Smart lock manufacturer U-tec has announced the first deadbolt smart lock with a fingerprint reader to support Matter-over-Thread. A fingerprint reader is the fastest and easiest way to unlock a smart lock, and Matter-over-Thread connectivity should solve two of the biggest issues of smart locks: poor battery life and poor connectivity.

With most connected locks on the market today, you get either a year of battery life but are stuck with the limited range and smart home compatibility of Bluetooth or just a few months of battery life but all the smart home connections you can eat over Wi-Fi. Thread, with its low-power mesh network, is specifically designed to help battery-operated devices last longer, and the new smart home standard Matter helps them connect to every smart home platform over a local, secure connection.

U-tec’s new Ultraloq Bolt Fingerprint Matter ($299) should be able to bridge those two worlds of battery life and connectivity. Through Matter, it’s compatible with Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and more. There are a couple of Thread Matter locks out there — Yale has a Thread module for its older Assure SL lock that works with Matter, and Nuki has a Matter-over-Thread lock but only for Europen locks — but neither offers the fingerprint reader, a deal-breaker for me.

The new fingerprint version of the Ultraloq Bolt also has a physical keyhole and a keypad for multiple unlocking options. Image: U-tec

U-tec is launching the new lock at the CES 2024 tech show in Las Vegas next week, where it will showcase its expansion into the broader smart home with the launch of the U home mobile app, a new Wi-Fi mesh smart lighting system, and two new security cameras.

The company will also show off a new Wi-Fi version of its fingerprint lock that works with Apple Home, plus a model without a fingerprint reader that supports Apple’s Home Key. These are separate locks, though; there’s still no Matter-over-Thread smart lock that also supports Apple Home Key (Aqara’s U100 smart lock supports Matter and Home Key but works over Zigbee via a hub). Additionally, Clark Ruan, VP at U-tec, told The Verge that previous versions of U-Bolt locks will not be upgraded to support Matter as they require different chips.

All three of U-tec’s new locks are full deadbolt replacement locks that feature six-in-one unlocking options: fingerprint or Home Key, a physical key, entering a code on the keypad, using the app, an auto-unlock feature that unlocks the door as you approach, and voice control through Alexa, Google, or Siri.

The Ultraloq Bolt Fingerprint Matter (Thread) is the Matter-over-Thread deadbolt lock; it will cost $299 and launch at the end of March, says Ruan. It doesn’t have NFC (so no Apple Home Key) or Wi-Fi, but it will work with Matter-compatible platforms such as Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. The Ultraloq Bolt (Wi-Fi) will be the first U-tec device to support Apple Home through HomeKit. It has Wi-Fi built in (not through a hub or dongle), will cost $249, and launch at the end of January, according to Ruan.The Ultraloq Bolt NFC (Wi-Fi) will be the company’s first Apple Home Key smart lock. It will not have a fingerprint reader but uses NFC for Home Key. Through Wi-Fi connectivity, it will support Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. It will cost $249 and launch at the end of April, according to Ruan.

The NFC version of the Ultraloq Bolt will not feature a fingerprint reader but will work with Apple Home Key, so you can use your phone or watch to unlock the door. Image: U-tec

Along with the new locks, U-tec is launching a new A19 smart bulb, smart plug, and smart dimmer switch that are part of its new Bright Wi-Fi mesh smart lighting system. The Bright A19 is an 1100-lumen full-color bulb that doesn’t need a hub. The Wi-Fi mesh system lets you connect multiple Bright bulbs to your Wi-Fi — but thanks to the mesh system, only the root bulb actually connects to the router. This means it counts as just one device, so no matter how many bulbs you have, they shouldn’t congest your Wi-Fi network. 

At launch, Bright A19 bulbs WiFi Mesh Edition have individual integrations with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and SmartThings, Ruan says. A Matter edition (that will add support for Apple Home) will come later.

U-tec is launching smart bulbs, switches, plugs, and cameras along with its new line of smart locks. Plus, a new app — U home — to control them all. Image: U-tec

The new locks and lights will all work with a new U home app that comes along with the new U-tec smart plug ($12.99) and smart dimmer switch ($22.99), which also work with the Wi-Fi mesh network and launch in February. The lighting products will support Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings, and Ruan says, again, Matter versions will launch later.

Finally, U-tec has two new security cameras: a battery-powered Ulticam ($69) and a wired spotlight Ulticam ($149) are slated for a June launch, says Ruan. They feature free local storage, three days of free cloud storage, and on-device AI for detecting people, animals, packages, and vehicles. They will work with Amazon Alexa and Google Home but not Apple Home. There’s no word on Matter support here, as Matter doesn’t work with security cameras yet. 

What is Matter?

Matter is a new smart home interoperability standard designed to provide a common language for connected devices to communicate locally in your home without relying on a cloud connection. It is built to be secure and private, easy to set up, and widely compatible.

Developed by Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung (and others), Matter is an open-sourced, IP-based connectivity software layer for smart home devices. It works over Wi-Fi, ethernet, and the low-power mesh networking protocol Thread and currently supports over 20 device types. These include lighting, plugs and switches, thermostats, locks, security and environment sensors, refrigerators, dishwashers, smoke alarms, air quality monitors, and more.

A smart home gadget with the Matter logo can be set up and used with any Matter-compatible ecosystem via a Matter controller and controlled by them simultaneously, a feature called multi-admin.

Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple Home are some of the major smart home platforms that support Matter, along with hundreds of device manufacturers.

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