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Insert Coin semifinalist: Smart Knob puts a keypad lock on your door, we go hands-on

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The Smart Knob promises a smarter, more secure deadbolt lock that lets us issue time-limited unlock codes or give trusted visitors a way in. Thanks to some hands-on time here at Engadget Expand, we've learned that it's even more clever than we thought. The PIN-verified, phone-based code generation system cycles through a seemingly "infinite" range before it hands out a number; someone overstaying their welcome isn't likely to stumble across the new code by accident. And while some might be disappointed that there's no built-in Bluetooth or WiFi to get codes, that actually works to its advantage, according to the project's Clark Li and Merrick Lackner. As Smart Knob doesn't need an internet connection, it could be useful even out in the woods.

As for the lock itself? Having had a look first-hand, we're more inclined to believe claims that it's easy to install. At least from what we've seen in the prototype, it really is just a keypad resting on top of the existing deadbolt. There isn't anything special that goes behind or through the door. To us, that makes it easier to justify the $99 price the Smart Knob team is targeting for the base hardware -- it's something you could put on your front door at home, not just at the office. The only added costs would be for ongoing notifications and similar services that would require a more extensive effort. We should know how well the Smart Knob works when it launches closer to the end of the year.

Zach Lutz contributed to this report.

Follow all of Engadget's Expand coverage live from San Francisco right here!

Gallery: Insert Coin: Smart Knob hands-on | 5 Photos

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