Getting locked out of your car or home can be one of the most stressful experiences imaginable. Indeed, you may have heard horror stories of lockouts, or perhaps you’ve locked yourself out and found yourself at the mercy of locksmiths one too many times.  So, how do you remember not to forget your keys? Strange because even the concept of remembering not to forget is a bit of a contradiction!

One way to avoid this nightmare is to replace your traditional locks with electronic smart locks. Electronic locks offer an elegant and simple solution to any forgetful person who hates keeping track of their keys. An electronic lock allows you to unlock your car, home, or safety deposit box without using a physical key. This means you don’t have to worry about leaving the key inside your house or vehicle and having to call an emergency locksmith to get you out of a jam. With an electronic lock, you can access your car, your home, or any locked up valuables with your smartphone, a wireless remote sensor, or by entering a PIN.

But you may wonder: do electronic locks really work? As long as you remember your PIN number and keep the batteries of your electronic lock charged, the answer is yes.

How do they work?

A regular key and lock system uses what is called the “pin and tumbler method,” where a cylinder is held in place by small pins. When you enter a key into the lock, the small serrated edges of the key move the pins in just the right way to cause the pins holding the cylinder to separate, thereby allowing the lock to open.

An electronic lock, on the other hand, is controlled by an electric impulse. Inside the lock, there are small parts called “actuators.” When the lock receives the correct impulse (e.g., the right PIN or signal from a fob or sensor), the actuators are triggered to move in a way that opens the lock.

The main benefit of using an electronic lock is that you don’t have to keep track of keys. Gone are the days of forgetting a small piece of metal and leaving you at the mercy of a 24-hour locksmith. Many electronic locks also allow you to remotely lock and unlock your home or car. This can offer great peace of mind if you have left on vacation and can’t remember if you locked your front door: just type in the right PIN number, and you are all set. Or perhaps a family member has come by while you’re away: you can simply give them your PIN number or you can even open the door for them from afar.

Moreover, it’s generally quite easy for the electronic lock user to change the lock’s settings or the PIN number if they find themselves locked out. Getting locked out of a physical lock, on the other hand, is usually expensive and time-consuming. It requires you to call your local locksmith and wait for their arrival.

Benefits aside, there can be some disadvantages to using electronic locks. First of all, if they are purely electronically operated, they can be rendered useless in the event of a power outage or if the batteries die. Second, they can pose a security risk if, say, someone else memorizes your pin number. Lastly, they can be rendered useless if you forget your PIN and the security settings required to change it.

There are, however, some common-sense ways to work around these pitfalls. Most electronic locks have physical backups, meaning that if they run out of power, you can open them manually with a key or by manually inserting a PIN (think of the combination lock in your high school or gym lockers).

You can also choose a lock that is operated by facial recognition or your fingerprints to avoid having to remember a PIN number or risking that someone else will steal your PIN. If you do end up choosing a PIN-operated lock, you should take care to choose a number that is difficult for others to guess (e.g., don’t choose your birthday or address), and you should keep it written down somewhere in case you forget it.