Review: Schlage LiNK Home Automation System

By David Boyd on 24 Jun 2009 07:56 am EDT
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Schlage Starter Kit

Schlage LiNK was introduced to us earlier this year at CES in Las Vegas . I have been using their first generation keypad for quite some time now, so naturally I was intrigued when I saw Schlage had a new hardware solution available that had features for use with my beloved BlackBerry.

Simply put, Schlage LiNK is the answer to every busy family's needs. The longer version of the story is that it's a secure, web-based system that allows you to monitor and control your Z-Wave enabled door locks, lights, Trane Remote Energy Management Thermostat, and even your Schlage camera from your Schlage LiNK web and mobile interface.

Schlage has been in the security business for over 85 years, and is the standard issue lock on many homes today. They have now taken security one step further and added technology to the mix, and created a home automation solution for the average consumer.

They have achieved this new automation system by using Z-Wave technology. I know several of you reading this already know what Z-Wave is, but then there are several more still who have no idea what I'm talking about. For the record here, I was in the clueless category. I had to do some research to educate myself, and according to Z-Wave.com here is what it's all about:

Z-Wave is a next-generation wireless ecosystem that lets all your home electronics talk to each other, and to you, via remote control. It uses simple, reliable, low-power radio waves that easily travel through walls, floors, and cabinets. Z-Wave control can be added to almost any electronic device in your house, even devices that you wouldn't ordinarily think of as "intelligent," such as appliances, window shades, thermostats and home lighting.

Well that just cleared things up didn't it? In a nutshell, Z-Wave is a wireless communications standard designed for home automation in residential and light commercial environments.

Now that we have the basis down, let's move on to the good stuff.

Z-Wave

Setup & Installation

The Schlage LiNK starter kit comes with your choice of a lever lock or deadbolt, Schlage Wireless Bridge (Z-Wave controller), one Schlage Light Module, one ethernet cable, and batteries. There are three finishes available: Bright Brass, Satin Nickel, and Aged Bronze.  

Unboxing

The starter kit comes with simple instructions on how to replace the lock on your door, or if need be, what you need to do to install a lock for the first time. Since I already had a first generation Schlage keypad deadbolt on my door, it was very simple for me to install the new Schlage LiNK deadbolt. I had it installed in less than 15 minutes.

Now that the lock is installed, it was time to place the battery in the ethernet bridge and enroll the lock and the light module into the system. This was also a quick and easy process. The instructions provided were very clear and easy to understand. Lastly, it was time to go to the internet, and setup the online account.

Setting up an account on the Schlage LiNK web user interface is just as easy as installing the Schlage LiNK System. For less than fifty cents a day and no long term contracts, you'll have unlimited remote access to your Schlage LiNK system via the web and your BlackBerry device. With it, you can receive email updates, text messages, access remote management tools and all the other benefits your system provides.

The access fee is a low $12.99/month. Well worth it in my opinion for the functionality you can and will get from the system.

Quick Start Guide
 
Once my online account was setup, I added my Bold, as well as my wife's to the online system. The nice thing about the account setup is that you can practically add as many phones as you want to the account. I asked Schlage how many it could officially support, and while they did not have an answer, they did tell me that at most conferences they attend, they'll have about 40-50 phones active on the one account. Now tell me what household would need more than that??? 
 
I went into the lock settings and added our personal code, as well as one for CrackBerry testing purposes. I setup the CrackBerry code to send us text alerts. This is a great feature that you can enable to see when someone activates the door lock and enters the house. The lock can store up to 19 codes, so everyone in the house can have their own code. You can also set up codes for a maid service, or other service people that may need access to your house. Once that code is entered, each phone that is setup to receive alerts will be sent a text and/or email notifying them that code has been used. This is great for working parents who want to know when their child has arrived home!
 
At this point you can also set up and scenes and schedules for you other Z-Wave devices you may have.
 
 
Operational Aspects
 
I could go on and on about how the system works, but it seemed a little easier to just make the below video. I'll give you advanced warning; it's just over 7 minutes long so if you need more coffee, go grab it now before you press play :) 
 
 
That was just a quick demo on how the system works, and what it can do with the limited amount of accessories I have on my system. The great thing about the Z-Wave protocol is that it can support up to 232 devices on the system. I think I still have room to expand. Actually, I think adding some more devices like a wireless camera and thermostat would make for a great followup review! 
 
Since I don't have a wireless camera, let's talk about the wired camera. As I said in the video, it is very much like an ordinary web cam. The quality isn't the greatest, but you can definitely see what is going on when viewing it on your PC or BlackBerry. I have used the application my both my Bold and Curve 8900, and I have found the video quality works the same on 3G as it does on EDGE. I can only assume that 1XEV devices will be ok as well. The biggest limitation I found was the fact that it's a wired camera. I really wanted to use it at my front door, but I ran into the issue that I didn't want to have an ethernet wire out in the open for all my guests to see, let alone for me to see. Therefore, for now I just have it in my office, placed close to my wireless router.
 
Camera setup
 
Schlage has a wireless camera available to get around this issue, but I haven't had a chance to test it out yet. It should give greater freedom to where you can place the camera, but a limitation that both cameras have is that neither are rated for outdoor use. I'd really like to see Schlage develop a camera for outdoor use that has some kind of nightvision abilities. 
 
 
Available Accessories
 
As I mentioned previously, each Z-Wave system can handle up to 232 devices. That's not a Schlage limitation; it is a Z-Wave standard. Now of course I'm curious on how they settled for 232, but that's an article for another time.
 
Schlage has a limited amount of accessories now; a wired camera, wireless camera; light module, and a new released Trane thermostat. There are several other companies that make Z-Wave enabled products, and a quick search of the web can lead you to many retail outlets.
 
Schlage informed me that they are looking into more accessories, but do not have any information they could release to me at this time on what we might see on the horizon. I personally would love to see a Schlage Z-Wave enabled garage door opener, or an add-on to my existing garage door opener that would allow me to control my garage door from anywhere with my BlackBerry, and check on the status on whether it is open or closed. I can't tell you how many times I have left the house and asked myself if I shut the garage door. This would take care of that question in my mind. 
 
 
Where to Buy
 
The Schlage LiNK starter kit retails for $299 and is available at a variety of online retailers , and is just now starting to trickle in to Lowe's Stores nationwide.
 
 
Conclusion
 
The Schlage LiNK starter kit is a great way for any family to get into home automation at a very reasonable price. The monthly fee for the web/BlackBerry access is very low, especially for the amount of control it can give you over your home when you're away, and for the peace of mind you can get when you receive a message that your child has arrived home.
 
Hopefully I answered any questions that you may have had during this review, but if not, please feel free to ask away in the comments sections, or follow me on Twitter and ask me there.
 

Reader comments

Review: Schlage LiNK Home Automation System

41 Comments

The original, non-wifi version of this lock is fantastic (sold at big box stores). And that version doesn't leave you saddled with yet another monthly assault on your revenue streams. I would wait until they drop the fees.

This should be a contest! ;)
Just bought a fixer upper and would love to try this but the hardware is expensive at $200-$300. Now, if I got free ;) ;) I might just be able to stomach the monthly subscription...otherwise, I'm sticking with my old-school Schlage deadbolt and hardware that will go on my new door after other renovations.

"The access fee is a low $12.99/month"

Pretty cool but who needs another bill. They could have easily done this without charging a subscription fee. What happens when nobody buys this and they cancel the web service?

I too dislike the $12.99/month, but I suppose that it compares favorably to a standard security system monitoring fee. A DIY solution would be preferable.

The biggest problem that I have with using the Schlage Link online system is the dependency on their proprietary monitoring service. If for some reason in two years they decide that their service is not financially viable, they may choose to shut it down. If they shut it down, all the investment goes down the tubes. A DIY solution doesn't depend on the financial stability of a service provider.

Again, I suppose this compares favourably with a standard security system. If your security system provider went under, you would probably have to install a new security system anyways.

For a $12.99/month subscription fee, I expect to receive a significant discount on the hardware. They should be subsidizing my hardware through the subscription fee, like a cell phone. Sign me up for a two-year plan and give me $300 off the hardware and I think we would have a deal!

A good first step. Let's hope other security system providers jump on this boat and provide some competition.

squished

This assumes that your Storm will actually work; with my lock I would lock my self out because my phone froze.

Wow, I was ready to go buy it today (it is my birthday after all) but I'm not dropping $300 + $13/mo!!! Drop the monthly fees, and I'm in!!! Why do you need monthly fees anyways? If you charge that much and you sell these like crazy is it not enough to support the server...someone's planning on retiring on this bad boy!!! Cool product...not worth that much!

I've been using the Schlage Link for several months now, and, just ordered one camera - more if I like it. I use it for my 2 apartments, bi-coastal, and, control it all from my Blackberry very easily. I can let anyone in, or create a temp code for someone, while I'm sitting anywhere in the world (which I do a lot).

I remember when this was first posted - I've been wanting it so bad since. My neighbors have the 'regular' Schlage number dead bolt thing and yeah. I'd settle for that but I like being able to see if someone is f-ing w/ my door and being able to see when someone is coming in, etc.

This is close, but why hasn't any company come up with a keychain fob to unlock your house just like you can with your car? Carrying a lot of groceries makes it annoying to fumble with a key, so why not have something where you can press a button and have the door or deadbolt unlock for you? I guess you could use the system for this, but a fob would be a million times easier.

You might be a good candidate for biometric door locks. They're Easier and FAR more secure than a key fob could be. The advantage to the key fob might be that you could unlock from your car before you have stuff in your arms, but with the security risks I'm not sure I would want that. And putting your finger on the door lock when you get to the door is MUCH easier than inserting and turning a key with your hands full, so the biometric locks give you most of the advantage you are looking for while maintaining a very high level of security. Hopefully I won't get in trouble for this, but feel free to email me at charles at daxsys dot net if you are interested in learning more about biometric locks. Those sold at most hardware stores, such as Schlage aren't very good, so you need to know what you're getting into before you just buy one.

ZOMG!!!!! Schlage locks aren't any good but I bet the ones you sell are the most secure locks EVER!!!!!!

Let me get this straight, my hands are so full I cannot put the key in the lock and turn it but getting the same hand free to swipe my thumb on the reader a few times is sooooooo much easier? And I still need to turn the handle!!!
LOL You might as well have just told us the previous owner was an old woman who only used it to go to church once a week.

Does your biometric lock have a key backup? If so the level of security is the same as the Schlage lock. All someone with internet access needs to do is google how to bump the lock and your lock will be a safe as the cheapest hardware store lock.

The high security (HS) BioAxxis locks have an 8 pin horizontal keyway that is impossible to bump, drill, pick, ??? Plus, the keys can not be copied without the security code and the deadbolt is ANSI Grade 1 rated. It is also impossible to copy a fingerprint and use it with the BioAxxis locks. Do some research you will find that the BioAxxis deadbolts are the highest rated in the industry for security and reliability. Again, I'm, only trying to offer an alternative and to protect someone from making a mistake. I don't make a living off this...it's just a product that I truly believe in. Yes, I am an authorized dealer, but it's something I do on the side for the fun of it. If I didn't believe in it I wouldn't be doing this.

Bad news, Chuck. The company you represent makes misleading claims about their products.

From the Bioaxxis website, here are some claims and then the truth:
"The UL-listed ANSI Grade II cylindrical latch..."
There is not one single Bioaxxis product listed in the ANSI/BHMA Certified Products Directory (CPD), unlike Schlage, whose residential products (including Schlage LiNK) are all listed Grade 2 or Grade 3 and whose commercial products are Grade 1. See for yourself, the CPD is posted on www.buildershardware.com.
"...creates an impassable barrier that is virtually a guarantee against unwanted entry."
If you sell locks, you must know that there is no such thing as an impassable barrier or a guarantee against unwanted entry. Please. Locks can be picked, bumped, smashed, or otherwise defeated by a determined criminal. Not to mention windows, doors, walls, and ceilings.
"And the BioAxxis L113 Series is the first – and only – biometric lock to feature a biometric access control system."
Not sure about the semantics here, but there are plenty of biometric access control systems on the market, including Recognition Systems' Handkey and Fingerkey.

By definition, a lock with both a biometric credential AND a key cylinder is LESS secure than a lock with only a key cylinder. Not saying biometrics don't have nice advantages, but if you also have a mechanical key override, better security is not one of those advantages.

I would be suspicious of any product that claims that it "meets ANSI Grade 2" but doesn't actually get certified by BHMA.

concept is cool but I will take a best access systems lock.
sunburned.....they have this in commercial building applications where you hold your fob up in the vicinity of the reader....tracks incoming and exiting information for that individual....when designing schools admin monitored staff who snuck out for breaks, etc. but it is too expensive for home applications.

For it to be effective or feasible I see them teaming up with security companies like ADT and offer all in one solution.

I was semi-interested in this system before I read this review. The fact that there is a monthly fee on top of a hugely overpriced set of locks and a useless camera kills it. Like someone above said, if they were to almost completely subsidize the hardware cost via contract on monthly fees, maybe...

I am sitting here thinking to myself how often I would even use this. I am married, but have no kids, so I dont need alerts or anything - plus, I have a remote keypad for my garage door in the unlikely event I somehow lost my keys and garage door opener at the same time. "Never" comes to mind, at least on the remote unlocking feature.

A wired webcam? Useless. Most people do not have ethernet running to optimal locations in their house, and more people have their router (for direct connection) hidden in a room or closet somewhere because they are generally unsightly. Even if you have ethernet all over your house, do you want to see the cable and power adapter/wire?

The reviewer must have been given this system for free. If I paid this much, I surely wouldnt have given it such a glowing review, and I would be returning it. If he actually paid for it, I pitty him. If this is so, he must be trying to justify in his mind the past, present, and future outlay of cash he has, does, and will deal with.

Schlage really missed the mark on this product. I dont even think Billy Mays could sell this, and that guy can sell anything - for $19.99 - order now and you will get a second useless wired webcam for free (just pay additional S&H) :)

I'd buy it in a heartbeat, were it not for the monthly fee. If I'm buying a system for that much coin, it should be included.

I like the monitoring thing (except it shouldn't cost that much), but for an actual lock I think I'll stick with my high security BioAxxis units.

It looks like in the video, after you press the Schlage button to activate the locking mechanism, you could both unlock and lock the bolt - does that mean anyone could come up, press the Schlage button, and unlock your door without needing a code?

Thanks for your review!

No, once the lock is in the locked position, simply pressing the Schlage logo won't activate the locking mechanism anymore. Only the correct 4-digit code with work.

What other time are you talking about? We have seen it at CES, and given one away for the birthday contest, but it has not been reviewed on the blogs before.

Is the wireless camera, 802.11b, g, or n? Can't seem to find anything on the internet related to the wireless camera's specs, particularly the wireless protocol it operates on and I'm interested in its speed of transmission, obviously.

I really love the concept, but the fee kills the deal. The other thing no one is talking about is; if you move, then what? Do you have to get another account for your new place? Do you take the lock with you? $300 for the hardware, in addition to the monthly reoccurring fee... whats next overages for accessing the server more than 10 times a month?? Great concept, charge me $500 for the lock and no $13/month privilege to own fee...

The Schlage lock name has been around for some time and it is one of the better names in home door locks. As with many brands of locks, they have several levels of security available. The average home lock is in the medium to a bit more in cost and is more than enough for most homes. The more secure the lock, the more you pay. As for their new system, it is a good one if all you want is a secure lock.
The monthly charge is ok, but I personally would lean towards a home security system. The home security system monitoring fees run from around $30 a month and up, depending on what you want done. Major brands like Napco and Ademco make home systems that can do all this product does and also monitor fire, burglary, medical, freeze, lights, temperature, cameras (day and nite and in real time)door access and control ( including overhead doors ), interior protection, car alert, cellular connections, and remote control of the entire system via your laptop or cell phone. I can watch the snow fall outside my house in Maine as I am at work in Connecticut - way too cool!! I am 61 y/o and I did it all by myself(who says we are too old to learn and have fun dong it =)

AFter reading this review, I decided to puchase a link system and installed as per instructions. After downloading the blackberry software and entering in a registration code, it proceeded to tell me "not sufficient data coverage in your area" after 5 full bars and wifi connection. I have contacted Schlage three times about this issue finally to be told that they do not have any agreement with any Canadian carriers, maybe in the fourth quarter. So I am stuck with a $300 door lock and an additional $145 service fee that I cannot even use. GOOD WORK!!!!

these locks also work with vera from micasaverde.com and with homeseer found at homeseer.com both allowing the same functions and no monthly fees!

I also am not quite sure about the $13 a month after investing $299. Understand, there are servers to maintain. But it does make the decision more difficult.

Now that has possibilites. z-wave lever lock for less than $200 and it says you can control it with homeseer software. Although I am still looking for BB SW. Downside, the Homeseer sw runs between $200 and $500, depending of features.

No such thing as a free ride.