Lost your keys? There’s an app for that

August 2014 News

Working on a magazine like Hi-Tech Security Solutions makes it easy to forget that all the technology that is dominating the security industry these days doesn’t really impact most people’s lives very much. And while many security firms out there are hopping on the mobile bandwagon, I recently discovered that old-timer security is also getting funky.

We all still use keys to lock the doors to our homes and businesses, although these are mostly supplemented with some form of additional security. It’s hard to imagine a South African thinking that their house is secure because they locked the door!

The problem is, when you forget your alarm code, you can get around that problem with a phone call. When you forget or lose your keys, on the other hand, things get sticky. You either bug someone who has a spare key or call out a locksmith, which is going to cost you a pretty penny – and even with today’s exchange rate, many pennies.

In the First World they have come up with a solution to this problem. KeyMe is an American company that will make you a spare key via an app on your mobile phone. It looks like it’s only available on iPhones, but one can hope for an upgrade to Android.

The process works as follows: you use the app to scan your key (basically take a picture of both sides of the key). The company then prints it via a 3D printer and sends it to you (in the USA). You pay per key that is printed and can store your keys on your phone until needed. The company uses the US Postal Service, which immediately means the business model won’t work in South Africa, but there is another option.

KeyMe also has kiosks where you can go and make a key in 30 seconds, even with a cool design. If you’re using the kiosk, you’ll need to scan a fingerprint biometric, which is apparently part of the security of the system. There are other companies that work on similar principles, such as Keys Duplicated, but you can even order keys via your web browser with this one, or KeySave if you happen to be in Belgium.

While the concept is brilliant and it certainly is cool to 3D print your keys (mostly house and business keys, apparently not car keys yet), the security implications are rather disconcerting. Simply taking a few seconds to take a photograph of someone’s keys gives you the ability to get into their house or business.

Of course, any individual who wants to copy your keys can make a clay impression in a few seconds or find another way to get an image to copy so this is not much more of a security risk. However, because there’s an app for it, I imagine many iPhone users are going to think it hilarious to visit their friends in the middle of the night for a joke – until someone gets shot.

On a very different note, it was somewhat refreshing to see a biometric reader put to the test recently. The tester compared a cheap-and-nasty reader to a brand name that cost significantly more. The cheap one failed to identify the users (there were only three users in the test) 13% of the time, while the brand name scored 100%. You get what you pay for.

Andrew Seldon




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