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 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.


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.  


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.
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.