The Lockitron Has Arrived! Home Automation Moved Forward…

What is Lockitron?

A long, long, time ago (Ok, so it was just a bit over a year ago), I came across a preview online for a product called a Lockitron.  This device seemed really, really cool.  I could remotely lock and unlock my deadbolt to my house using only a single swipe from my phone.  Furthermore, I could easily allow access to a friend, family member, etc., into my house, either by remotely unlocking it for them, or by granting them access to be able to unlock it themselves using their own phone.

This seemed like a wonderful idea to me!  No longer did I have to dread the issue of taking the dogs for a walk.  You see, our house has the wonderful idea of ONLY providing a lock via the deadbolt.  The normal door handle itself doesn’t have a door lock.  So, every time, we had to leave to go for a walk, (or to leave the house in general!), we had to manually pull the keys back out, and lock the deadbolt from the outside.  What a pain in the butt!

Then along came the Lockitron, and I was sold!  I threw down my money, and waited for the device to come in, which was scheduled to be shipped in March of 2013.

And I waited…  and waited… and waited.  March came and went, May came and went, July came and went, and September came and went.  Each month promised a shipment of my Lockitron, and each month passed without my Lockitron arriving at my doorstep.  What started to seem like vaporware eventually faded away, when TODAY my Lockitron finally arrived.  Happy Days!

The Hardware

When I got home from work, I barely had set my stuff down before I was diving into the packaging, ripping off that USPS packaging and diving into the heart of what I wanted!

It's here, it's finally here!  I can't believe it!  (And yes, I did have to take this picture before even pulling it out of the packaging box!)

It’s here, it’s finally here! I can’t believe it! (And yes, I did have to take this picture before even pulling it out of the packaging box!)

The package came pleasantly packaged, stuffed inside of a cardboard box, wrapped up inside of a USPS slightly padded bag.  After pulling the Lockitron box itself out of the cardboard box, I was greeted with a nicely decorated box.

The Lockitron box, in all its glory.

The Lockitron box, in all its glory.

The front of the box didn’t display too much information, but did show a nice image of the device.

Just your usual, run-of-the-mill information.

Just your usual, run-of-the-mill information.

The bottom of the box showed a simple bit of information, directing the user to the Apple App Store, or the Google Play Store to download their respective version of the software to go with the device.

Peace of Mind?  We'll see after I do some extensive testing of it!

Peace of Mind? We’ll see after I do some extensive testing of it!

One side of the box said exactly what the device was meant to do: provide peace of mind, allowing you to always be able to check on the lock status of the door.

As long as it works well, I'm excited about this!

As long as it works well, I’m excited about this!

The other side of the box complimented the other statement, expressing the ability to lock the device from anywhere.  Peace of mind?  You betcha!

Ooh, a pretty logo!

Ooh, a pretty logo!

The remaining side of the box simply displayed Lockitron’s logo: a simple round outline, surrounding a deadbolt-style lock icon.  You better get used to this icon – it’s everywhere in the software!

Yes, the installation was easy.  Unfortunately, the whole fact of Bluetooth unlock only working with iPhones irritates me.  No love for Android?

Yes, the installation was easy. Unfortunately, the whole fact of Bluetooth unlock only working with iPhones irritates me. No love for Android?

The backside of the box provided a bit more information as to the contents and functionality of the device.  I was disappointed to know that the bluetooth functionality of being able to be near and lock / unlock the device was functionality restricted only to iPhones.  Hopefully Lockitron will add that functionality to their Android counterparts in the future.

The Lockitron faceplate has been revealed!

The Lockitron faceplate has been revealed!

Removing the cover of the box revealed the plastic Lockitron faceplate.  I originally ordered the white / brushed nickel faceplate, to better match the decor at our house.  Lockitron manufacturers, unfortunately, are having some problems with their manufacturing at the moment.  As a result, they decided to go ahead and ship out the black-on-black faceplates for now, and ship the originally ordered version later on down the road.

A good gesture, yes.  But still a bit disappointing, seeing as how it’s already so far behind.  But I certainly do appreciate the gesture, and the ability to get it out the door sooner.

Just the faceplate, with a quarter for comparison.  Huge!

Just the faceplate, with a quarter for comparison. Huge!

Pulling the faceplate out of the box reveals just how huge the device is overall!  Of course, I’m sure I could’ve assumed it’d be the size it was after thinking about all the components and electronics inside of it.  But I guess I had falsely assumed it’d be closer to the size of the deadbolt itself, especially when compared to some of the alternatives that are starting to be released to market by other manufacturers.

I assume this is the core group of developers?

I assume this is the core group of developers?

Underneath the faceplate was a box with some instructions in it, as well as the deadbolt backplate to get installed on the door.  Wrapping it was a nice signature folio of people, which I assume to be the core group of developers / designers.

The brains of the whole operation.  It's heavy too!

The brains of the whole operation. It’s heavy too!

Underneath all of that was the brains behind the entire system.  This houses the primary motor assembly, wifi chip, rubber surround to keep from scratching the deadbolt, and battery compartment to help run the entire device.  It’s pretty sweet!


This was a nice touch!  I was pleasantly surprised to see a set of nice batteries that came with it, as well as a screwdriver for installing the backplate to the deadbolt!

This was a nice touch! I was pleasantly surprised to see a set of nice batteries that came with it, as well as a screwdriver for installing the backplate to the deadbolt!

Included in the box was a package of accessories.  I ripped into the box, and was extremely pleased with what came with it.  One item, a small NFC tag, was included to allow for easy tap-and-use functionality.  In addition was a set of 4x AA batteries, which were of surprisingly high quality (not those crappy knockoff brand ones that have such a small amount of storage and don’t last very long)!  Lastly, I was quite surprised to see a full sized screwdriver in there as well!  This is to help loosen the deadbolt framing in order to be able to slide the backplate into it.  Now, I know that almost everyone probably already has a screwdriver that they could use instead.  But the very act of including one, which made it so that I didn’t have to divert my attention away from installing the Lockitron, and instead remain focused on doing it with all the tools necessary right in front of me, was quite nice!

Everything that comes included with the Lockitron - even stickers!

Everything that comes included with the Lockitron – even stickers!

Oh, yes – there were also a couple Lockitron stickers / window decals as well!  Another fun touch for those of us who like to make our stuff go faster with stickers!

Another angle of all the stuff that comes with it!

Another angle of all the stuff that comes with it!

The Installation

I didn’t take any pictures of the installation process itself, but that’s because it was quite simple and uneventful.  Basically, it consisted of me downloading the Lockitron app, logging into my account, setting up a wifi connection, and then utilizing BlinkUp to transmit the data (assuming wifi data + user account data) to the Lockitron in order to authenticate it and activate it online.

Once the process was complete and the Lockitron was authenticated with the network, the remaining process was simple, and was all done via a video guide over the phone.  The guide walked through the remaining process of installing the backplate, snapping the Lockitron frame onto the guide, configuring the Lcokitron to know whether it was locked or unlocked, and finally putting on the rubber stopper and plastic cover frame.  It was definitely quite the easy setup for something that could’ve easily been so much more complicated!

The Final Product

Once the device was installed and working, all that was left was to try it!  I quickly booted up the app on my phone and switched the device to be locked…. and waited.  About 10 second later, I heard the familiar sound of gears running, and the device was locked!  I then tried swiping on my phone to unlock it, only to find that the app was frozen…  Drat!

I hopped onto my laptop to bring up the web interface to try it out.  it showed that the device was locked, so I pushed the button to unlock it.  About 30 seconds later, the gears sounded, and it unlocked.  Woot!  But wait…what’s this?  The web interface stated that there was a system error, and to try again later.  Um, not good?

I refreshed the page, and it then showed the device was unlocked, like it was supposed to be.  I went ahead and clicked the lock button, and waited.  30 seconds or so again later, and it was locked, but shortly thereafter I received another system error message.  A simple refresh of the page later, and all was good again.

I went back to my phone to try again, and again I got the familiar response: swiping it to lock (or unlock) the device would work, but then the entire system would lock up again for a period of time.  After doing some testing, I believe it to be that the centralized Lockitron server must be waiting for some confirmation from the device stating that the command had been received and processed.  During this time, it appears to make the entire system unresponsive while it’s waiting for the response back.  Hopefully this will be changed in the near future.  But in the meantime, at least I know to give it some time before trying to send another command.

I did give it a real-world situation tonight, where I left for a walk, and locked the door on my way out.  When I got home, the door was in fact locked.  But pressing unlock on my phone did nothing.  I waited, and waited, but nothing ever happened, and the door remained locked.  But about 60 seconds later, it finally made the familiar gear sound, and the door opened up for me.  So there appears to be a few kinks in lag time and response issues that still need to be worked out.  Hopefully the Lockitron team will get those issues ironed out, and have a rock-solid product in the end!

I’d have to say that I’m happy overall with the product.  I do have a few pictures of the final installation that I grabbed with my cellphone quickly (I forgot to take them with my nicer camera before posting!):

A view of our entire door with the Lockitron installed on it.

A view of our entire door with the Lockitron installed on it.

A closeup picture of the Lockitron installed on the door.  It's  a bit hard to see, but it gives you an idea of the size of the device!  It's much larger than I originally thought it'd be.

A closeup picture of the Lockitron installed on the door. It’s a bit hard to see, but it gives you an idea of the size of the device! It’s much larger than I originally thought it’d be.

As you can see, the device is quite large.  It’s not obtrusively large, but it is definitely something that may catch you off guard at first.  But I think after a few days or so I won’t even really notice, and we’ll get used to it.  And once Lockitron sends out the color that we ordered, hopefully we’ll be able to make it match even better with the rest of our decor.

The Verdict

Great price for what it does. Lots of functionality, and seems to be a pretty solid product.
Lots of features. Includes a knock sensor, which I haven't tried yet. Supports limited bluetooth, NFC, app integration, an external APK and text messages.
Limited support so far. Good Facebook response, but limited service when trying to determine rollout times. Iffy customer service leaves some worry with regards to warranty support and other new-product bugs.
Decent looking product. Hides well on the inside of the door, and can't tell there's anything from the outside. A bit bulky and awkward on the inside, though.
Hard to tell so far, since it's brand new. Seems solid. Gears are a bit loud when it runs. Not sure if that means anything with regards to lasting power.
Piece of cake to set up. The video installation instructions were spot on, and overall the BlinkUp feature made it a breeze. I had one small snag, where the BlinkUp took, but the Lockitron didn't want to communicate with the network. A simple second attempt to BlinkUp worked out.
Overall, seems like a decent product. I'm a bit biased, since I was a Day One backer when it was promoted to the market, so I was super excited for it to come in. But at the same time, I'm a bit flustered, since it took twice as long to come to market. I'm glad it's out, and I am looking forward to giving it a run for its money. I appreciate all the detailed engineering that went into it, and loved the simple, easy to set up ability of it. Great idea using BlinkUp to do most of the heavy lifting!

14 thoughts on “The Lockitron Has Arrived! Home Automation Moved Forward…

  1. Cameron Robertson

    Cameron from Lockitron here – we’re working really hard on speeding up the locking process. A quick hint – knocking on your door should “wake up” Lockitron immediately so that you don’t need to wait for the command to go through. We should have a few firmware updates heading out this week (don’t worry, they happen in the background!)

    1. Steven McKenzie Post author

      Wonderful! Thanks Camron for the reply. I look forward to putting the Lockitron to good use. The possibilities of it are exciting, and should alleviate a lot of headaches we’ve had with our single deadbolt setup for years.

      It’s amazing how we ever lived without technology before! 🙂

    1. Steven McKenzie Post author

      Yep! That’s the exact same thing I’m going through on mine as well. Yours seems to be a bit faster on the response though.

      I think the problem that you’re having with the app is the same one that’s also apparent on the website. Basically, both the app and the website appear to wait for an acknowledgment from the device that it successfully locked / unlocked itself. This takes quite some time to route through Lockitron’s servers back to your app or website. In the meantime, the interfaces appear to completely lock up. The app is completely synchronous, waiting indefinitely for the receipt of acknowledgement / action from the Lockitron. That’s why if you close and reopen the app, it will respond again to your input, but it will show the wrong status (ie. unlocked when you actually had just locked the device). This is because it never received the acknowledgement that it was locked.

      The same goes for the website. If you tell the website to lock / unlock the device, it will successfully do so (after a period of time – 5 to 30 seconds in my case), but it will eventually show that it errored out and encountered a server error. My guess is this is because the HTTP request that it makes is waiting on a synchronous response back from the device saying that it successfully processed and acted on the instruction received. But since this takes longer than the configured timeout length on their servers, it eventually throws a timeout exception and fails. But, if you were to then refresh the webpage, you would show the device in the proper state (ie. locked, if you just told it to lock itself).

      Hopefully they’ll slowly tweak their response / acknowledgement times between the device and the servers, and also work on moving the requests / responses to be more asynchronous in nature, so that they don’t wait forever on a response, and can utilize a callback-type function instead.

  2. Olivia Mak

    Wow, that looks really neat. Do you have any concerns regarding security? Personally, I am excited to try the new gadgets but my husband is not (I know!). We just purchased an older home but updated it so that we could automate our basic home functions. It was a bit tough since our HVAC units were older. To update the functionality, my contractor reordered the Carrier parts for our units to bring it up to date. I agree home automation is the future, and I hope to read more about your adventures with these cool products!

    1. Steven McKenzie Post author

      Security is definitely a worthy concern with things like these. I don’t quite know what to think about it. I really wish that the Lockitron guys would add functionality to notify administrators when actions are performed against the device, such as knocking, or remotely / locally locking or unlocking, etc. That would at least alleviate some of the concern. I know that if I was at work, and got a notification on my phone that says “Door knock detected,” followed by “Door unlocked manually,” I’d be concerned! But that would be good to know that if I didn’t get such notifications, I knew the device was safe.

      Only time will tell where the direction goes regarding these, as well as expanding to further home automated tasks like HVAC tasks you mentioned.

  3. Nick

    After getting the latest email from lockitron announcing yet another delay, I am prepared to nominate them for the Duke Nukem Forever award for (lack of) achievement in vaporware.

    They are the poster child for everything that is broken about KickStarter.

    1. Steven McKenzie Post author

      I won’t disagree with you on that one! They seem to be having nothing but problems with their products, as well as their communication (or lack thereof) and support for their products. Since this post, my Lockitron has gone from slow, to useless. I’ve run through numerous sets of AA batteries, with barely a week of functionality between each set, and now it no longer responds to commands, and it appears that the developers have updated the mobile app to always show a successful response to the lock / unlock requests, even if nothing happens to the device itself.

      Not to mention the fact that they appear to have charged a lot of people, and then not actually delivered on the product. I believe it’s regulatory that once a product has been charged to someone’s card (not pending, but actually charged), it has to be shipped within 30 days, or the charge must be refunded. I don’t think that’s been the case with the Lockitron guys.

      Frustrating, to say the least…

  4. Stacey

    Hey Steven,
    How’s the Lockitron performing now? Have you gotten it working?
    We pre-ordered from the Kickstarter campaign back in October 2012 and our delivery just keeps getting pushed back (says April 2014 as of today). We also decided last month to push that dreaded button that says “charge credit card now” in hopes of maybe somehow getting the Lockitron faster….but to no avail.
    We are seriously considering requesting a refund because the wait (will be two years in a few months) is the longest we have ever waited for something we ordered! Have you tried anything like the Kevo, August or Goji? Would be interested as a review like you’ve given for the Lockitron would be really epic!

    1. Steven McKenzie Post author

      Thanks for the comments!

      It’s been “working”, but that’s in the loosest sense of the word. Since posting, I’ve had countless times when the entire system simply quits working. Either it takes 30 seconds to a few minutes to respond, or it fails to respond entirely. In addition, the batteries in it seem to get chewed through quite quickly.

      So, combining those two issues together, means that I hardly ever can use it, as I never know if it’ll work, or if the battery is even functioning at that time! Furthermore, the web interface has been changed to automatically show that the action was received and processed. I assume this was done because of those of us who complained that it would take forever and never respond back, so it was made as a “hack” to display to the user that the instruction was processed. Unfortunately since it was never processed, this gives a false positive response, resulting in a lack of confidence that the instruction was even processed. *sigh!*

      If I had to do it all over again, I would totally request a refund myself to get my money back. I spent way too long waiting for it to come in, and it’s only just *barely* worked since I got it. I would rather have waited until something else was released with much higher quality and a much stronger user base.

      I haven’t tried anything like the Kevo, August, or Goji. I’ve seen them, but as this is simply a personal blog and my financial situation is not limitless (though that’d be nice!), I don’t have the resources to go out and buy one to test. If you’d like to contact the manufacturer and see if they would send me one on loan to review, I wouldn’t be opposed to that! 🙂

      1. Cameron Robertson

        Steven, sorry for the poor Lockitron experience thus far – when you received Lockitron it definitely was too premature for us to ship based on where we were, and we’re still working through some of those bugs. However, here’s where we are now:

        – Battery life should be substantially improved, but still only “OK” – an upcoming firmware replace should improve this significantly
        – We’re working on adding the “sleep” notification to web and Android. This wasn’t intended on being deceptive, but instead was to reduce server load
        – We’re working on Bluetooth Low Energy access for Android, which based on our feedback from iOS is a far better experience
        – We just resolved a WiFi bug (noted here), however, our a major push for our new firmware is focused on consistent WiFi connectivity

        If you would still like to return Lockitron for a refund, I would be happy to help – we don’t want to force a product that doesn’t work for you –

        1. Steven McKenzie Post author


          Sorry for not responding to your comment sooner. I completely missed my email that this comment was under moderation!

          I appreciate your response back and your additional information, and appreciate your willingness to respond for a full refund. I am hesitant to do so, mainly on the fact that I was one of the very early backers, and waited over a year for it to come in the mail, anxiously awaiting delivery of it every few months when it was continually pushed back from the originally scheduled release date. After all that waiting and patience for it to arrive, I’d hate to throw it all away and simply hand it back to you. I’m hoping that the development team will be able to handle all the issues that have been discovered, and will be able to turn around a wonderful product once it’s all said and done.

          I have noticed that you guys have made a number of physical modifications since the original deliverables were sent out. Do you have plans to update those of us who got the original, early, somewhat-defective versions?

          As a test, I just unhooked my Lockitron from my front door, and brought it up to my office and sat it about a foot away from my router, to make sure that it wasn’t a signal issue, and that it wasn’t too far away from the router initially. I then gave it a command of unlock from my phone. That was about 3-4 minutes ago, and it STILL has yet to unlock. This tells me that it’s not an issue with the WiFi range from where it was initially, and that there was an even bigger, deeper issue involved. Are there any plans to resolve this one?

          Thanks again for your email, and your willingness to resolve this by returning a defective product. I would rather not return it, but instead would prefer to see it solved and you guys release a quality product. I’ve never “kickstarted” (in quotes, since you guys didn’t run through Kickstarter) a product before, and I had great hopes in your product. Simply returning mine to you for a refund does nothing for all those others out there who have either also preordered one and are patiently waiting for it to arrive, or for those who are thinking about buying one.

          And as an aside, it’s now been about 6 or so minutes since I initially sent the command to unlock. Still waiting…

  5. Stacey

    Thanks for your response Steven! Sounds like we need to look elsewhere and not place any more stock in Lockitron. If I come across any manufacturer of another smartlock I’ll be sure to mention you;d like a trial! 🙂


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