June 5, 2014

The Smartest Lock on the Block?

It has been covered by Slate and Wired and Businessweek and, hell, NPR, so perhaps you've heard already: There's a solar-powered, Bluetooth-equipped, keyless-entry, [insert high-tech hyphenated adjective here] U-lock in the works.

It's called Skylock, and is brought to you by Jack Al-Kahwati and Gerardo Barroeta of Velo Labs. The device is powered by built-in solar panels, has an accelerometer that can detect motion near your bike (or whether you've been in a collision), and connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth so it can unlock automatically as you approach. As Kyle VanHemert wrote for Wired:
That might seem incredibly handy or completely absurd, depending on your outlook. To those who eagerly anticipate the small conveniences of a more connected world, the Skylock cleverly smooths out the annoyance of futzing with keys. To cynics, it will undoubtedly look like another solution in search of a problem. How much time do we waste futzing with keys, anyway?
Leaving aside the question of whether key futzing is a serious time sink (and deferring to others the discussion of the possibilities Skylock affords for do-it-yourself bike-sharing), let's examine how the Skylock stacks up as an anti-theft device.

According to the Skylock FAQ page, Skylock

  • is equipped with a triaxial accelerometer to detect tampering. The Skylock app permits users to set the sensitivity that will trigger a theft alert.
  • is "at least as secure as the top competitor." Its dual locking pins require a would-be thief to cut the lock twice before being able to make off with the bike.
  • is immune to freezing attacks and picking, and small enough to prevent purchase from a jack. 
  • can, like any lock, be cut.
  • can be hacked, though this is "extremely unlikely."

Not bad... If, after watching the pitch below, you think the Skylock is for you, click over to https://skylock.cc/. You can snag the $249 lock for $159—but only "for a limited time."

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