You might have heard of Kwikset Kevo and didn’t even know it. It’s founder appeared on Shark Tank under the company name Unikey. Although he wasn’t able to strike a deal with the Sharks, he was able to license the tech to Kwikset and bring the smart lock to market.
I reviewed the Kevo and for the most part liked what I saw. At the time of that review there were features that Kwikset promised would arrived down the pike. One of those features was the ability to remote un/lock the door from any where you had an internet connection on your smartphone. And yes, it’s here and it’s called Kevo Plus.
If you’re a proud Kevo owner you’ll have to invest a bit more money in an additional box, called the Kevo gateway. Cost you ask? About $70, though I can’t find it for sale online.
Setup of the Kevo Plus
Setting up the Kevo Plus base station (or gateway) is a simple affair. Screw on the antenna, plug it into a power socket, and lastly connect the included Ethernet cable to your router.
My front door is down a level and about 25 feet in total distance from the Kevo base station.
Thanks to the antenna, or so it would seem, the Bluetooth connection has no problem reaching and talking with the Kevo door lock. This hasn’t been the case with other door locks that depend on Zigbee and Zwave, so I was impressed to see this work.
Update: After months of use, the Kevo Plus connection is probably best described as spotty. It’s hard to tell if it’s the Kevo Plus itself, the structure of my home, the service itself, or a combination of the aforementioned. Keep reading to learn more.
The app will walk you through the process to upgrade your Kevo smart lock – this is called Kevo Plus – to work with the base station. To do this you’ll need to be in very close proximity to your lock where via Bluetooth the app will pass along a software update. Next the app will step-by-step setup the Kevo base station, pairing the two pieces of smartlock hardware together, also using your phone and proximity to complete the process. If things are setup correctly, the LED ring on top of the Kevo base station should glow a solid blue. If it flashes, it has not.
Using Kevo Plus To Unlock
When Kevo first launched there were clearly short comings. One of them was the inability to unlock your Kevo from any where using the app. However, it’s likely that the company didn’t include this feature due to battery concerns. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Lockitron.
The Kevo base station, unlike the aforementioned smartlock, uses BLE (it’s also compatible with Zigbee and Z-Wave), or Bluetooth Low Energy to send commands to the lock. This is the same wireless tech that the Kevo uses to communicate directly with your iPhone or Android. It’s because of this, and based on my experience, that there won’t be any degradation in battery performance, netting on average about 10-20 months of battery life. And for those worried, fear not. The Kevo will provide a low battery warning well before they need to be replaced.
Update: I’ve never received a low battery warning despite having to change the batteries and have this notification active in the app.
Now, traditionally speaking, to unlock your Kevo, your phone had to be within Bluetooth range of the lock. From there a simple tap of the lock using one’s finger unlocks or locks the door.
However, with the Kevo Plus upgrade the Kevo can be unlocked from the apps main screen.
In my experience it has worked every time.
Update: The Kevo Plus works sporadically and doesn’t always refresh the locks status to its current state. On a number of occasions I’ve received something called a “gateway error”, which could mean a number of things. The Kevo also struggled to update the status of the lock correctly, sometimes displaying “locked” when in fact it’s “unlocked” – I know because I have stood next to when I’ve tested this. Disconcerting? You bet!
Though there is a delay of about 8-10 seconds (sometimes up to 30 seconds) between tapping the un/lock icon to when the Kevo actually locks or unlocks – this is all indicated by the app, though. But this delay should be expeected, as the Kevo app has to send a command through the Internet, verify the credentials to ensure the user is allowed, then to the gateway, and lastly from the gateway to the lock itself over Bluetooth. So in the grand scheme of things it’s fairly quick. Though for full disclosures sake I haven’t had the opportunity to compare the Kevo Plus against another competing smartlock.
Drawbacks to the Kevo Plus
As I already mentioned, the delay is about 8-10 seconds but sometimes up to 30 seconds once you tap the unlock/lock icon in the Kevo app. Nevertheless, it’s, IMHO, a given. So no big deal, especially when guests can most certainly wait for a few seconds before gaining access.
What I couldn’t grow accustom too, was that the lock status’ inconsistencies that I experienced.
The Kevo smart lock is designed to send periodic status updates to the gateway. This allows Kevo owners to view the status of their door as locked or unlocked. Which means that if someone forgets to lock it, it can be locked remotely. However, my Kevo can’t and won’t consistently show the correct status. And I know because I’ve tested it a few times while in the Kevo’s physical presence.
The issues seems to arise mostly from manually locking (sometimes it’s an issue after “tapping” the lock) and unlocking the door from the inside. On occasion it will provide an update within seconds, while at other times it will go for 30 minutes without one, and even then it won’t read the status correctly. For example: I just left home and locked the Kevo by touching the lock. Opening the app now, 2 hours later, the lock status, which was updated “4 minutes ago” according to the app, still reads “unlocked”, which I know to be completely not correct.
Now, for full disclosures sake, I have an older, first gen Kevo. And while this may be the root of the problem, it’s just an potential explanation, but not a resolve.
Kevo Plus Pricing
When Kwikset first announced Kevo Plus they said there would be an annual charge for the addon service. But good news! That’s no longer the case. Kevo plus is now included in the purchase price (aka free) of the Kevo Plus. Why? Probably because there are other smart lock options that aren’t charging a service charge. And after all, there is no reason to charge monthly for a service that to a large degree doesn’t cost the company anything beyond hardware to produce.
What I’d Like To See
It’s likely a battery drain, but I’d like to see the Kevo automatically unlock when it detects me approaching my front door. While I’m no engineer, Kwikset could leverage my iPhone’s GPS functionality (which I have turned off for the Kevo app since it serves no real purpose beyond increased security) to send a signal to the Gateway, which in turn could unlock the door. This would remove the need of the door (and its batteries) to search for my iPhone’s proximity.
Final Kevo Plus Thoughts
Despite ownership of the Kevo Gateway/base station for a few months, I’ve only used it a few times to remotely unlock the door. Why? Now that Kwikset provides unlimited 24 hour keys and more permanent keys (free of charge) it’s really not as much a necessity. That being said, for a $70 investment it does negate any issues that might arise from the tech averse, or don’t own a smartphone, though given the Kevo’s lack of consistency it could be anything but. I know from my own personal experience that it would be near impossible to explain, let alone get my parents to download and register for a temporary Kevo key.