Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Are Wi-Fi smartlocks a not so smart idea?

Wi-Fi smartlocks have copped their fair share of criticism lately, especially about hacking, e.g see this Gizmodo article here about August smartlock issues, and this smartlock review here enabling robberies. and this CBC smartlock hacking review.

Secondly, the most obvious thing you need for Wi-Fi smart locks to work is a stable Wi-Fi internet on site. Put simply if you have a Wi-Fi smartlock and your Wi-Fi on your property is not stable, you smartlock won't work, and you may find yourself locked out. And to get stable Wi-Fi on your property it helps if you have a fast, reliable network to build your Wi-Fi on. If you have a slow internet network you will get network congestion, bottlenecks, and overloads causing the Wi-Fi to often drop. So this means if you live in places like Australia, or China, or Indonesia which ranked 44, 75 and 77 respectively in for internet speed and reliability in a recent 'State of the Internet' study (see Akimai report here), then Wi-Fi smart locks could pose a few problems for you (in addition to the aforementioned hacking problems).

So having said all that, Wi-Fi smart locks are surely not a good idea in hotels and resorts in countries that have 'crappy internet' like China, Indonesia and Australia.

We've recently uncovered another barrier for Wi-Fi smartlocks in hotels and resorts in Australia which also helps to explain why many hotels and resorts down under still don't have free Wi-Fi. That barrier is called 'Body Corporates'. Perhaps you have something similar in your country?

Show me the Wi-Fi!
In Australia, other than the Internet/Wi-Fi being slow and expensive, because of a crappy network you have these creatures blocking on-site Wi-Fi infrastructure called 'Body Corporates'. When you buy into an apartment or townhouse in Australia, you usually buy into a Body Corporate that manages the building or a complex as a whole. See this article here titled 'Body Corporates - a help or hindrance' for more information. An owner can pay between A$15-$200 per week to the body corporate for garden maintenance, paying for the electricity to illuminate hallways and common areas, and for other things such as insurance.  Many body corporates have these strict by-laws set in concrete from bygone days (which are almost impossible to change). Body corporates often complain they have no money too (although in reality this may be different). Body corporates also complain they can't spend money because they're saving for a rainy day (like a hurricane blowing off the roof, or having to replace all the plumbing in a building), although in reality they often sit on these massive sinking funds which build week by week with all the rent paid by all the tenants in the building. Body corporates are also pedantic when it comes to occupational health and safety too.

Often hotels and resorts in Australia are managed by body corporates. So if a hotel wants to install Wi-Fi infrastructure throughout a hotel such as access point boxes, switches, routers, booster devices, and cabling then they'll need body corporate approval, and someone has to pay for it. They also require power. If a body corporate by-law says that "no devices, or infrastructure can be installed in hallways, or to walls in rooms, or something like that", then 'good luck' getting that Wi-Fi network installed.

Recently we had a Wi-Fi installer come into our office to install a booster box to improve our terrible Wi-Fi signal which was constantly dropping. We asked the installer to put the booster box in the hallway, as we didn't want to pay for its ongoing power, and that way, other offices in the area can take advantage of the boosted signal too. But the Wi-Fi installer told us, the body corporate would not let him install the booster box in hallways. When we asked the installer if this was common, he said, 'yes, most body corporates don't allow us to attach any of our infrastructure to buildings, we are usually only allowed to install our devices in the yards'.

Then I asked him, 'so does that mean that most buildings, hotels and resorts you install into in Australia have bad wi-fi speeds, which constantly drop, and have problems connecting to, as a result of this?', he said, 'yes, its in our best interests to have our devices inside buildings, hallways, rooms, otherwise we get a bad reputation, the signals are terrible, and people are always complaining'.

So the bottom line here, or the moral of the story is, 'if you are a hotel or resort, managed by a body corporate or the like, or if you live in a townhouse, or apartment managed by a body corporate or the like, and if you live in country that has 'crappy internet', then don't worry about getting Wi-Fi smartlocks.

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