One thing we all need to do is enter and leave our homes and sometimes let people in. Other times we want things to happen when people are at home or .. not to happen!

Why is this very important to think through before adding new things to manage access? Because locking people out is no fun, if grandma goes to talk to the neighbor and gets locked out we created a problem instead of solving a problem. Keeping things as “the same” as possible is always the best, so we don’t create problems when trying to enter or leave a property in an emergency situation, keep on reading for more on this.

Let’s discuss how this can be managed with smart home technology for some peace of mind. For any wearables do create a smart routine to notify you when batteries hit a low percentage of life left in them.

  1. Geofence example in Home Assistant. Click to expand
    Geofence example in Home Assistant. Click to expand

    Presence: (this topic is also discussed here) I personally have not tried using presence much yet, but it is quite interesting and very useful. Now let’s introduce geofences, which are areas you define in your smart home hub to activate (or not) routines like the picture on the right of where I live. My geofence is really small by design, but for our cottage when I will automate it I will make it much broader, different locations offer different opportunities and challenges. There are two types of devices to establish if someone is home or not:

    1. Devices: like a smartphone are commonly used to determine presence, but in the case of someone likely to forget to carry something, how about a commonplace thing like a keychain? In the Apple world, you can use AirTags for this, and for the non-Apple users I found the SmartThings Arrival Sensor which uses ZigBee and should work with any ZigBee-capable hub . Tile can possibly be also used if your hub supports it, but am not sure if presence can be managed so I’ll get my hands on one and try it. If you find some others please let me know! Ideally for Alzheimer’s scenarios, something which not not forgotten easily or can be added to personal items like a jacket.  
    2. Sensors: I found this article which compares the Aqara and Tuya presence sensors, in “detailed details”. Consider this a starting point to explore this type of device, and if it works start building routines to suit your needs like lights management or locks. The problem with this approach for access control is you may need a few of them if you rely only on this.
  2. Smart Locks:
    1. The common use is to “auto-lock” a door after a set amount of time. My house’s front door locks automatically after 3 minutes, and we live downtown so some “entryway small change robbers” pass by on occasion, your situation should be different. Now read on presence:
    2. You can use “presence” routines for automatically locking or unlocking, if a device is present (or not) within a geofence you can lock automatically or prevent autolocking.
    3. Key things I would look for in a smart lock (pun intended):
      1. Re-use the existing keys & barrel. Familiarity is key, and if an Alzheimer’s patient does not need to look for something else than they key they used for X year, that’s  winning proposition. Look for “deadbolt replacements which do not replace your keys” like the August products. If you can swap out the current barrel of a smart lock with what you have by keeping the same brand, that could also be an interesting option, look into Schlage and Wiser?
      2. Smart app: this should be standard with any smart lock, you can use that to lock/unlock the door(s). Most will let you add schedules as well, so if a person comes in every Tuesday morning no need to give them access any other time no?
      3. Keypad: if you can add a keypad, this is great, and to sound like a broken record look at August. Each person can have their own code so knowing who accesses the house and when is always useful. If a nurse or social worker comes regularly to check on things, no need to give a key.
      4. Smart home integration: if you want to set routines, make sure all the parts talk before spending money and installing. “I’ll get it to work” are famous last words which I may have uttered once or twice.
      5. Battery life: I prefer ZigBee or Z-Wave as they have a longer battery life span, but get what works based on your setup. If you don’t want a hub which ZigBee and Z-Wave require, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are your best options, Wi-Fi has shorter battery life but can easily be accessed via the Internet, Bluetooth has better battery life but needs a “bridge” for remote access.
      6. Physical keypads: very useful, you can create access code for family members and caregivers, plus can see who uses them and when.
  3. Smart doorbells: with a built-in camera you see who’s there and give access by using the smart lock remotely. Plus the good ones let you converse with the visitor prior to making any decisions.
  4. Good Old Dumb Lock Boxes: these devices can also come in “smart” versions which will support Bluetooth but I prefer to use the dumb ones as they never .. run out of battery. These are really good to keep a key somewhere at the house, somewhat hidden, in case of emergency. If you need to let someone in, make them use that! Sure avoids breaking windows! 😁 I use Master as I can get them anywhere and it’s a reputable-enough brand. I also keep the instructions inside too as I’ll forget how to set it for next time for security reasons.


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