Today, front doors are also smart. First of all, this offers the advantage of keyless entry, and the disadvantage that a charged smartphone that is not stuck in a dead zone is required to enter. One of the leaders in this market niche is the Austrian company Nuki, which sells various solutions. The company’s offering also includes a combination product designed to enable keyless entry into both the house and one’s home. Called the Opener Combo, it sells a smart door lock, a bridge and an automatic front door opener. We tested what this combination of smart products is capable of, how easy it is to install, and how secure the affair is.
Scope of delivery and installation
The scope of delivery includes – as already mentioned – three products: In addition to the Smart Lock, consisting of door lock and bridge, there is a front door opener. Since the installation of this opener is a bit more complex than that of the door lock, the included additional material is more extensive than for the Nuki products intended only for the front door: In addition to the products and matching batteries, you’ll also find a wrench.
The smart door lock was installed without any problems in the test. It is simply mounted from the inside onto the previous lock cylinder with the key inserted – this is less work than replacing a conventional lock cylinder with another conventional lock cylinder. This step is completed after a few minutes. Depending on the door lock, the Nuki Smart Lock 2.0 is either screwed on or glued. In our case, we were fortunately able to glue it (since it was a rented apartment). However, the supplied double-sided adhesive tape is unfortunately not qualitatively convincing, because after a good two weeks, the adhesive has already dissolved. With Tesa Powerbond, however, the device now holds bombproof.
The Nuki Bridge just needs to be plugged into the outlet, no assembly required here.
However, this is just the beginning of the complicated part of the assembly: The entrance door opener must be connected to the intercom or opening system. This requires a little technical know-how. After all, this step is not just a matter of screwing and plugging in: several power cables also have to be connected. How exactly this works depends on the intercom or opening system used.
Without the instructions in the Nuki app, no installation attempt should be made, after all, in the worst case, injuries as well as failure of the opening system can occur, which would be more than a little annoying. So we followed the assembly steps displayed in the app very carefully – and had to realize that the work is quite demanding. The instructions for our doorbell system were not immediately comprehensible and could definitely overwhelm laymen. In addition, the cables of a bell system are very thin and, at least in our case, also relatively short, which makes installation more difficult. There also needs to be extra space for the cable clamp required by the opener. We could only hook the control panel back into the wall mount with difficulty as a result. So fine motor skills and good eyes are required here. In the end, however, we managed it. In some regions, Nuki also offers an installation service in case you don’t feel confident to do it yourself.
Next, the opener itself, which is connected to the doorbell system only with a plug-in cable, must be attached to the wall. In principle, this is possible in two ways: either it is attached by adhesive tape or screwed on. This final step, however, is much easier than the wiring.
Design and workmanship
The workmanship of all three parts of the set is impeccable. Only the glue of the smart lock could be even better. Visually, all three parts are not major highlights. They are kept largely inconspicuous and fit into the vast majority of environments without any problems. The Opener is black, as is the Bridge, while the smart door lock has silver elements in addition to black. All three parts have a relatively modern design without any fuss. LEDs are always used to indicate the respective status.
Functionality and safety
The goal of the combination product is simple: users should be able to enter both the house they live in and their apartment without having to use a key. This is to be achieved – as can be seen from the way it is installed – by interfering with the locking or opening mechanism of both doors, which initially stand in the way of this goal. While it is relatively easy to enter one’s own apartment without a key, since only the locking mechanism of one’s own door, which can be designed completely freely by the users, needs to be digitized here, overcoming the front door of a multi-party building poses a greater problem: Here, the type of opening cannot be freely determined and, consequently, the conventional lock cannot simply be exchanged for one with a digital interface.
The principle of the Opener is now, however, not too complex: it should, if certain conditions are met, automatically unlock the front door, i.e. take over the pressure on the door opener installed in the apartment. Technically, this is achieved by incorporating the doorbell and a smartphone. When an authorized person approaches, the device detects this via Bluetooth: since the Bluetooth signal does not usually reach from the opener to the front door, the process is shifted to the WLAN via the bridge; now the app on the smartphone can report via GPS and Internet connection when the smartphone carrier approaches the house. If the geofence mode is activated, it is then enough to press the doorbell and the front door will be opened automatically.
Unfortunately, this did not always work reliably in our test. We tested the Nuki products in combination with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus. Android smartphones in particular seem to have a problem with the energy-saving settings, which are too restrictive for Nuki even when deactivated. As a result, the Geofence mode is sometimes not activated at all or very delayed. Even extending the geofence radius from 100 meters to e.g. 500 meters did not bring about a satisfactory improvement in our case. This is supposed to work much better on iPhones. If you have an Android smartphone, you should definitely test it during the revocation period to see if it works properly with your smartphone.
If we then approach the front door, the geofence mode should already be active, just like with the front door, and the front door should open after the smartphone and Smart Lock are automatically connected via Bluetooth. Of course, we had the same problem here as with the front door. If Geofence is not triggered, nothing happens. However, it is particularly annoying when you then open the door manually via app and a few minutes after you have entered the apartment the automatic opening is triggered and you then have to close the door again. This only happened twice during our longer test period of a good two months, but it shouldn’t happen at all.
Opening by app is not really a time saver to the key, but of course brings the convenience of being able to open the door from anywhere, even if you are not at home. So you can let friends or family in already. Or you can just send them an invitation and they let themselves in. The automatic geofence mode could not show off with reliability in our test and worked for about 50% of the openings.
However, this does not exhaust the possibilities of the combination product. Nuki also enables the general opening of the front door via ringing. In this case, every ring, regardless of whether there is an authorized smartphone nearby, leads to unlocking the door. Of course, the ringtone can be turned off so that it is not annoying. This mechanism is intended for companies, hotels, parties or short stays in front of the door, for example to take out the garbage. The period during which this simplified opening mechanism is active can be set in the app. In our practical test, this opening option also worked without any problems. However, it should also be noted that this simplified entry option poses a security risk: People who happen to ring the doorbell during the defined period automatically gain access to the house. The function should therefore be used with caution.
It should be noted, if there is to be no complete dependence on technology, that the locking cylinder used so far must be replaced with a so-called panic lock before installing the Smart Lock, which can accept one key each from the inside and outside at the same time – otherwise a lost smartphone or a flat battery will become an almost insurmountable obstacle when entering the home. The fact that the bridge is connected to the Internet and communicates with a manufacturer’s server also poses a risk. However, all devices run on battery (or rechargeable battery) and are therefore independent of any power failure and can also be controlled via Bluetooth connection at any time when you are within range. In addition, the Smart Lock 2.0 naturally has a button, so you can open the door directly from the inside. It is also easy to remove the lock within a few seconds if necessary, in case the Smart Lock is not working and you need to get out quickly.
Overall, the tested combination product from Nuki is a solution that can make everyday life easier: Anyone who forgets their key more often or has to search for it fully packed in their pants pocket will have an easier time with the smart door openers. Installation is very simple, only the opener is more challenging to attach. Once everything is installed, however, using it is anything but complicated. In our test, the control via app worked flawlessly, but the particularly interesting geofence mode for automating openings did not. This might have been due to the power-saving settings of our Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, although we made all the settings Nuki wanted and the smartphone is also not an unknown niche smartphone. So Nuki can and should still improve here and at least cooperate more closely with the major smartphone manufacturers. If you have a smartphone (e.g. an iPhone) that works well with Nuki’s Geofence mode, or if you otherwise need a smart opening, the 300 Euros for the Nuki Opener Combo are money well spent – but without Geofence, the whole thing is only half as much fun.