Throw Away The Key - Obsolete Week


By Zach Schepis

Photo courtesy of Goji.

Imagine a world where you don’t need keys to open locks. No more fishing through pockets of jangling change at three in the morning to retrieve a key to the apartment. Immediately upon stepping to the threshold your presence is detected, and the door bids entry.

The scenario may sound like something ripped straight from the annals of science fiction lore, but then again, we live in an age where the developments dreamed by decades of past writers and theorists are rapidly becoming realities. Today, a smartphone is capable of controlling the security of your home remotely.

UniKey Technologies was among the first companies to put this new concept into action. Since its inception in 2010, UniKey’s core engineering team, led by founder Phil Dumas, has delivered mass marketed solutions including the first mass residential biometric lock fingerprint scan. According to Dirk Wyckoff, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, the technology was so dependent on the human element of interaction (initial system training and everyday use) that it presented environmental challenges to its viability as a consumer system.

The challenge, says Wyckoff, motivated Dumas to combine existing technologies (wireless, mobile, and internet) into a proprietary and patented “hands free” Passive Keyless Entry that can be integrated into existing equipment, such as a residential lock.

“We imagine all of your keys, keycards, PINs, and passwords becoming part of an electronic key ring that resides on your smartphone,” Wyckoff tells BTR. “You’ll bypass the check-in counter at a hotel, leave behind that office building ID card, and there will be no need to carry a bulky car fob anymore.”

UniKey is designed quite easy to set up: a user simply downloads the Kevo app for free on their smart phone, after which they can remotely set preferences for home security. A Kevo user has the ability to lock, send, disable, or delete eKeys, which serve as a web portal through which a designated group can access a given entrance. A log of lock activity and series of personalized notifications can also be activated to allow for a more thorough and tightly-knit network.

Furthermore, when utilizing UniKey’s Kwikset Kevo your smartphone doesn’t even need to leave your pocket. The presence of the app is registered by the door lock, and then all you need to do is touch it with your finger.

“Consumers are demanding products that simplify their lives,” says Wyckoff. “We believe that a simple value and elegant user interface must exist for consumers to embrace technology. It will address specific needs and must function autonomously. Consumers cannot be expected to pay for a whole house upgrade to integrate home monitoring systems.”

Another alternative for consumers looking to further fortify their homes is the Goji Smart Lock. Not unlike UniKey’s Kwikset, the Goji Smart Lock employs a similar system of digital keys that only predetermined users can access.

So what’s the kicker? The Goji Lock has a built in camera to send you real-time picture alerts and records a log of anyone activating your lock without a key you have provided. The status of the lock can also be checked from anywhere in the world using the Goji App.

CEO and Founder of Goji, Gabriel Bestard-Ribas, sat down with BTR to share how he came up with the new lock technology.

“I got the idea for the product in 2012 when I was visiting my family in Barcelona,” says Ribas. “I was riding a moped, carrying everything in my pockets, and thinking it would be so much easier if I didn’t have to carry both a phone and my keys.”

“You know, we use locks every day,” he continues, “and they haven’t changed in more than 2,000 years. I thought it was about time, and that it would be a great opportunity and challenge to define a product that didn’t previously exist.”

The question still remains as to whether or not these new “smart” locks will come to replace an invention that has clearly stood the test of time. Will the influx of smartphone users really come to redefine the market of home security?

“Let’s just say that I no longer carry my traditional keys,” Wyckoff tells BTR, “and I look forward to whittling my key chain down one-by-one.”

Ribas, however, is not so quick to write off the traditional lock and key. He argues an invention that has been in use for so long isn’t likely to become obsolete any time soon.

“I just don’t think it will happen,” he tells BTR. “Even with our lock, we include a mechanical key just in case it’s needed. People can still hide a key under a rock in the garden to serve as a backup. Traditional keys work; they just don’t have the powerful, additional functionality of a smart lock, which I believe people are going to want and come to expect.”

Such a demand may very well become the norm as more and more designs of these locks flood the market in the coming year. Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research Frank Gillet recently told Market Watch, “In the next couple years, we’ll see high percentage growth but low numbers” for smartphone-enabled home locks. He predicts them becoming mainstream in the next three to five years.

In a world filled with phone-savvy security interfaces, the potential remains for hackers to gain access to private residences with newfound ease. Rather than going about the physical nuances of picking a lock, skilled burglars could find ways to forge electronic keys.

Ribas, for one, is assured that the Goji Smart Lock will remain an impenetrable gateway for even the most experienced lock-pickers.

“Goji uses the highest level of encryption for wireless entry,” Ribas says. “It’s 128-bit encryption just like the banks and the military, and just as importantly, the access rights for each digital key are blacklisted after every use, and new access rights are automatically assigned for the key.”

Wyckoff, however, is a little more cautious about the potential of these new locks. While he acknowledges Kevo to be extremely secure, both digitally and mechanically, there always exists room for error. With that said, designers for smart locks are careful to prevent potential mishaps.

“First, we must acknowledge that nothing that exists is unhackable or unpickable,” he says.

“But attempts have been made to break into these well-known algorithms over the years by the cryptography community without any success.”

Ultimately, users will have to find out for themselves just how safe they really are. But for pioneers like UniKey and Goji, the answer is a no-brainer.

“Most importantly please remember that your security is only as good as its weakest point,” Wyckoff tells BTR, “and UniKey system is not that point. Anyone wanting to gain unauthorized access to your home will have better luck with another attempted method of entry.”