November 8, 2013

Kick-Start the Smart Lock Revolution

Just when I was ready to categorically bash cable locks (and I still might do so in a future post), it starts to look like the state-of-the-art in personal bike security is...a cable lock. A cable lock, though, like none you've seen before.

At the recently concluded TechCrunch Disrupt Europe technology conference, LOCK8 took home top honors—and a €40,000 check—in the startup launch competition Startup Battlefield. Between the TechCrunch monies and the funds raised by the venture's Kickstarter campaign, the London- and Berlin-based LOCK8 team should be able to bring their product to market.

But what is that product exactly? Just the "first GPS-tracked, siren-alarmed, sensor-enabled bicycle lock." LOCK8 is keyless and controlled remotely by smartphone:

Now this smartphone business gives me pause, and not just because I have yet to get with the 21st century. When riding public transportation here in DC, I always see and hear warnings about keeping a close eye on personal electronics. Securing your bike using your smartphone seems like protecting one oft-stolen piece of personal property with one even ofter-stolen.

Cell phone skepticism aside, I do like that the folks at LOCK8 consulted with bike thieves during the design process (as CTO Daniel Zajarias-Fainsod explained during the grilling he got from the TechCrunch judges). As a result, LOCK8 has sensors to register attack by any of the "villains of bicycle theft": There's a gyro accelerometer to detect vibrations caused by onslaught with a saw or a drill or an angle grinder and a temperature sensor that will trigger the lock's 120 decibel alarm if a would-be thief takes a blowtorch or ice spray to it.

One of the TechCrunch judges objected that LOCK8 "feels like a very elaborate way of telling you that your bike is being stolen," and, indeed, the lock's strength is not its impregnability. While different cable sizes will be available—"from standard wired cables to maximum security armored cables," according to the FAQs—it will still be just a cable affixing your ride to the rack or parking meter or telephone pole. LOCK8's hope, however, is that by building a community of concerned cyclists and denying thieves the luxury of time—tampering with a LOCK8 will cause an "instant push notification" to both the bike's owner and other LOCK8 users nearby—they can contrive for the good guys to have the upper hand.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the article. You can find the lock here on kickstarter:
    Have a good weekend and keep up the interesting work!