August, the San Francisco-based maker of smart door locks that can be controlled from a mobile phone, said today that it’s expanding its products to include an accessory keypad for its locks and a new doorbell that’s equipped with a video camera.
But going beyond just hardware updates is a plan to offer a platform for managing all kinds of home maintenance and delivery services, from dry cleaning drop-offs to pet sitters to basic shipping. It’s an ambitious goal for startup August, which only launched its first hardware product a year ago, but one that puts it deeper into the software and services industry rather than just hardware.
First, the new hardware. The second-generation August smart lock, which is designed by industrial designer (and August co-founder) Yves Behar, doesn’t look much different from the previous version, with the exception of a metal ridge that indicates whether it’s in a locked or unlocked position. But it has new internals: it’s now Apple HomeKit-enabled through a new Broadcom chip, so if you’re an iOS user, you can command Siri to lock and unlock your door for you (we all are headed toward a WALL-E-like human meatball existence, don’t even bother to get up and lock your door at night, resistance is futile). The August lock does work with Android devices, just as the first lock did, but there’s no voice control option yet if you’re using the August Android app.
The price of the lock has also dropped $20 from last year’s model to $229, due mostly to the fact that the lock is now assembled in China.
One of the features that August frequently heard users wanted was a way to access the Bluetooth lock without having to download the August app (and without having to use a physical key). An example would be if you rent out your home to visitors who don’t have a smartphone, or who don’t have the August app installed. So August is now shipping a $79 accessory keypad that you can stick next to your external door knob, letting you send SMS messages with unique keypad codes directly from the August app.
The third new gadget from August is a Wi-Fi-equipped doorbell camera that wires to an existing doorbell plate and captures HD video clips of people approaching the door. It uses motion sensors to detect the movement — August says the camera is supposed to know the difference between humans approaching the door and animals or other objects passing by — and then sends a notification to your smartphone. The $199 doorbell cam also comes with a triangle plate, to help you angle the camera if your doorbell happens to be off to the side.
It’s not the first doorbell camera out there — products like Ring and SkyBell offer similar feature sets — but part of August’s pitch is that it offers control of both the high-tech doorbell and the Bluetooth door lock in the same app. So if someone drops a package off at your door while you’re out of the house, not only are you alerted to the activity, but you could theoretically open the door to allow them to drop the package inside. There is a small catch: August plans to offer cloud playback for the doorbell video clips, but hasn’t specified how much this will cost yet.
Books your cleaning service and your pet sitter more directly through August
Speaking of software services, that’s perhaps the most interesting area that August is getting into, through something called August Access. Co-founder and CEO Jason Johnson described this as a "third-party access management system," which basically means that August is aggregating a bunch of partner apps into its own app to give you one-stop shopping for home services. Services like Postmates, Shyp, Handy, Envoy, Pillow, Rinse, and even Sears (which visits more than 14 million home each year for home installations and repairs) will tap into August’s API, making it possible to schedule appointments directly from the August app and unlock the door for people arriving at your home.
Provided that people actually use it and aren't creeped out by the idea of remotely letting strangers into their homes, it may be a smart move for August. Not only does it consolidate a bunch of apps into the same place, but it's also an opportunity to generate revenue through partnerships. Johnson also hinted that August could get deeper into tracking package shipments, to help mitigate misplaced packages or at least avoid that annoying "You weren’t home" tag on the door.
August hasn’t said how many locks it has sold since it began shipping the product a year ago, but Johnson did say that it sees over 5 million "lock operations" per month, which refers to how many times its users are locking and unlocking doors through the August app. This app engagement is more important than unit sales, the company claims, because of the partnerships it is trying to build.
The new August lock is available for preorder today, along with the keypad accessory and video doorbell. They'll begin shipping in four to eight weeks, the company says.
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