Should You Back Elecpro’s US:E Smart Lock?By - 02/06/2019
It surprises me that companies are still trying to bust into smart home niches already crowded by established products. Normally, such bravery is backed by the knowledge that the company is bringing something unique to the niche; something we haven’t seen before. For Elecpro, their US:E smart locks, currently funding on Kickstarter, do indeed offer a twist.
The locks include a built-in camera with 3D facial recognition. This type of dual-purpose device was popular at CES 2019 with Ring bringing forward a peephole doorbell and Hipcam showcasing a video doorbell with an exterior facing camera for two-way audio and video. But still, US:E is different. Think of it as a smart lock with a dash of video doorbell.
US:E is a Camera and a Doorbell
US:E is a smart lock with a built-in camera and doorbell. The lock comes in three colors: white, gold, and grey and works with most door types. It’s battery powered and can last up to 12 months on a single charge. If you can’t charge the battery right away, you can use the micro-USB interface to provide power to the lock.
The doorbell feature of the lock includes a chime that is built into the lock itself. It’s volume adjustable but cannot ring an existing chime. Both versions of US:E (yes, there are two versions, we will get to that later) include a camera. Both versions also include two-way audio.
When someone approaches your door, the lock’s doorbell feature will alert you. You can then open the app to view who is at your door. If it’s someone you recognize, you can unlock the door from the same screen or use the two-way audio feature to have a conversation.
The camera uses a 1/4 CMOS Image Sensor and offers a 180-degree field of view. It has a 1080p resolution during the day, but I don’t know about night vision. While Elecpro has noted that facial recognition works day or night, they have made no such claim about the camera itself.
Using US:E as a Lock
With so many unique features to discuss, it’s easy to forget that US:E’s primary function is a smart lock. And remember, there are two locks including a Facial Recognition version and a Password version.
The differences between the two locks are few. In short, the Password version supports fingerprint scanning. The Facial Recognition version supports palmprint scanning and facial recognition.
The Many Ways to Unlock a Door
Another thing that sets US:E apart from the competition is the various ways you can control the lock. Let’s look at them all.
1. Facial Recongition (Requires Facial Recognition Version)
Facial recognition is enabled by the locks built-in camera. When you approach the lock, you can press to wake it up. You will then use the screen to position your face for scanning. If your face is recognized, the door will unlock. According to Elecpro, this feature works during the day and at night. The device can store and remember up to one hundred faces. Elecpro also claims that the lock is smart enough to tell the difference between a photograph of you and you, hence the term “3D facial recognition.”
2. Palmprint Scanning (Requires Facial Recognition Version)
The Facial Recognition lock also supports palmprint scanning. You simply stick your palm in front of the lock’s camera instead of your face. It should recognize your palm and unlock the door.
3. Fingerprint Scanning (Requires Password Version)
The Password lock offers fingerprint scanning. On the lock itself, located above the cylinder, you will find a small fingerprint scanner. When you touch your finger to the scanner, the door will unlock. The Password lock supports up to one hundred fingerprints.
4. Mobile App
Of course, you can also use the included app to lock and unlock your door. As mentioned above, this option is accessible even while live streaming from the lock’s camera.
5. Physical Key, Key Fob, or Pin Code
If all else fails, you can open the door the old fashioned way: using a physical key. You can also use a key fob or a pin code/password.
Both locks support passwords, allowing you to unlock your door using a six-digit pin code. This specific method also has a couple of built-in safety measures. For starters, both locks will send a notification to your phone if someone attempts to incorrectly enter a passcode more than five times. The lock will also lock itself for three minutes. On a related note, you can set the lock to sound an alarm if someone enters the wrong password more than three times.
Both locks also support a feature called scramble code. You can add random numbers before and after your actual passcode to throw off any nosey onlookers.
6. Double Verification (Requires Password Version)
Finally, the Password version offers a feature called double verification. This means that you will need to use two methods to unlock the door. For example, you might combine fingerprint and password, fingerprint and fob, fingerprint and key, etc.
Things to Think About
Do we need so many ways to unlock a door? I’m not convinced we do.
It seems to me that the more technology packed into the lock, the greater the chance for error or performance issues, not to mention a greater security risk. Speaking of facial recognition for a moment, it’s not uncommon for my Nest Hello to misidentify me. It’s identified both my cleaning lady and my mom as me, even after several months of use. I wouldn’t at all trust Nest Hello to unlock my door based on recognition so why would I trust Elecpro? While Elecpro has created other products, it’s not a company I’ve heard of nor are they well known in the smart home space. That said, enabling double verification on all locks, not just the Password lock, would provide more peace of mind.
My second concern is related to the first; we don’t know a whole lot about Elecpro. With increased competition in the smart home field, we are seeing more and more companies packing up and leaving; even companies assumed to be well-established like Iris by Lowes. Though Elecpro is offering something new, they are still taking a great risk. If they go out of business, there is no guarantee that your lock will continue to work.
Third, the lock is rated ANSI Grade 3, which is the lowest grade. According to doorware.com, “Grade 3: Usually used as a secondary security measure on a door…Can withstand 2 strikes of 75 pounds of force (90 foot-pounds).” We can compare this to the Schlage Connect which is ANSI Grade 1. It can withstand 10 strikes of 75-pound-force.
Finally, there are still some unknowns surrounding the device itself like cloud storage for video clips, night vision, and plans for future third-party integrations.
All that said, I can see the appeal. US:E is filling a void. For example, I’m currently helping a friend convert her vacation home into a smart vacation home. As she owns a condo, we can’t add an exterior camera, but she can add a lock, and she could certainly add a lock with a camera.
Elecpro expects to ship US:E in May. At this time they are still accepting pre-orders on Kickstarter. You can purchase a Password Version for $169 or the Facial Recognition Version for $259. Purchases include a 12-month standard warranty and free U.S. shipping. You can learn more on Kickstarter.com where you will also find deals on multi-lock purchases.
*Photo Credit Elecpro