Though you may not give it much thought, the front door is one of the most important parts of your home. You cross through it to unwind and shed off the stress of a long day at work. You welcome friends and family as you gather to make memories. You stand at the door every morning to watch your child get on the bus, or you hurry out the door to catch an Uber to take you to the airport as you head for a sunny destination.
Sentimentality aside, your front door also provides invaluable protection. When locked, it helps keep you, your family, and your valuables safe from bad weather and unwanted intruders.
Style and security. That’s what a front door shows and symbolizes. Now, a new smart deadbolt lock named Alfred has arrived on the landscape to give your front door the commanding attention it deserves while keeping you secure. Boasting a sleek, brushed faceplate and smooth touchscreen keypad, Alfred stands ready to keep your home safe while welcoming you home with one-touch Bluetooth access.
The Burn-In recently spoke with Brad Cook in Partner Development at Alfred to learn more about this exquisitely-designed and thoughtfully-integrated new lock.
Members of Alfred’s ownership group have extensive backgrounds in mechanical and store hardware, as well as OEM manufacturing for most major brands in the world.
As part of the design and business development side of the Toronto, Ontario-based group, Cook has an engineering and economics background and has forged a 17-year career in the hardware business. He and his team have watched the growing demand in smart home and smart home lock technology evolve over time. What did their sharp eyes reveal? A noticeable gap in the market, which has since spurred them to fill it with Alfred.
“We felt like you either had tech companies trying to build a lock, or you had lock companies trying to add tech to existing products and you could tell,” Cook told The Burn-In. “There was a keypad strapped to an old product or a fairly neat and funky thing that kind of over-modernized what was existing.”
Taking their mechanical hardware group and decades of knowledge they partnered with one of the most advanced and established electronic lock manufacturers and addressed some important questions like:
“What should this look like?”
“What do we think consumers want right now that they’re not getting?”
They noticed smart lock functionality was growing, but it was becoming uniform. All the brands were sporting the same features and function sets. Most of the locks were Z-wave, Zigbee, or Bluetooth compatible.
Appearance, however, seemed to be the notable differentiator.
“Some of them are very good products. [But] they’re not necessarily aesthetically attractive. They’re functional. We thought there was a big gap,” Cook said.
At that point, Alfred’s ownership group was determined to provide the perfect solution.
Getting it Right
In January 2018, the teams sat down to finalize their thoughts on Alfred’s initial design with the intent to enter the smart lock landscape and build the product “right.”
Though smart home automation is quickly becoming the wave of the future, the smart lock market is currently small, with only about one percent adoption. This means most people don’t have a smart lock on their door.
Older keypad locks from other brands have big, clunky buttons, and some current Bluetooth deadbolt brands have chunky knobs that don’t really look nice, or they have an interface that doesn’t make sense.
These factors could potentially cause someone to shy away from transitioning that traditional lock to a smart lock.
The Alfred team is hoping to increase adoption by ticking off some important boxes that will accommodate all sorts of tech comfort levels. Chief among them?
Offer a visually-stunning product which is functionally-designed to satisfy everyone.
“You need to adopt it in whatever way you want,” Cook explained. “If you aren’t ready to lose your physical key because it made somebody in your house a little nervous, you don’t have to do that; you can keep a key. We’re covering it up. It’s a little bit prettier than having a traditional keyhole there. But you can have it if you want it. And, if you already have a budding smart home and already have a smart hub, like Samsung Smart Things or Wink and you’re prepared there, you can do that too. We are fully Z-wave plus certified.”
Traveling Down a Different Road
Alfred was born in an impressively short time frame. In just a 12-month span from idea to finished product, from January to December of last year, Alfred came into existence.
Though armed with years of experience in the mechanical hardware industry, most of Alfred’s team has previously spent time in the commercial market. Therefore, venturing into the vast, rapidly-changing world of residential consumer electronics was something new.
As such, the journey has not been without its challenges, especially in keeping up with rapid changes in the consumer market and navigating retail launch timelines.
“There has been an intense learning curve to this. We’ve never done marketing for anything like this,” Cook explained. “We’ve never had to work with retail channels. We’re working with them and that’s been a new thing. A very receptive thing. To get into a retail store for the first time, even if they love you, you’re almost a year before you can get on the shelf. There’s no other way to do it. That was news.”
Months of hard work paid off as Alfred launched with lots of positive feedback this year at CES 2019. Alfred’s eye-catching, elegant design drew people to the display.
“We must have struck a little bit of a nerve with a hole in the market because lots of people stopped by and weren’t sure if they should stop in,” Cook noted of their CES visitors. “But they walked straight in and said, ‘So why are you different?’ and we said, ‘Why did you stop?’ and they said, ‘Okay, I get it.’
“I said, ‘You had to know what it was, right?’ Then they touch it and feel it and we tell them a little bit more about it and they get more excited. There are lots of neat products out there—but most people don’t have one on their door.”
Cook is right. Alfred’s exquisite, ultra-slim design dresses up the front door, with the DB-2 and DB2-B models available in black, chrome or gold finishes. Plus, Alfred fits on most standard doors and is easy to install in a matter of minutes with just a screwdriver.
…Meets Intuitive, Multi-functional Security
Above all, Alfred offers much more than a fancy faceplate. Bluetooth connectivity allows for convenient one-touch access with close smartphone proximity. This is wonderful if your arms are full when you’re trying to get in the door. It also eliminates the need to punch in a pin code.
Some other lock brands allow touchless entry after a few minutes of standing in front of the door. The Alfred team wanted to avoid that sort of security issue by requiring one-touch access.
“Our concern there, coming from a commercial background,” said Cook, “is that’s highly insecure. By touching the lock, that’s just telling the lock you’re there and you desire to come in.”
“We wanted you to decide,” he added. “We wanted the lock to know it’s waiting there for you to tell it whether to lock or unlock.”
Plus, 20 customizable pin codes make it easy for family, friends, or contractors to get in if you’re away. The Alfred app works with your smartphone and enables you to assign or remove remote access anytime, anywhere. Using secure, digital Bluetooth keys, you can set date and time parameters to allow your mom, for instance, to stay at your house from April 1 through April 5, while you’re on vacation. Change your mind at any time? Just delete the Bluetooth key and instantly the shared key is removed.
With the upcoming Alfred Wi-fi bridge, you can also use your app to remotely lock or unlock the door, which works great if an unexpected guest shows up and needs to get in while you’re away. The app also keeps a detailed log of who’s unlocked the door and when.
Alfred can give voice prompts in multiple languages, including English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese and is battery-operated. An optional USB port at the bottom of the unit allows charging in (the rare) case batteries fail or you ignore the low battery warnings a few too many times.
For those who favor using a traditional lock, the DB-2-B model features optional key entry.
Smart Home and Wi-Fi Ready
All kinds of new products are being controlled by virtual assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa via smart hubs; from light bulbs to thermostats and beyond.
Alfred can also connect and be controlled by multiple smart home platforms via an optional Z-wave module, which is great for someone who wants to make sure their lock works with their existing setup. It also makes adopting a new device even easier.
For those who don’t have a smart-hub, a Wi-Fi bridge keeps Alfred connected.
“If you don’t have Z-wave and you want to connect to it remotely from anywhere in the world, you plug this into the wall and it connects to the lock using Bluetooth,” Cook said of the bridge. “The bridge then connects to Wi-Fi and allows you to connect to your lock securely to the internet from anywhere in the world.”
The Alfred team is excited by all the positive feedback they’ve received on their initial product launch. When asked if Alfred might be used in other places beyond the front door (like the garage), Cook replied, “Yes. One of the things we think is quite different about Alfred is that we started with the standard deadbolt door: the swing door. Like your front door, your garage door, any door that has a deadbolt. Or any door that has a lever with a deadbolt. You just take your old one off and screw your new one on. It’s an easy thing.”
He also shared the company is developing a rim and mortise lock. The rim style lock would look like the Alfred lock, but the lock mechanism would attach on the inside of a door’s plate. This allows it to be put on a bedroom door, a gate, and other places like a medicine cabinet, drawer, or wine cellar, with no special door drilling. The mortise style lock is something seen on the front doors of high-end homes, or in commercial or industrial buildings; finally providing a smart security option for small businesses or office spaces.
Consumer tech is a hot, rapidly-developing market and Cook sees integration as being key in new products as smart home technology advances. Looking ahead, the Alfred line is currently developing new features for upcoming models. One of them is a video doorbell.
“We’re working on integrating a video doorbell into the Alfred lock itself, so you don’t have two separate units,” Cook said. “You can buy one thing if you’re not ready to adopt different things.
We don’t necessarily want to get into the camera market. But there’s no reason your doorbell needs to be a separate unit. You already have something that is connected and smart and secure. And we do believe our design aesthetic and profile—the sleek look, that will be something that we never let go of.”
Alfred’s DB-2 and DB-2 models are currently available for purchase at the company’s website.
Cook anticipates Alfred locks will be available via major online retailers like Amazon and others, with plans to roll out in big box retailers.
He also revealed a slightly smaller DB1 model is slated for Alfred’s next product roll out.
“It’s a slightly smaller footprint and a little more economically accessible,” Cook said. “It’s a little less money without really sacrificing too many features. It doesn’t have voice prompts, for example, it uses tones. It’s a beautiful product, and we’ll have another Kickstarter launching in about a month for the DB1. We’re very excited about that.”