An undercurrent of frustration has brewed ever since the first key-operated lock was invented some four thousand years ago, erupting to the fore each time a key is forgotten or goes missing and someone is locked out of their own home. Smart locks are one solution to this age-old problem, but many people have issues with their reliance on memorized passcodes or smartphones. Enter Ola, a smart lock that ditches keys altogether, relying instead on recognizing your fingerprint.
Developed by a Beijing-based company, Ola is a Bluetooth-enabled entry lock with a fingerprint scanner built right into its handle. While it does have a dedicated app--duh, it's a smart lock--its role is fairly limited beyond the initial setup process. Ola's developers say you don't need the phone once you've scanned your lock's unique QR code and registered your fingerprint; you can unlock your door in less than a second by simply touching the sensor.
Why this matters: Nearly every established brand--and quite a few newcomers--have entered this rapidly growing market, each with its own idea about how a smart lock should function. Some locks require you to take out your phone and tap an on-screen button to unlock your door, others are equipped with a proximity sensor for hands-free entry, and still other rely on keypads on the lock itself. The problem with these existing approaches is their reliance on either smartphones--things that are known to be forgotten on occasion, run out of juice, and even become lost--or the users' ability to memorize a passocde. Ola bucks that trend with a solution that seems to be both convenient and remarkably simple.
The app isn't entirely useless, though. It too can be used for unlocking if that's what you want. But why would anyone buying this lock want to go through the whole rigmarole of taking out the phone, ensuring Bluetooth is on, firing up the app, and tapping madly to gain entry? Well, let's not overlook the need to grant access to family, friends and other visitors every now and then. You can generate temporary keys for them using the app, allowing them to unlock your door via Bluetooth.
Ola is a complete lock, and not an add-on for your existing setup, and will be available in both mortise and latch-bolt variants. It has a capacitive touch fingerprint sensor (developed by the Swedish company Fingerprint Cards) that uses a radio frequency signal to scan sub-dermal fingerprint patterns. For added security, the scanned fingerprints are stored only inside Ola. There are four AA batteries that should last you 2-3 years; but should they die on you all of a sudden, there's a backup set that can activated with a single button. And if that too fails, there's a micro-USB port for powering the unit from an external battery.
The $179 lock is available for pre-order on Kickstarter, where the company is trying to raise $125,000 to help fund the initial production run. As of writing this, $159 is the minimum you need to pay for one Ola unit (shipping included).