A black panel on the top half of the Brinks Array connected deadbolt looks unassuming at a glance, but when I looked closer, I saw the familiar lines of a solar panel. Slide the panel up, and it reveals a keypad underneath. The Brinks Array, the first smart lock from the reputed security firm, looks industrial, but along with solar power, it packs in plenty of friendly features. And Brinks is hoping the lock makes plenty of friends, as it's aiming to integrate the lock with all major smart home platforms including Apple's HomeKit, Google Brillo, and Samsung's SmartThings.
With built-in Wi-Fi, the Brinks Array connects directly to your router so you can use the iOS or Android app to lock and unlock your door from anywhere. That's expected for a smart lock, but most of the ones we've tested use Bluetooth to help their batteries last longer. Wi-Fi draws more power than the lower energy, shorter range Bluetooth.
The solar panel draws charge from any light source.Tyler Lizenby/CNET
Brinks mitigates the problem with a Lithium battery that can supposedly last a full year on its own under normal use, and the solar panel should hopefully keep it going much longer than that. A representative was hopeful that in a home with a moderate amount of direct sunlight, the panel could last a lifetime.
Without direct sunlight, you might have to replace those batteries eventually, but the unique tech of the Brinks Array can supposedly draw at least some power from any light source. Even your porchlight will charge it a bit. 1 hour of sunlight gives it 3% of its annual battery life, meaning you'd really only need roughly 33 hours over the course of the year to keep it fully charged.
How much power it draws from other sources is unclear, and the Brinks representative I spoke to didn't offer any battery estimates between the base of one year with no charge and his ambitious hope of a lifetime. That's understandable as the lock is still in the early stages of development, and not due out until later this year. Though, the hardware at least looked pretty well finished when I saw it at CES 2016. The app, however, wasn't ready for a demo.
The rest of the lock's features are pretty standard
- You can issue electronic keys that only work within a limited time frame
- You can see time stamps of who unlocked the door when
- The smartphone averse members of your family can unlock the door with the keypad under the solar panel or an old-fashioned key.
When you're leaving, you can simply press the button on the front and the deadbolt will seal. For obvious security reasons, that button functionality doesn't work for unlocking the door.
Hopefully, by the time the lock is ready for retail, you'll have plenty of ways to include the Brinks Array in your larger smart home. Brinks is targeting all of the major platforms, and if it can pull off the trick of making friends with Apple, Google, and Samsung simultaneously, it'll position itself as a top contender in the rapidly growing field of connected deadbolts.