lets you set permissions and check the lock status when you are away from the house.

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"You can control who has access and you can remove that access at any time. You have probably hidden a key under a mat before for a guest," Johnson told ABC News. "We want to get rid of that. No more hiding keys under mats."

Lending a house key is now just a tap away, and while it may be convenient, it does raise security issues. But Behar and Johnson argue that this is actually safer than a physical key.

"It's a lot safer than giving a key temporarily in a world where there is a service where you can take a photo of your key and make a copy and it is made in minutes," Behar said.

He also said that, typically, you lend out a key and never get it back. That doesn't happen with August.

Johnson added that users of the service will be advised to password-protect their phone and that the back-end software is secure with a proprietary encrypted locking technology.

The service also allows the primary user to decide when specific keys work, unlike a physical key. For instance, you could enable access for the dog-walker only when he or she is supposed to stop by to pick up and drop off the dog. There's also a log record of who entered and exited, complete with dates and times.

August isn't the only smart-lock technology out there. There's the $200 Schlage Link wireless lock system and Kwikset has its Kevo, an iPhone-compatible lock that, like August, connects via Bluetooth.

But the August founders say their option is more seamless, doesn't require any hassle of WiFi and doesn't look like a big "black brick." They are so confident that it's hassle-free that they named the company to symbolize that month.

"It's about ease of use and comfort and not being worried and relaxed. That's how you feel in August," Behar said. "For most people it is the best month of the year."

The August, however, will not be out this August. It will be out later this year, though you can pre-order it now on