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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

Smart House Lock Out

Imagine, if you will, upgrading your house, making it better, faster, smarter. Then one day, nothing works, because a vendor’s server is down. That happened on March 12th, 2018 for all the owners of Samsung SmartThings in North America. The internet echoed with the cries of frustrated users. Alexa ignored requests to open pod bay doors. Men had to get up and turn the light on for their wives. It was horrible. But not as bad as the guy who got locked out of his house because of the eight hour outage.

The Perfect Storm

I heard the guy’s story online and got his permission to retell it in a funny way. Funny as nothing I say here will match up too well with his experienced reality. Let’s call him Cameron, like the one with the odometer problem. Cameron has done an excellent job upgrading his house with a mix of technologies. He had a hot date, so he wears his best skinny jeans. Left his keys at home because that’ll mess up his look. I made that part up, I hope Cameron doesn’t mind.

The date ended, he’s a gentleman, took his companion back, before returning to his own home. Reached to push the garage door button that’s built in his car, when he finds it isn’t there. Doh! He remembers this is the loaner car, the other one’s in the shop. I assume it needed a bit of body work after taking that dive out the back window into the woods. Great movie. Unlike the movie version, our Cameron is calm. He reached into his skinny jean pocket and pulled out his slim smart phone. Then he can log into the SmartThings app and open the door. What’s this? “Cannot Login”

An Imperfect Solution

In real life, Cameron kept his cool. Tried a locksmith to open the gate before his front door entrance. The locksmith failed. He could afford a variety of solutions, but he was watching the bill escalate past what a hotel room would cost, so he cut bait and stayed somewhere else, knowing he’d be back into his house by morning. Which was true. What several internet commenters and I’m sure most of you will say is this. Why did he rely so much on the technology? Why didn’t he carry a key. He would have been fine. I was right there with them, until I remembered the times I found myself locked out. Queue the wavy flashback music.

Who Doesn’t Rely On Garage Doors

For some reason which I’ll get to, at my house, we used the garage door to enter or leave the house. It was easy. Push the button. I’ve had one with a external keypad backup for at least fifteen years. But I remember the time I took the dog for a walk, and the wife wasn’t home. When we returned, the clicker didn’t work. The keypad didn’t work because the battery finally died on it. I had to go borrow a 9-volt battery from a neighbor to get back into my house.

This wasn’t bleeding edge technology, just a simple reliance on something with batteries that failed. If only I had left a key in a hiding space. What a great segue.

The Well Hidden Key

This takes me back, to high school. Living on the farm. December. The school bus dropped me off, I hiked the quarter mile up the driveway, thankful it didn’t snow so I wouldn’t have to shovel it again. Reached the house and discovered the front door was locked. My mom was gone. That’s a surprise from the normal pattern, but I’m an easy going problem solving guy. I put my pack down in the front porch and fed the animals and waited around to see when she’d get back. I debated hiking over to a neighbor, but with no phone here, figured she’d be back eventually and me being mobile would make it complicated.

So I waited. It got dark. Did I mention it was December. In Minnesota. We’re a hardy bunch, but it was getting nippy out. So I left a note on the door, and grabbed the old coat that was hanging on the hook and headed for the hay loft. Made a small bed by lifting out some bales and turning them to cover me. It was fine. Mom got back around ten, she’d been out doing something that made sense at the time. Informed me that there was a key to the house in the old coat hanging in the front porch. Yeah, the one I took to cover my legs in my little nest.

Locky Break

The Life Lesson here is things fail, despite our best efforts. All the door openers, smart locks are about finding a balance between keeping honest people out and convenience. I promised you I’d get to the punchline featuring a key. I weathered the SmartThings outage fine. We have smart switches so they work like normal. And we have a secondary hub via ADT to accept alternate commands. But you know what started my journey into smart home upgrades? When my wife had surgery, she was immobile. I’d go out and get food and bring it back.

When I came home, my key wouldn’t turn. And my garage door spring broke that same week. If I couldn’t get the door open, my wife could not come to the door to let me in. That other reason we used the garage door all the time is because our front door lock was sticky. I managed to get it open with some frantic jiggling. Handed my wife her food and immediately went to Lowes and bought a smart lock. I planned to do lights first, but figured if I needed to spend $100+ on a new lock, I might as well bite the bullet. Even the wife loves it, and in home automation, that’s the seal of approval.


It’s a good idea to have a second way to get into your house. But I’m not judging somebody for not. And anybody who’s down on technological solutions, probably just has a key to their house, and guess what, you can be screwed by that, too. Plan on something failing, but don’t get wound up if both things fail. In my experience, that’s when life is testing you, not your disaster plans. I hope you had fun at my and Cameron’s expense, but also give some thought to your home entry situation and maintenance.

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