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ShareKey smartphone app replaces your house keys

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January 6, 2013

The ShareKey app uses NFC to lock and unlock doors (Photo: Fraunhofer SIT)

The ShareKey app uses NFC to lock and unlock doors (Photo: Fraunhofer SIT)

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.

Source: Fraunhofer

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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7 Comments

What about your mailbox key? Garage key/remote? Car key? Emergency key in case you lose your phone?

Sure, neat idea, and may be convenient, but won't eliminate the keychain. Also, if you have to juggle your shopping bags while tapping the phone on the door, and drop the phone, not only you lost a few hundred bucks, but you possibly just locked yourself out as well...

kufu
6th January, 2013 @ 11:18 pm PST

Then you need a wind up battery charger in case of flat battery. What about a RFID tag glued into your phone or even better on your finger nail?

Even better you should be able to pay things or open your door with your fingerprint.

Kääriäinen Heikki Haykey
6th January, 2013 @ 11:33 pm PST

this is not a very great idea.

I've had keypad entry on my house for over 10 years. So I don't need to rely on having my phone, or having it charged to get into my house. Neither do I need to carry house keys.

The whole point of smart locks is to do away with the physical token - the key itself. Moving this to a phone does not achieve this. The phone just becomes the key, and anyone that hits you on the head and steals your phone has your key. So this idea just results in a key that is bulkier, and can stop working when the battery goes flat.

Adrien
7th January, 2013 @ 02:03 am PST

Great idea. But in places like Florida with thunderstorms and power outages I would rather carry house keys vs standing in the rain because of 1) a dead cell phone, 2) a dead back-up battery, and the most common... 'I left the cell-phone in the house!

Pks29733steel
7th January, 2013 @ 08:24 am PST

Hey, here's my two sense worth... I think the idea behind this lock is great. I recently bought a keyless keypad lock for my house that has worked wonders for my family. It is the M210 bought from keylessentrylocks.com. I don't have to worry about not being able to enter the house due to a power outage because it is completely mechanical and all you have to do is type in your code on the keypad to unlock the door. I'm never worried about losing keys and not being able to enter the house.

Looking around at their website some more, I found that they have so many different types of locks. Mechanical, double-sided, latchbolt, proximity cards/braclet locks... a little bit of everything. The Samsung lock looks like it would work a lot like this one but it has a keypad with it! In addition, I found the people there to have great customer service.

Megan Jean
7th January, 2013 @ 11:04 am PST

I'll stick with a little metal key for a mechanical lock among the advantages is that it is completely EMP proof.

Slowburn
7th January, 2013 @ 01:19 pm PST

A human pheromone cures criminal behavior now, so locks will become obsolete.

Facebook User
9th January, 2013 @ 10:06 pm PST
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