Date posted: 31st May 2019

Should I buy ‘smart’ windows and doors?

We’re switching onto smart technologies. We’re using smart devices to manage our heating, lighting and security not to mention smart TVs, phones – even smart coffee makers. 

Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple, Nest, Hive, amongst many others, are fighting it out to win hearts and minds in the smart tech arms race, while according to the latest connected home survey by professional services giant PWC, 30% of us will have bought a smart device for our homes by 2020.

The internet of things, where smart home devices not only talk to us but to each other, is making the future a reality today.The internet of things is the extension of internet connectivity into physical devices and everyday objects. The devices are embedded with electronics and other forms of hardware like sensors, these devices can communicate and interact with others over the internet so they can be remotely monitored and controlled.

And windows and doors are no exception, so what do you need to consider?

Are smart technologies available for windows and doors?

There are a growing number of ‘smart’ window systems available from simple security sensors to fully integrated systems.

These include at the basic end of the scale, simple sensors which can be fitted to doors and windows and which will alert you if opened to more sophisticated platforms which will trigger an alert if you leave your home without closing windows or locking doors.

At the top of the tree are automated locking systems, which allow you to lock your doors and windows remotely and unlock them through vicinity sensor technology in the same way as keyless entry on a car using a fob and even facial recognition technology.

So, which smart window and door sensor and security system is best?

Smart door and window sensors

The starting point for smart window and doors are window and door sensors. These generally work with a plug-in smart hub, which relay messages to a phone or other smart device, via an app.

They offer basic functionality, for example triggering a siren or sending an alert to your home security system if someone forces your door or window when armed, as well as tracking movements to and from your property. 

Others will also detect temperature changes and alert you via a smart device app if you’ve accidentally left a window open.  

There are a wide variety of options suitable for retrofit and you can even fit them yourself. The pros are that they are in many cases subscription free and are in most cases, highly affordable but these lower cost options do come with limitations.

The first is battery life. Many run off 9 volt or AAA batteries, which mean you can end up in a constant cycle of battery replacement. Most require their own smart hub to connect with and range can be a problem, especially if you live in an older property with solid brick or stone walls.

They can also be vulnerable and easily tampered with, limiting their value as a home security tool.

Integrated window and door smart hardware systems

We’ve decided to call this group of products ‘integrated smart hardware systems’ because rather than being a ‘bolt-on’ smart solution like many of the lower cost sensor-based options, they have been designed from the ‘bottom up’ as a smart technology and are fully integrated with the hardware and locking mechanism on your new energy efficient windows and doors.

There are two types. Those systems which provide an alert and those which actually allow you to lock your door or window remotely.

Smart window and door locking status systems

These work on the same principles as smart door retrofit sensors offering an alert on the status of your windows and doors. Many also feature added functionality.

This includes geo-fencing, exploiting your phone’s position within the GPS network to trigger an alert if you leave your property without locking the door or windows.

The real advantage is that they’re fully integrated with your hardware and completely self-contained rather than interrupting the clean sightlines of your windows and doors with ‘add-on’ products.

The negative is that like many smart sensor systems, smart integrated locking systems require batteries, a hub and some come with subscriptions, which you’ll need to pay to use the smart service.

If you’re not sure you want to invest in a fully-fledged smart product now but think that you may want to in the future, doors and windows with pre-fitted smart technology can, however, be a good option, allowing you to switch on smart functionality at a later date.

We supply a range of PVC-U and composite doors which can feature Kubu smart technology. This allows you to future-proof your door purchase, giving you the option to upgrade to a smart door should you wish to. 

The other benefit is that it keeps things simple. Kubu hardware operates in exactly the same way as a standard and proven high-performance multi-point locking mechanism using manual operation. There’s less to go wrong!

Download our free Kubu Smart Technology Brochure

Automated smart locking systems

Automated smart locking systems go a step further again. They offer additional integration allowing you to lock and unlock your door electronically.

This integration means that they can also offer additional functionality, supporting key fob entry or via your phone app.

Some systems also allow you to create unique mobile keys via the app and send them to family and friends as well as revoking them, while keeping track of who enters your home and when.  

This introduces new flexibility and opportunity. You can create a unique entry code for a delivery driver so that they can drop off a parcel and then remove access once they have left.

However, critics, warn remote and electronic locking mechanisms could be vulnerable to attack, burglars trading hardware for software code, hacking into your smart home security system.

This is a clear area of risk. A number of leading car manufacturers have found their automatic locking mechanisms were vulnerable to hackers through a series of security flaws.

It remains to be seen if homeowners will have confidence that manufactures of automatic smart home locking mechanisms have been successful in eliminating these potential threats.

The problem with smart windows and doors

This issue of confidence is the key challenge for manufacturers of smart windows and door locks.  It’s why the slightly ‘less smart’ but integrated hardware systems using traditional manual operating mechanisms may be seen as preferable by some homeowners, offering benefits with fewer associated risks.

Another is the issue of integration. Our smart devices are already loaded with apps. Industry is in the process of developing ‘smart home assistants’ - a central device which seamlessly integrates with, and gives you control over, your other smart devices without having to run multiple apps.

Until they do, however, smart devices can appear decidedly ‘clunky’ for a new and cutting-edge technology.

Data protection and ownership is another area which may be of concern.  A smart window or door product will track your movements, when you leave your home, when you get back. In a data driven environment this is high value information.

The industry still needs to convince many that the controls and restrictions to prevent this information being exploited – or worse still, falling into the wrong hands - are in place. In fact, this is flagged in the PWC report as major challenge, cited by 38% of respondents as a ‘significant barrier to adoption’ of smart home technologies.

High security windows and doors

Distill smart window and door technologies down to its essence, and it comes back to one thing – security, knowing that your home and belongings are safe.

We see a place for smart – but that there are also one or two bumps in the road that need to be ironed out before smart home improvements realize their fully potential not least integration of platforms.

We’d also like to remind anyone looking for replacement windows and doors that you need to get the basics right. A smart door or window will only deliver an enhanced level of security if it’s made well to begin with. A smart lock on a weak door isn’t, well, ‘smart’.

KJM Group offers an extensive range of high security and energy efficient windows and door, including casement, tilt and turn and vertical sliding windows and doors in PVC-U, timber and aluminium. This includes energy saving triple-glazed windows with U-values as low as 0.8W/m².K.

Window security features as standard:

  • 8-point locking (9 on larger sizes) providing the ultimate burglar deterrent. 

  • Heavy duty bolt has up to 300 per cent greater contact area against competitor shoot-bolts
  • Tested by an independent test laboratory to over 6,000N force; more than double the requirement of the BSI 7950 security test. 

  • Developed to withstand even the most determined intruder 

  • Patented bolt into the keep docking system prevents sideways movement of the bolt when under attack

  • Meets and exceeds all current building standards including Part Q.

Where security is a major area of concern, this core specification can also be enhanced to meet all requirements set out under SBD.

Our front and back door composite door ranges are supplied to a UK Police approved Secured by Design specification as standard:

  • Robust handles manufactured from stainless steel
  • Cylinder guard system
  • Anti-drill and anti-pick door lock cylinder
  • Single piece door-keep and multi-point locking
  • Local thickening of PVC-U frames to provide increase
  • Steel reinforcement
  • Meets and exceeds all current building standards including Part Q

It’s these core features which define door and window performance and which, are ultimately the greater deterrent to intruders. Smart technology can notify you if you’ve been broken into. High performance, secure and energy efficient replacement windows, will help to keep intruders out – right now, that feels like the truly smart option.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out more by calling 01264 359355 or emailing email sales@kjmgroup.co.uk