Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

13 September 2016

My Two-Bit Observations Of A "Smart" Lock

A few years ago, it seemed that if you were a Smart Young Person --or just wanted to look like one--you came up with an idea for some tech gadget that did nothing you couldn't have done without it.  

And you "crowdsourced" it through a Kickstarter campaign.

Some of those ideas never came into fruition.  Others took longer to execute and deliver than anyone anticipated.  Many more, though, simply were not what they were hoped or hyped to be.

Nearly three years ago, some folks in San Francisco (where else?) concocted the Bitlock, which promised "keyless bike security" and "low-cost bike sharing", and launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay for its initial development and manufacturing costs.  



According to its developers, Bitlock allows users to lock and unlock their bikes based on the proximity of their smartphones to their bikes, or directly within the app.  That, of course, allows users to ditch those clangy, clunky metal keys they've been carrying.  It also allows users to share bikes by allotting and revoking digital keys as they see fit.  

Upon launching their campaign, Bitlock's developers promised that their product "cannot be defeated using any kind of bolt cutter or hacksaw" and that its internal electronics were sealed and waterproofed to operate "under an extended temperature range".  Perhaps best of all, its projected battery life was five years, based on five locking/unlocking motions a day.

According to the company's initial press release, the program for the lock also show the location (based on the smartphone's GPS) where the bike was last locked, as well as activity data such as time and distance ridden.  And if a user loses his or phone, there were other alternative ways of opening the lock available.

Well, it seems that three years later, Bitlock has experienced many of the problems that have bedeviled other Kickstarted tech gadgetry:  delays in manufacturing and shipping, poor quality control (at least in early batches) and issues with suppliers.  This, naturally, has led to customer complaints  and the company trying to do damage control.

While I respect the efforts of the Bitlock's makers, I still have to wonder why, exactly why anyone still wants one.  More to the point:  Who needs it?  

Perhaps even more to the point:  I have to wonder whether this lock--or any other electronic lock--is actually more vulnerable than a lock with a metal key.  After all, hackers have found ways to break into "keyless" cars.  Perhaps I am uninformed about such matters, but I would think that it would take more time to pick a lock with a conventional key than it would to hack a "smart" lock.  Also, to pick a conventional lock, the would-be thief would have to put his or her hands on it, while a hacker does not have to be in such proximity as long as he or she has a way to replicate or bypass a code or password.

Even if the flaws of Bitlock or other electronic locks are worked out, I don't anticipate buying one:  I don't have a Smartphone and don't plan on getting one any time soon!

7 comments:

  1. i have yet to see a lock or shackle that can withstand an angle grinder.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bet my phone is less smart than your phone!

    These kinds of locks are being built into some new bikes and it does make me wonder about all the problems which will crop up in years to come...

    ReplyDelete
  3. How much does this little gem cost? You can get a good OnGuard U lock for $15 at Wallyworld.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mike--So much for "smart" devices, eh?

    Coline--I was thinking about the same thing. What happens when the software is no longer supported?

    Steve--$129 on Bitlock's website. A bargain at twice the price, right?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Unless they have developed some kind of amazing new steel for the shackle, along with the digital tech they've built into it, I don't know how they can claim it can't be defeated by any kind of bolt cutter or hacksaw -- or other low-tech means that people use for getting through your average Kryptonite (or similar) U-lock. As for the digital "smart" tech, I see no point. Anyhow - what's so wrong with keys?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Unless they have developed some kind of amazing new steel for the shackle, along with the digital tech they've built into it, I don't know how they can claim it can't be defeated by any kind of bolt cutter or hacksaw -- or other low-tech means that people use for getting through your average Kryptonite (or similar) U-lock. As for the digital "smart" tech, I see no point. Anyhow - what's so wrong with keys?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Brooks--Sometimes digital technology simply can't beat metallurgy, eh?

    I guess if you're one of those Smart Young People who comes up with pointless tech gadgets and gets them crowdfunded, you simply cannot be seen using a key. You know, they're so, like, 1980's.

    ReplyDelete