Consider all the touch points in a morning routine: alarm clock, toothbrush, coffee pot, thermostat, weather report, newspaper. They’re all tactile parts of the home that can now come rigged with WiFi or sensors, and operated via a smartphone. The boom in home automation is disrupting nearly every piece of old plastic junk that we’re used to dealing with. Next up: the front door.
"We’ve been carrying keys for a long time, and they’re sharp pieces of metal in our pockets," says fuseproject CEO Yves Béhar. "But the door is used five, six, twenty times a day." Béhar and fuseproject, along with co-founder Jason Johnson, have the latest entry in the home automation market with the August Smart Lock. August rethinks virtually every part of how we approach and secure the entryways to our homes, starting with the lock itself. Johnson, a managing partner at the incubator Founders Den, wanted to create something with the seamless integration of Sonos speakers or the Nest Learning Thermostat. Like the Nest, August is a circular piece of hardware that replaces the interior half of a traditional lock and is designed for the easiest possible installation (which the founders estimate takes five to seven minutes, on average). LED lights in green and red signal the status of the lock, as does a notched ring around the August that’s easy to see from a distance. "Moments of experience are carefully crafted in the hardware," Béhar says. "So the speaker is facing outward, and you will hear it," confirming that the door locked behind you.
The August app opens up first to a keychain—just like reaching into a pocket or purse and finding keys bundled up—then moves to whether the lock is open or closed. Guests can be added quickly via a contacts list, and given keys for specific dates and times. Those keys communicate back to the owner the arrival and departure times for guests, adding a new layer in home security. Overall, the greatest convenience of August is that homeowners won’t even need to retrieve their phone to get in the door—the hardware recognizes the phone via Bluetooth, and can auto-unlock even when bags of groceries are in hand.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because August isn’t the first smartphone-controlled lock to hit this new market. Last October, we wrote about Lockitron, a hardware-and-app combo that digitized locking and unlocking doors. Both products affix to the inside of the door, sync to an app, and let homeowners grant access to friends, dog walkers, Airbnb renters, and so on.
August and Lockitron diverge in a major way when it comes to style. The August hardware is designed specifically for subtlety: "We’ve heard a lot of feedback on various products and how they don’t blend in with home décor," Johnson says. "We allow for August to match or stand out. We see it as an object of pride that doesn’t scream tech." So August comes in eight different colors, one of which is likely to match the door or handle’s finish (Lockitron comes in four). Fuseproject’s trademark intuitive, but invisible, ergonomics show through in the notched ring around the outside. It’s also a circle, which echoes the round functional shape of traditional locks. By comparison, the Lockitron is a two-toned rectangular box.
The two gadgets differentiate in another, less tangible way: Whereas Lockitron functions like a handy tool, August will also have a social component. "Once you make things safer, there’s other magical things you can do," Béhar says. Those include creating dinner-party invitations to friends. "We’re also very excited about having a guest book in the app. I personally love when people leave notes on the fridge; now there will be notes in the app."
August will be available for $199.