The Schlage LiNK Home Control system starts with a Schlage door lock, which comes in many different finishes and arrangements, from brass entry locks to brushed nickel deadbolts. Each has the same basic features, a keypad for keyless entry and the ability to communicate with a Z-Wave wireless RF “mesh” network.
Add to the lock some Z-Wave lighting modules — the system includes one plug-in dimmer module — a wireless IP camera, and a Trane thermostat, and you have the beginnings of a complete home control system.
But what makes the system worth the $12.99 a month is the Schlage Bridge and the software that comes with it. All of the devices on the Schlage LiNK network can be accessed from the Internet, a BlackBerry or an iPhone. The software is easy to use, intuitive and simple to set up.
The first step is to install the lock and configure it on the Z-Wave network. The lock uses some sophisticated security procedures to ensure that only the right Z-Wave devices can unlock it. The directions are easy to understand, though it took three tries to get the lock on the network. Once the door is programmed, the dimming module that comes with the system needs to be plugged in within 50 feet of the lock to communicate with the Z-Wave network.
The thermostat is added the same way. The thermostat needs a “C” wire, but most homes do not have this, and Trane does not put the instructions in the box. I know all the green reasons why, but it was annoying to have to go to my computer, look up the website, print the directions and then go back to the install.
The IP camera that Schlage provided was capable of either wireless or wired communication. Installation was clean, but a little cumbersome, and the software asked me to reconnect the camera once because it “lost” it, but once communication was established, it worked very well.
Setting Scenes, Schedules
The Schlage solution is right up there in ease of use and simplicity. In less than 10 minutes I had the devices uploaded in to the system. The software allows you to set scenes, schedules and get messages based on specific events. You can also change the setting of any device, like turn on a light or changing the temperature on the thermostat.
One limitation is that you can only start a scene when you unlock a door and not lock one. And only one trigger can start a scene, which limits the types of scenes available.
Setting up my cell phone was also a breeze. In less than three minutes, I was able to manage all of my devices, scenes and schedules right from my phone. I was also able to:
View the camera
Unlock the door
Control the lights
Change the temperature on the thermostat
I travel quite a bit, and it was fun to be able to see what was happening back home while I was on the road.
So will people pay $12.99 for the features of the Schlage LiNK system? The hardware I installed retails for about $1,000 and includes: the lock, Bridge, the thermostat, camera and all of the lighting controls. Once the necessary hardware is paid for, $12.99 is a very small price for the convenience.
Avi Rosenthal is a former home systems integrator who has also worked for several manufacturers of home control systems. Currently he is principal of Evolve Guest Controls, a firm that specializes in automated solutions for saving energy in hotels and other commercial establishments.
AT A GLANCE Specs:
>Signals up to 100 feet
>Can add over 200 components to one interface
>Can operate via cell phone
>User-friendly computer and phone interfaces
>Security measures similar to those used in online banking
>$12.99 monthly subscription
>Easy to add Z-Wave devices to the system
>No need to keep PC on; the software resides in the gateway
>Ability to view, change, and monitor devices from any cell phone or Internet device
>No documentation included in the box (needs to be printed off the website)
>Thermostat screens could be less cluttered
>Scene control is simple, only one trigger per action
>Lock will not trigger scene when locked, only when unlocked