With smart locks becoming more readily available and more reliable, many customers have made the switch and streamlined entrance to their homes. If you're a house owner, that and a garage opener are likely all you need, but if you live in an apartment building, things become more complicated. What good is a smart lock if you can't get into the building or gate in the first place? Intercoms are the next obstacle to overcome.
Nuki, a smart lock brand aimed at the European market, recently released the Opener, an intercom add-on to control entrance to your building from your phone. Like all things Nuki, it is expensive, but thoughtfully made and nearly perfectly implemented.
|Thoughtful||4x AAA batteries or MicroUSB power, plug from the side or bottom, stick on the wall or screw in, plenty of settings and options; everything about the Opener is your choice and you don't need a landlord approval to install it.|
|Keyless and remote entry||You and your family can enter the building without a key everyday, or buzz anyone in, even remotely.|
|Guest options||Give temporary access through the app to a guest, or set up Ring to Open or Continuous mode to allow people in without the app.|
|Google Assistant||Ask Google to open your building door and it will, after verifying your code.|
|Price||Nuki products are expensive. €99 for the Opener, or €169 with the necessary Bridge isn't an easy pill to swallow.|
|No sound||I wish the intercom integration was complete and I could talk to the person ringing when I'm not home.|
Hardware, what's in the box
Nuki's Opener is a nondescript black box with a square shape. There's a large round button in the middle, which can be set to perform different actions with a press or two presses, and an LED light right above it to help with pairing and notify you when an action is being performed.
On the back, there's a 3M sticker to fix it to the wall in a non-destructive manner. You can also open it up and affix it with two screws. Power is supplied independently from the intercom, to avoid any issues for renters. The Opener comes with 4 pre-installed AAA batteries, which can last a year of normal usage, but you can also plug a MicroUSB cable from the bottom side if you prefer a more permanent supply.
The unit comes with a special multi-wire cable to connect to your intercom. It can either plug into the Opener from the bottom or the side, a nice addition because every home and intercom configuration isn't the same.
In the box, you get the Opener pre-fitted with 4 AAA batteries, a screwdriver, two screws, the cable and connector needed for installing Nuki, and a small manual.
The Nuki app contains all the instructions for installing and setting up the Opener. Since the device is Bluetooth-only (to manage power consumption), you start by connecting it to your phone. You could stop there and only use the Opener over Bluetooth 5.0, but you have to be completely sure that you can reach it while you're standing outside by your gate. Odds are this isn't the case for many of you. It has to be reachable over Wi-Fi, and that's where the Bridge comes into play. If you already have a Nuki smart lock, you probably own a Bridge and will simply have to press its button a few seconds to connect it to the Opener. If not, you'll need to buy the Bridge too.
With the wireless connection out of the way, you have to install the unit on your intercom. Again, the app takes you through everything — it even suggests you take a photo of the intercom's current wiring so you always have a source to go back to. You get detailed schematics with color coding and numbers according to your intercom's brand and model (there are many compatible ones). It took about 20 mins to install, test, and finalize everything. I didn't even have to cut the power to do it.
We opted to stick the Nuki (with our own additional double-sided tape) to the side of the intercom, to avoid using the screws or the built-in 3M tape on the back. Our wall painting gets stained and scuffed very easily, so we didn't want to risk leaving a mark, even if the 3M tape is supposed to be easily removable. Sticking it like that meant we couldn't use the side port to plug the wire and hide it more appropriately, so we tried to make the cable look as "pretty" as possible. It helps that it's multicolored and thin.
Using the Opener
The thing I enjoy everyday with Nuki is keyless entry. When I'm in the street leading to my home, I get two notifications: one asks me if I want to open the building's door, the second my home's (because I have the smart lock too). When I'm out of my car, I accept the first one, and I can just push the building's gate and go in. I accept the second when I'm out of the lift and just push the door and get in. No keys to carry, misplace, lose, or leave behind. It's very convenient. I shared the lock with my husband through the Nuki app, and he gets the same privileges.
We can even trigger it with Google Assistant. Nuki properly integrates both its locks and the Opener, so you get asked for a verification code before anything is opened by the Assistant.
The second big advantage for us now is knowing we can buzz in people, even remotely. We let in select delivery people to leave packages at our apartment's doorstep. We don't have to worry about needing a neighbor to open the gate in case there's an emergency and a repair team needs to fix something for us. We open the building's door for our cleaning lady and let her wait in the lobby when it's raining and we're a few minutes late. And we know we can let a family member or trusted friend all the way into our apartment should we need to.
For anyone else with different needs, Nuki offers a ton of other options. You can set it to auto-unlock the gate when you're nearby and granularly control its geolocation trigger. You can share the Opener through the app with multiple members and give them different privileges. No more giving physical keys for your kids to carry or misplace. You can also issue temporary keys for guests.
Plus, you get two more special features. There's "Ring to Open," where a ring on your apartment's intercom button triggers Nuki to open the gate. It just works once then gets disabled, and it automatically times out if no one rings in a preset time-frame. This could be handy if you know a kid, a nurse, or someone trusted without a key is coming in a few minutes, but you can't open the gate for them when they arrive. You trigger it and let it do the job for you when they ring. There's also a "Continuous mode" where anyone who rings gets buzzed in automatically — useful for a party or a big event.
The app has dozens of other settings and minute controls: What happens when you press the Opener's button or twice, whether it opens the door immediately or "fakes" a random delay to pretend someone is home, how long it buzzes the gate to trigger it to open, whether the Opener is available to be paired with other Bluetooth devices or locked from pairing, which power method you're using to optimize performance, notification logs of every action performed, and several options to silence the intercom. The Opener can also be set to ring instead of the intercom, with a few sound options to choose from.
Think of a setting or feature you want and it's likely already implemented. If you have Nuki's smart lock, you surely know the level of customization and control I'm talking about. This is one of those rare smart home companies that are thorough and thoughtful in their software design.
For a first release, I can't fault the Opener at anything. I've been using Nuki's smart lock for two years, starting with its first-gen, without an issue and I see how it matured slowly but surely with software updates. Features I didn't think I wanted got added and I trust this will happen with the Opener too.
The only feature I really wish was there is the ability to hear and talk through my intercom, remotely via the app. But I believe this would require a higher power draw and possibly different electronics or hardware. I hope Nuki is considering this for the future.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you want to retrofit your intercom and bring it to the modern, connected age, you won't be disappointed with the Opener. It does everything you expect it to, reliably, safely, and offers a great level of convenience and control. If you're willing to go further, the entire Nuki ecosystem for European-style locks provides a keyless entry to your apartment, from the gate to the living room.
The only competitor I found, Nello, costs €99 too but works over Wi-Fi and doesn't require a separate bridge. It's thus cheaper. It looks very similar too and seems to offer equivalent features — it's even compatible with the Nuki smart lock. I can't speak for it though, but Play Store reviews of its app seem to be less enthusiastic (and frequent) than Nuki's app reviews. For my money, if I was looking for an entire system, I'd go for the Nuki, but if I only needed to retrofit an intercom and didn't want a smart lock, I'd properly research Nello before making a decision. Edit: Nello appears to have filed for bankruptcy (PDF) so it may not be the best recommendation now. Thanks, Dude!
That still leaves the question of security versus convenience/features. Opening doors is always an invitation into your personal space, and you may not trust any technology to handle that. It's understandable. My husband and I have used a Nuki smart lock for two years now. We didn't take the decision of installing it lightly (we prepared backup plans in case it failed and thought about the benefits compared to the potential risks) and we wouldn't have kept it installed if it gave us any cause for concern over the two years. We also talked and decided which features we were comfortable enabling and which we had to disable (auto-unlock, for example). We did the same thing with the Opener. Auto-unlock is disabled, we use the notification and manually open it. Both Ring to Open and Continuous mode are disabled and impossible to enable except from the app. Pairing is closed, a PIN code is set, and we know Nuki uses end-to-end encryption to secure communication between its devices.
For large families, anyone who spends most of their day away from home, disabled or elderly people who can't quickly get to the intercom, or the simple convenience of not carrying and losing keys, the Opener can be a great solution. But whether you trust it is a decision only you (and your partner or flatmate) can take.
Buy it if
- You already have a Nuki smart lock but live in an apartment building with an intercom
- You're looking for a smart, keyless whole-home entry system
- You need to be able to remotely let someone into your building or home
Don't buy it if
- You don't have a compatible intercom
- You want a cheaper solution without a Wi-Fi bridge
- You just don't trust any tech product to manage entrance to your building