Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kwikset Kevo: Unlock your front door in a tap

How many times have you stood outside your front door, fumbling with your key until you found the right one, or with arms so full of groceries you wish your door would magically open itself? For those people (admit it, that's you,) key-and-lock-maker Kwikset is introducing Kevo, a not-quite-keyless one-touch entry lock for your front door.
With the smart device within about 4 feet of the door, you simply lock or unlock it by tapping your finger (or elbow or nose) on the lock face. An LED ring lights up green when the door unlocks, yellow when it locks, and blue while it's processing. A red flash denies entry.
Skin is the main conductor here, so while the unit may detect your touch through light fabric, don't count on unlocking your front door while wearing gloves. Never fear, snowbirds. Kwikset's front door works with old-fashioned mechanical keys, too.

system that includes the mechanical door lock, a unit you can swap in for your usual deadbolt in about 5 minutes, and a smartphone app. A quick Bluetooth handoff with a unit behind the back plate pairs the "master" phone with the front door lock. From there, the key "owner" can invite other household members to become admins (like a spouse) or users (like kids.) There's no software limit to how many keys you can create.
The app controls basic permissions and lock disabling -- in the case of a lost or stolen phone (the files are also encrypted with military-grade keys.) There's also a way to check history to flag comings and goings, and alerts you can set up when someone leaves or enters the house. The latter was intended especially for working parents to know the minute their kids get home after school.
The catch (for now)
As a unit, the Kevo is pretty simple. A Bluetooth 4.0 protocol called Low Energy (Bluetooth Low Energy) powers the initial phone-pairing and subsequent locking cycles.
For now, Kevo has an iOS app. While newer Android phones accept the Bluetooth 4.0 hardware specs, the software side isn't yet compatible with Bluetooth low energy, which means, in a nutshell, that Android app support is coming soon.
Kwikset Kevo
One touch of your finger can lock or unlock your front door.
(Credit: Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)
Kevo and the competition
Kwikset already dominates the mechanical door lock market, so it has the kind of clout to really market its electronic key. It doesn't hurt that UniKey, the tech company behind the Kwikset product name, generated a mound of interest on last year's Shark Tank TV show.
However, Kevo isn't the first or only of its breed. CNET's Rich Brown compares the way Kevo works to Lockitron here.
When and where to get Kevo
Kevo comes in three popular finishes, a shiny gold color, and more muted, brushed pewter and brass colors. It will become available thus summer for between $199 and $249 at outlets like home improvement stores, Amazon, and likely other electronics retailers.

Google's conversational search arrives with new Chrome

Google is enabling a more naturally spoken question-and-answer interface to its search service for people with a new version of Chrome.
Google conversational search microphone iconGoogle demonstrated conversational search at Google I/O a week ago, a style of search designed to be more like natural human speech than the technically constructed search queries that people often use today to retrieve information from a search engine.
It's all part of the gradual arrival of Google's vision to build a Star Trek-style search engine, in which the computer grasps what people want and answers them. Eventually, expect Google to let people initiate a query by saying, "OK, Google," as with Google Glass voice commands.
It's not clear yet how broadly the service is available. Some reported receiving errors that said "no Internet connection."
Google confirmed the move Wednesday. "Conversational search has started rolling out on in the latest version of Chrome. You can just click the mic in the search box, ask your question in a natural way, and get spoken answers," the company said in a statement.
Users need to update their Chrome browser to get the new functionality, according to Google.

To see a more elaborate version of the feature in action, check
 Google's demonstration of conversational search from Google I/O.Google tries to be clever enough to understand that "here" means "the questioner's present location" and that a pronoun could refer to the subject of a previous query. One example: Ask Google "Who did Angelina Jolie marry?" then follow up with "How old is he?"
Google sometimes delivers the results firsthand, a major departure from search results years ago that typically were located on others' Web pages. The search engine optimization industry grew around this search-driven Web traffic, but it's not clear yet how it'll be changed as Google gives the answers itself.
The conversational search feature requires Chrome 27, which Google released Tuesday.