Tag Archives: Outdoors

Open sesame! The Yale keyless connected lock

I’ve been wanting to expand our connected home into access control, and with Yale’s latest offering my head was turned.

Inspired by the opening seconds of this guy’s home control setup, I wanted to make sure that the lock would have a few different methods of user detection.  The lock itself had to be able to interface with the home control system and I wanted to be able to use keys or cards of some description to open the door.  This lock ticks all the boxes.

smartlock

The lock itself appears very well made and solid (as expected from Yale) and was surprisingly easy to fit as only one additional hole needs to be drilled (for the cable to be passed from the front keypad to the battery pack and home control interface that is affixed to the inside of the door).  You can choose when fitting the lock if you want to turn the knob clockwise or anticlockwise to open the latch.  I opted for both.

When not in use the keypad remains unlit and just looks like an inconspicuous glossy black panel.

There are a few methods to open the door: firstly you can place your palm on the black area to light up the keypad, then enter a particular code.  The codes can be of varying lengths for different users.  After confirming the code, the keypad lights animate in a ‘waterfall’ pattern to indicate that entry is permitted.  If an incorrect entry is made, some numbers extinguish while the 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 numerals blink to make an ‘X’ shape.

Alternatively, and this is where my gadget-loving heart goes aflutter, you can use RFID keyfobs or key cards available from Yale or other retailers.  These are not expensive and are very useful.  To gain entry you simply present the item to the centre of the keypad (marked with the word ‘CARD’) and access is granted.  As simple as that.

There are also 3 modules that can be bought for the lock and slotted into the top.  The first is to link the lock to Yale’s proprietary security system, another is to enable the lock to be opened from a longer distance via a remote control keyfob and the third connects the lock to a home control hub using the Z-wave protocol.

yale-snippet1

The actual mechanism seems to connect the outside knob with the inside latch when engaged (by default for 6 seconds) then after this period the connection is released so the knob moves freely but does not move the latch and therefore effectively no longer allows entry.

The memory is set up in the lock for twenty users.  These users can either have a code, a key fob, a card or a mobile-phone tag.  The user can have one code and one of the wireless devices.

There are many options to ensure you are happy with the lock, from selecting the volume of the beeps emitted, to the length of time the lock will remain unlocked after a validated entry is permitted.  There is also the facility to enter a 24-hour code so that a visitor can let themselves in for a day but then the code is erased from the lock’s memory.

We have been using this lock for a month or so now.  There have been no problems with it and indeed it has been quite a talking point at times.  The main benefit I have had is the knowledge that that horrible moment when you pull the door closed and realise that you have forgotten your keys is a thing of the past.  You can just type in your code to get back in.  It’s also a strangely liberating feeling to nip out without taking keys.

I can also see this lock benefiting an older person who perhaps lives alone and is cared for by rotating staff.  Each staff member can be given their own code and perhaps even a keyfob, so that they can gain access when required.  If and when that member of staff leaves their employment, the lock can simply forget that member of staff so access would not be granted again.  Relatives could also respond if a neighbour found that the older person had wandered outside and needed to get back in, by giving the neighbour a code to allow the safe return of the occupant.

More fun and games are to be had when I get the interface module for Z-wave.  For now, however, I’m really pleased with this lock and would heartily recommend it for geeks, gadget lovers and forgetful families alike.

 

Outdoor lighting

Unless you are lucky enough to have pre-wired lighting in outdoor spaces, it can be hard to link outdoor lighting to a home automation setup.  There aren’t many wireless and battery powered lights that can be controlled with radio signals, because ‘listening’ for the radio signals all the time will drain the batteries pretty quickly.

As part of my ‘ready for summer’ programme, we’ve just attached a reed fence to the back balcony, primarily so we can let our cat out for a bit of sun now and then so she doesn’t launch herself off the 3rd floor.  But me being me, I wanted some form of home control out there,  Of course, I could take out the Hue Go and I’m sure I will especially when summer (and wine) comes.  But it would be nice to have something permanent out there.

I remembered that I had a couple of the Lightwaverf LED lights we used to use in the kitchen and bathroom.  These are small white blocks, with a cluster of 3 bright LEDs (powered by 3 AAA batteries) encapsulated in a transparent circle that also acts as an on/off button.  The boffins at Lightwaverf have managed to work out how to use very little energy with these lights, so replacing the batteries does not need to happen as often as you might guess.

They’re perfect for mood lighting so I guessed they would have enough oomph for a double balcony.  They do indeed as the below images will testify!

backbalc1

balcony2

The lights themselves are not waterproof, so after some careful consideration (and rummaging around the house) I gathered together 2 old (clean!) takeaway boxes and some trusty super-strength double-sided sticky foam.  I stuck the top (the flat end) of the box to the wall, then the whole LED unit onto the surface, then pushed what was the bottom of the box (now the front of the light) on.  To replace the batteries I’ll just have to remove the ‘cover’ and then slide out the LED from its integrated holder.

Although (as in the picture) the lights look rather industrial, I like them!  Of course, you could encase the lights in whatever waterproof enclosure you want, just remember that you will have to open them at some stage to replace the batteries.

Now the lights were not accessible by human hands, I had to devise a way of switching them on and off.  I’d already linked them up with Domoticz, so we could use the app to control the lights.  But that’s not enough, is it!  As all 3 doors to the flat (and some doors inside the flat) have open/closed sensors, I hooked up the lights to the balcony door.  When the door opens, the lights come on for 5 minutes.  That’s enough to find a seat, set up a table and then decide if you’re staying out there, in which case you can use the Domoticz interface to keep the lights on.

One more thing… I didn’t want the lights to come on during the day when the door is opened.  That would just be wasteful.  As I had already set up a dummy switch called ‘Dusk’ that switches on just before sunset and switches off at sunrise, I could add this to the mix.

Just this much text as a script in your domoticz folder on your Pi achieves this.  It’s really that simple.

commandArray = {}
if (devicechanged['DOOR Chester Balcony'] == 'Open' and otherdevices['VAR Dusk'] == 'On' and otherdevices['Rear Balcony Lights'] == 'Off') then
 commandArray['Rear Balcony Lights'] = 'On FOR 5'
end
return commandArray

So even for someone who has no knowledge of programming, you can see what’s going on here.  In English:

If Chester’s door has just opened, and it’s dark enough to need lights and the balcony lights are not already on, switch on the balcony lights for 5 minutes.

Interestingly, the lights as in the picture were just too far away from the transceiver attached to the Pi to receive the signals reliably.  So there could have been the potential for one or both of the lights to stay on, even after they had been told to switch off.  To solve this, I used a LightwaveRF branded signal repeater, a really useful device that acts like a wifi repeater, but for home automation radio commands.

backbalc3

As for the balcony, it’s going to be great for summer.  But the cat might not be allowed on it as much as we’d hoped – within 5 minutes of her exploring her new space, I was prising her off the banister as she determinedly tried to fling herself off from the third floor.  I’ll have to think of a way that our home automation setup can prevent this!