Technology is a great thing is it not? It’s allowing you to read this via your phone, tablet or laptop. You can order groceries to your door at a specific time and day. You can purchase almost any product online. You can chat to people around the world in real-time. It has made our world so much smaller and ever more advanced.

Most of modern tech relies on the internet, as well as servers, developers, IT security systems and other such things. That tech has worked it’s way into our homes and home security. Such as alarm systems, door locks, home automation and all else in between. Great when it works smoothly and is reliable. But ever thought what would happen if it failed?

Well for Yale and their customers it did over the weekend. The dust is still settling.

“Unplanned network maintenance”

Yale has a wide range of smart lock products. The ones most well known to our industry would be the Conexis L1 door handle and the Keyless Connected door lock. It is the app to these products, as well as other “smart” products that were affected over the weekend by problems after Yale was forced to carry out what they called “unplanned network maintenance”.

It is not clear to me what this network maintenance was, or what the cause of the works was. This was one of the early tweets that started the ball rolling:

As I said, no mention as to what the problems were or to the cause. It did not get better from here…

From what I can see, Yale found some issues with their app and tried to fix it. During the attempted repairs something must have gone terribly wrong and it made the problem worse, not better. I don’t want to put too many tweets on this post as it will become messy to read. But I advise you to go to the Yale feed to take a quick look at the tweets being sent to the company by the general public.

There were tweets from home owners claiming that they were unable to use their smart door locks and that some people were locked in. Yale responded to this to say that no one would be locked in their homes as there was always a mechanical override. Which may well be the case, but what about if you were trying to get in? Some continued to respond that despite Yale’s insistence, some customers were indeed unable to use their smart door locks.

For days now the Yale Security Twitter feed has been relentless in responding to customers who have had difficulties with their products. They’ve probably never tweeted so much! Up to writing this post, it does appear that most customers should be back to normal, with a few still seeing a few issues. But if you do decide to take a trip down their Twitter feed, you will quickly learn of the dangers of an outing of a service that a lot of people rely on.

We’re not talking about the inconvenience of a social network going down. These are products that have practical real-world applications, but reliant on modern-day tech and software. The outrage and frustration from home owners was real. The handing probably could have been better. And it all exposed the major weaknesses we have when we rely on tech to replace traditional mechanical methods of home security.

DGB People

Always have a backup

You may remember the first version of Yale’s keyless door handle. It looked like this:

It was battery operated. It had fob operation. It had a keypad. And if all of that failed, and the home owner forgot to change battery, the bottom of that handle slid down to reveal a cylinder where the home owner could use their backup key, give it a quarter turn and it would override the whole thing from the outside.

On the inside there was a push button on the lever part of the handle to press down to use the handle. There was always a mechanical way to bypass the tech.

The Conexis, the second version of this handle, got rid of the key override. There is a thumb turn on the inside to bypass it from the inside, but there is nothing on the outside of the new handle to mechanically override the tech. That was a mistake for me, and was highlighted when their app which is one of the required methods of use for the product failed.

Now, lets have a bit of real world perspective here. Things go wrong. Lets not pretend we live in a world where everything works all the time. That would be moronic. However, it is also reasonable to expect that when things like this happen, someone has though of a work-around. As this was all kicking off, it wasn’t evident that there was. Yale will argue that much of what happened was unexpected and could not have been accounted for. Which would be a fair point. But I think it was a mistake to not have a simple key override on the Conexis, as the original version did. I think it could have negated some of the anger vented on social media towards the company.

What this should be is a lesson in second and third plans. When it comes to home security and technology, there has to be a mechanical bypass from the inside and the outside. There should also be a clear and rapid response plan if things like apps and software fails. These products serve thousands of home owners, therefore there is a great deal of responsibility on the company selling the product.

Do I think the UK home market is ready for smart door tech and locks? Not really. Brits still like a key. It feels more reliable. It provides peace of mind. We should all look at what happened over the weekend and use it to ensure things only get better.

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