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Fancy smart locks marketed to Airbnb hosts permanently broken by software update

Why. Isn't. This. Working.Why. Isn’t. This. Working.

Image: mikkel william/Getty Images

The Internet of Things continues to amaze, but unfortunately for all the techno-utopians of the world, it’s for exactly the wrong reasons. 

The latest case study in why connecting every little thing to the internet might not be such a good idea is brought to us by Lockstate — a company that manufactures, among other things, a Wi-Fi enabled smart lock marketed to Airbnb hosts around the world. The device allows for keyless entry and remote monitoring, along with the charming ability to be remotely bricked.

And, surprise, that’s exactly what happened on Aug. 7 when Lockstate pushed an errant firmware update that left a number of its locks permanently busted. Whoops.

“We are sorry to inform you about some unfortunate news,” CEO Nolan Mondrow wrote in an email to those unfortunate enough to be stuck with a nonfunctioning LS-6i. “Your lock is among a small subset of locks that had a fatal error rendering it inoperable. After a software update was sent to your lock, it failed to reconnect to our web service making a remote fix impossible.”

That’s right, people who shelled out for a $469 future lock that enables them to track the comings and goings of their Airbnb clients suddenly found themselves forced to return to the old-fashioned days of metal keys and tumblers. And, unfortunately, they’re going to be stuck there for a while. 

The LS-6i looking so fancy.

The LS-6i looking so fancy.

Image: lockstate

That’s because in order to get the system working again, owners have to either completely replace the lock or send it in for repairs — a process that could take anywhere from five to 18 days. Importantly, however, that doesn’t mean people literally can’t get through their front doors that entire time. 

“Every one of our locks ships with a physical key,” explained Mondrow over the phone. “We have thought about redundancy for access.”

“We really feel for those that are affected,” he added. 

This, of course, isn’t the first time that an Internet of Things device has brought with it some unexpected risks. In April, a man had his garage door opener disabled after leaving a bad product review online, and internet-connected (and camera-enabled) vibrators have revealed themselves to be surprisingly easy to hack

Thankfully, for all involved, when it comes to Lockstate’s recent misstep, only around 500 locks were impacted. What’s more, Mondrow insisted that this was all the result of human error and that the technology itself is solid. Even so, he came close to admitting that nothing in the Internet of Things world can ever be 100 percent foolproof as humans still have to administer the tech.

“You always have to be aware of the fact that it’s people that work with customers and making sure they’re well trained.”

And, well, even well-trained people make mistakes. Something to perhaps keep in mind the next time you’re shopping for a shiny new internet-connected gadget.

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