Keeping our home safe is for the vast majority of us, our foremost priority. We don’t want to risk the sanctity of the four walls where we put ourselves in our most vulnerable state. Although considering this is the Army Rumour Service, I know there are a few of us who wouldn’t mind the idea of catching an intruder in our home. Fritzel would be proud of what happened next.
There may be instances however, where people need access to our home, from friends, family to external agencies such as cleaners, builders, etc. Managing that can be a challenge and a common feature now used around the world is the good old outside key box.
A good idea in principle, it can be a bit of a burden nonetheless, such as trusting people not to share the pin code, or having to sort out access in advance. It’s also a weak spot, and we don’t know really, if anyone else is having a shot at trying to get into it for our house key.
Well Master Lock have come up with a novel advancement on the old key box solution that might help get over some of the issues around key sharing.
With the Master Lock 5441D Smart lock, you’ve now got a bit more power and control over such scenarios. At first, I was exceptionally sceptical of what I thought was another Internet of Things device, but it turns out the Smart lock is a bit, eh, smarter than that. Working only via Bluetooth to your phone, it’s not as vulnerable as an IoT device due to the various setup measures specific to the product you’ve bought. Once it’s set up, anyone wanting to subvert the lock would need both your login and password for the Master Lock eVault app, or the technical know-how to bugger about with it electronically. Let’s be honest, most people don’t have that skillset and those that do are likely to be looking at bigger fish than your home.
Essentially, you put it up like any other key box, but with the Master Lock eVault app on your phone, you sync your phone to it over Bluetooth. Once that initial setup is complete (it took me around 5 minutes), you can then set up your primary code, use a temporary time based code, set up separate codes for separate people, or even send out codes for future dates.
Your phone has the master key on it, from which can be generated access codes. These are based on the day and time you want access granted. You can share the access code through whatever medium you like online. For example, your friend has volunteered to house sit, walk the dog and replace your precious whisky stash with diluted water; if they’re the kind of friend you don’t trust enough to actually give a key to (Y’know, the kind that invites Tinder randoms back or turns your house into an Air BnB whilst you’re away) then you can give them the code for a specific day and time window. So if they’re coming round every day at 1600hrs to raid your wife’s knicker drawer, sorry, walk the dog, then you can give them the codes that would apply from 1500-1700hrs each day. This means they can’t reuse the code at any other time. The same applies for your cleaner, guests, etc. You can have multiple codes running at the same time as well, so more than one code can open the box, meaning again, you control access and can monitor who has access the box.
Of course, the system isn’t flawless, in fact, it’s exceptionally flawed just by the very nature of key sharing.
You might be able to control access to the box more effectively with the Master Lock Smart lock, but you’re still relying on them putting the key back once they’re done if that’s how you’ve arranged it. If they don’t put the key back, or go and get it copied, just like any other key box, there’s nothing you can do about it.
One advantage of the Master Lock Smart lock is that it tracks the history of the box. Whenever your phone is synced via Bluetooth to the lock, it will show you the activity report for the box. This lets you see when people came and opened the box, and any failed attempts at PIN entry. If I’ve given the cleaner their own time limited code, I’d be asking questions as to why that code was tried at 0200hrs when I was away on holiday. Likewise, it helps you identify if someone is trying to get access to your box that you’ve not authorised as it’ll show any failed attempts. It’s a good step for a hint that you maybe need to up the protective measures, such as wiring the box into the mains power or digging in a punji trap on the approach.
The app itself is a touch convoluted at times, and has some functionality that’s not really required, but it gives you an excellent forward planning ability in terms of who gets access and when they get it.
My own example is that I have cleaners who come once a week. I trust them enough to let them in my house unaccompanied (internal CCTV, audio recording, PIR movement sensors… all the basic home security measurements…) but I don’t trust anyone enough to give a key to take away. Previously with my old standard key box, I’d manually go and change the code after each visit, and text them the new code. Whilst it worked, it meant that for a period of time, my key was back in the key box, with a code that was known by other people.
Now, I send them a timed code that’ll operate only for a two hour window, and once they put the key back in the box, it can’t be opened again.
The other example is a holiday let home or Air BnB scenario. Guests arriving every week, always needing the key. Forgetting the code, changing the code. This solves that issue as well.
In terms of robustness, it’s a nice, heavy, chunky bit of kit with the usual four points for screwing in to a wall or other solid immovable object. It currently isn’t accredited with any security ratings, but Master Lock say that's currently under review and we'll update as appropriate.
It’s rated for outdoor use, although it doesn’t come with a protective cover which I’d like to see just to make it more discrete. The battery is a CR123a and it comes with a two year warranty. It’s designed to last and if you take the few minutes to set it all up and get your codes sorted, you shouldn’t have to worry again about key access.
A modern day solution for an age old problem, it runs the risk of being caught in the old trap of redundancy should Master Lock ever decide to shut down their app, but that problem exists with pretty much any IoT or app dependant device. The only reassurance with Master Lock is that it’s a huge, international company who have been trading since 1921 and is Fortune listed. So they’re not some random hipster start-up likely to go bust because they’ve spent their development money on Space Hoppers and hair gel.
I have the old Master Lock mechanical key box, fairly similar in design. Would I swap it out for this? Yes, I would, simply because it enhances the security around my key control and access, without as far as I can see, compromising anything. Or I may fit both, and leave the old one in a more obvious location as a decoy for any would be criminals. Again, fed into the mains……
You can buy the Master Lock 5441EURD Bluetooth Smart lock at:
Safe.co.uk for £124.80
Or if you want to get your arrse fingered
Amazon for £179
Top tip folks, don't do what this fuds done and put your house key box next to your front door.....