Designing a better user experience for a smart lock system

Use of a smart lock system

Why do we still use a physical key to lock and unlock our home? To (un)lock our cars, the use of an automatic key is already very common. So what about innovating our homes with a smart lock system? This could make locking and unlocking our homes easier because access depends on a digital key which enables unlocking a door in an automatic way. This has been the starting point of the graduation project of our intern Wendy Bakker, who studied Communication & Multimedia Design.

Relevance to the masses
Research shows that home owners do not face such problems with a physical key; they are looking for a solution. Besides, they need to get used to the idea of a smart lock system. Contrary to this finding, B&B hosts (Bed & Breakfast hosts) are experiencing a problem with exchanging keys with their guests and that they are looking for a solution. Focusing on a more specific target group will help to make an innovative product successful. During this project the focus has been on the question:

“How can the interaction with a smart lock system make the sharing of access to the house flexible for a B&B host?”.

Collaboration with Bold Security Technology
Because we are not specialized in the technical and physical design of a smart lock system, we started a collaboration with Bold Security Technology. This startup is busy developing a smart lock system. To create a realistic product, Bold is involved in this project as a stakeholder. In order to interact with the product, they want to develop an application. This is where our roads cross and we can help each other. The project focused on designing the digital interaction and Bold had an advisory role in the physical and technical design.

Smart lock system Bold Security Technology

Why Bed & Breakfast hosts?

So, why talk about a smart lock system for a B&B host? Research revealed that the idea of a smart lock system is not adopted by the masses yet. Focussing on a specific target group will help speed up the adoption process of the product to reach the masses afterwards . To make an innovative product successful, a product should be introduced to early adopters first. They recognize the problem, are willing to take risks and are in need of a solution. Field research shows that B&B hosts experience problems with the exchange of keys with their guests in order to share access to their house. Focussing on this target group ensures that the product will be used by both the host and the guests. Because of this, different people will get in touch with the product and benefit the adoption process.


Which problem should be solved? These are some problems regarding to sharing access to a Bed & Breakfast.

  1. The host and guests are dependent on each other for the exchange of keys.
  2. The daily activities of the host are interrupted because the guests often come late.
  3. When the host is not present at the time of arrival, guests are received in an unsafe and impersonal way.

The problem B&B hosts experience is the exchange of keys on arrival. The host and guests are dependent on each other, a location and a period of time. This causes barriers in the daily activities of the host and the guests. Besides, using a physical key does not give the host flexibility and control over the validity of access. When the guest has a key, there is no control over access. This makes it possible for the key to get lost, taken, copied or exchanged to someone else without any insight or control over it. When the host can not be present at the time of arrival, keys are hidden somewhere around the house. As a result, guests do not experience a warmly welcome and they can not provide information about their stay and the surroundings.

Who’s involved in the journey?

There are different users involved in this problem, they have different needs to take care of. Roughly, two types of hosts can be described. Further, the guests will play an important role as well.

Passionate host
For the passionate host, the B&B serves as the main source of income. It is their day-to-day job and they want to spend time and effort to make the guests comfortable. The host is usually present on arrival to welcome the guests in person. The host is experiencing a problem at incidental moments, when he or she is unavailable for the guests at the moment of arrival.

Business host
For the business host, the B&B serves as an extra sources of income. Managing the B&B is not their day-to-day job. They want to spend minimal time and effort on managing the B&B. Efficiency is important for them. They are looking for a solution that ensures they do not have to interrupt daily activities and do not have to be on the same location with the guests to share access.

At the arrival moment, the guest would like to have some concise information about the stay and the surroundings. Often they arrive late, because of a delay on their way to the B&B. They feel that they are burdening the host. They would prefer flexibility in arrival and departure times. They also tend to forget to hand in the key when they leave.

Design criteria

8 Guidelines followed from research to design a smart lock system that is appropriate in this context.

1. Accessibility
The solution must be accessible to any guest at any time.

2. Flexibility
The solution should make it easy to share and revoke access 
at any time.

3. Independence
Give the host freedom in their actions, and allow a host to receive guests without interrupting their daily activities.

4. Personality
Give guests an impression of who the host is and provide a personal welcome.

5. Availability of information
Enable guests to get information about the accommodation and the surroundings on demand.

6. Security
Minimize subjective and situational safety risks as long as ease of use is maintained.

7. Social contact
Provide the opportunity to greet and welcome guests at the arrival moment.

8. Mutual trust
Support the building of mutual trust between the host and the guests.


To make the mutual dependency between the host and the guests smaller and create flexibility, it is important that the product is accessible for each guest. But just sharing access is not a solution yet. The host wants to fulfill the needs of the guests by giving them information and welcome them in a personal way.

The solution that is developed is a smart lock system in combination with a doorbell camera and pincode as access method. For the host there is an application to create unique access codes per guest. The app also offers the ability to create and send personal messages and videos. By giving the host control and insight over access with an application, the host will be able to share and revoke access in a flexible way.

Granting access
The solution that was designed enables the host to grant access during a doorbell call. However, in order to provide access in case the host is unable to receive the doorbell call, access can also be granted with an access code. The app makes it easy to generate, share, and revoke unique access codes per guest for a specific period of time.

The choice for an access code and doorbell camera ensures that access is not dependent on something physical that guests needs to bring by themselves or what the host should give at the time of arrival. By this, access is also possible without both parties being dependent on each other at the time of arrival.

Personal videos
In order to give the guests an impression of who the host is and provide a personal welcome, the app enables the host to create a personal video for the guests. Through this video, guests can get information about their stay and the surroundings on their own initiative. The link to the video can be sent to the guest or viewed on site on several devices such as the TV.

In order to minimize (subjective and situational) safety risks, there is also an activity log with camera recordings at any time the door is opened or there is a call. This gives more insight and control compared to using a physical key. Besides, the host can set a period after which the lock automatically becomes inactive again.

What’s in it for the host?
For the business host, this will create opportunities to receive the guest in a personal way on a more regular basis compared to the way in which the host welcomes the guests now. Efficiency will be maintained. For the passionate host, this product will play a role in the situations where he or she will not be available to receive the guests by themselves.

Despite this, the urgency is different for every host, the product will give the opportunity to have more insight and control over the access for each guest compared to a physical key. This will ensure flexibility and freedom for both types of host.

Issues that play a role now will be different in the future, which will enable the product to evolve. Since the European Parliament’s new legislation, mobile data usage in Europe will be less expensive *. This is relevant for B&B guests who are on holiday in Europe. Battery life will continue to improve and the rise of near field communication (NFC) offers new opportunities*. A smart lock system, allowing access to the guest’s mobile phone by means of NFC, could provide a solution. The access code, however, will still remain relevant as fallback solution when the mobile phone is unavailable.

Did we spark your interest? 
Check out the
Bold Security Technology smart lock system!


  • In 2016, the term ‘smart home’ is unfamiliar to 62% of the Dutch *.
  • In exchange for payment, key service parties will take care of the key transfer and the management of a B&B, for example cleaning the room.
  • Currently, B&B hosts use unsafe ways to share access in a way that they do not have to be present at moment of arrival. For example, keys are left in the mailbox or hidden somewhere in the garden.
  • Guests tend to forget to hand in the keys.
  • The guests are booking a B&B to have a more personal experience compared to a hotel. They think that the tips from a local person are valuable.
  • During the arrival, guests have the need to get in quickly and get some rest. They want to take in information at their own pace instead of being forced to take it in all at once.
  • Biometric solutions will make the dependency smaller and will increase the ease of use, but will raise doubts about cost, the exchange of data, and privacy issues.
  • Different kind of physical keys, for example a card or a remote will create a dependency for the guests to take it with them.
  • An mobile application for the guests, can not ensure accessibility for each guest (at this moment). The guests experience too many risks (battery life, mobile data, storage space), they think it takes too much effort to download an application and not every guest has smartphone.
  • Seeing each other provides the feeling of safety

* References

Christiopher J. Easingwood (1992). In Diffusion Paths in a High-Tech Environment: Clusters and Commonalities. R&D Management.

Kotler, P. (2013). Principes van Marketing. Pearson.

Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusion of Innovations. New York: The Free Press.

GFK. (2016). Smarthome Monitor.

Kuiper, C. (2016). Toekomst van batterijen.

Vroegop, B. (2016). Smartphone batterij duur.

Wokke, A. (2015). Roamingkosten zijn vanaf juni 2017 binnen Europa definitief verleden tijd.

Leijten, J., & Duursma, M. (2017). Mobiel inchecken in ov.

Stichting betrouwbare afrekensystemen (2017). Mobiel contactloos betalen.