ShareKey smartphone app replaces your house keys
By Loz Blain
January 6, 2013
Mobile phones have already swallowed up the average Joe's diary, compact camera, watch and Walkman. They're working on replacing the wallet as well – so the next logical step is to go hunting for the last remaining pocket-dwelling device they can gobble up in their mad fury of convergence – your keyring. Smart and secure door access apps and hardware have already sprung up using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi – now there's ShareKey, which uses NFC (near field communication) and aims to be the most secure of all systems.
The three-pocket-tap equipment check (wallet, keys, phone) you make before walking out the door could get 33 percent quicker in the near future. Bulky, heavy, sharp and cumbersome, keyrings are far from the ideal shape you'd choose if you were designing something to be carried in your pocket.
And thanks to researchers like Prof. Dr. Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi of Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology, they will one day join the PDA and Walkman on the scrap pile of things we just don't need to carry around with us anymore.
Sadeghi has developed a system called ShareKey, which is effectively an Android app that communicates with smart door locks via NFC to open and close them simply by waving the phone near the lock. There's no reason why it couldn't be ported to an iOS app for Apple iPhone users, so long as Apple gives the iPhone 6 or iPhone 5S an NFC chip (it was famously left out of the iPhone 5).
Unlike similar systems from Lockitron and UniKey, which use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to send instructions, you need to have the phone very physically close to the lock for ShareKey to operate, which makes it harder for hackers to intercept a signal.
The system makes it easy to assign or revoke access to each door in a flexible manner. Any smartphone user can be granted access to a door or group of doors for a defined period – so you can give your houseguests unrestricted access for a week, or give your temporary employees access in work hours.
Personally, I've been actively downsizing my keyring for the last ten years, and I'd love to get rid of it altogether. It'd be good to see some sort of eKey standard evolve, seeing as several car manufacturers are already looking at smartphone ignition as well.
The keyless door lock hardware seems to be coming in at around US$150-200 per unit for early adopters, but it's easy to see this technology making its way into the mainstream and getting a lot cheaper in the next 5 years.