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Kwikset is making a completely key-free smart lock

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Kwikset

No matter how many features are built into today's smart door locks, they usually maintain one thing in common with the locks we're all used to: the metal key. But now Kwikset is trying to do away with it. It's beginning to show off a prototype smart lock that only uses a touchpad. It'll have a Z-Wave connection, too, so many smart home hubs will be able to connect to it and, theoretically, allow it to be unlocked from a phone.

Smart locks usually have keys in case they lose power

Aside from the image above, there are next to no details on the new lock, including when it'll be available or how much it'll cost. The product doesn't even have a name yet.

Kwikset says removing the lock's keyway is meant to keep homeowners safe from common break-in methods, like lock picking. But it also brings up a very obvious question and potentially serious issue: if there's no manual way to unlock it, how can you get in if the power goes out or the lock breaks?

This very issue is the reason most electronic locks haven't gone keyless. A few others are out there — including models from Yale and Schlage — but the vast majority still allow for keyed entry. That means, yes, someone could try to pick the lock, but it's generally considered a necessary tradeoff for the ability to open a door no matter what.

To get around that, Kwikset's smart lock will rely on four AA batteries. They're supposed to last around a year under normal use; an indicator on the lock will notify owners when its batteries are running low. A 9V battery can also be used as a backup. So in theory homeowners should be fine as long as they're paying attention, but it definitely still sounds like it's possible to get locked out (or to at least be put in a position where you need to borrow batteries from a neighbor). It seems inevitable that companies will push toward keyless locks as the future — the question isn't so much who'll do it first, but who'll be the first to do it right.

Update April 12th, 8:24PM ET: This story has been updated to mention the Kwikset lock's battery life and indicator, as well as competing products from Yale and Schlage.