UniKey replaces physical door lock key with an app


May 22, 2012

UniKey is a system in which a digital key, stored on a smartphone app, can be used to open a door lock

UniKey is a system in which a digital key, stored on a smartphone app, can be used to open a door lock

Well, we really should have seen this one coming. The humble door lock key, which has been around in one form or another for literally thousands of years, may be getting replaced by an app ... or more specifically, by an app that works with a dedicated lock. It’s called the UniKey system, and it has some features that are actually kind of clever.

The UniKey app transmits a Bluetooth signal from the user’s iPhone, Android or BlackBerry smartphone, which is picked up by a paired UniKey deadbolt lock as it is approached by the user. All the user has to do when they subsequently reach the door is simply touch the outer surface of the lock, at which point the bolt will electronically withdraw. A touch of the lock can likewise be used to engage it when the user is leaving.

While not having to dig out a key and stick it in the lock may be somewhat convenient, what’s more intriguing is the system’s ability to send, revoke, and limit access to virtual “copies” of the key.

If you have a visitor coming to stay with you, for instance, you can simply send them a key to your house via their phone, in the form of a text message. This copy can take the form of a one-time, extended or permanent use key. Regardless of which type is chosen, it can also be revoked at any time. People such as maids, on the other hand, can be granted keys that only operate at certain times.

Should your phone get lost or fall into the wrong hands, the lock itself can be reset to work with your new phone. The lock also does come with a traditional physical key, which can be used if your phone is lost or out of juice. For people who don’t carry a smartphone, a Bluetooth-enabled key fob is also available.

The UniKey company is currently looking at selling the technology to a larger corporation, although it could also end up selling the product independently. The cost per system is estimated to be between US$149 and $199.

Source: UniKey via Shark Tank

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

There's also Lockitron ( Not sure about this space, the last BT enable door lock company went bust....

Chris Maresca

How secure is the signal against being captured and reproduced by another bluetooth system?


So the lock needs a power suppy? I don't think so.

Ken Heslip

@Ken - What do you mean I don't think so? So running power to the door frame is any different than running power to the security system or the window tampers? Its nothing more than the logical extension of the computer managed home

Rocky Stefano

re; Ken Heslip

Presumably the physical key will open the lock in power out conditions. I certainly would not buy a system that did not work that way.

So we'll bury a smart phone in the lawn just in case we break the one we carry. And when we have a hurricane and suffer power outages for weeks we won't be able to get into or out of our homes. This reminds me of a car key with electronic components embedded. You go to the beach and are forced to leave your keys on the blanket as they can't be submerged. You look up just in time to see the creep who grabs your keys but he is a lot closer to the car than you are. Bye bye car. Jim Sadler

If they can manage to make this look just like a traditional Dead Bolt, then I will get it for sure! My Homeowners only allows certain style of hardware so I am limited. I had a real cool passcode access lock on there once, but since it had a key pad, I was unable to keep it.

Paul Anthony

@Rocky - door alarms are typically powered with AA batteries; if they die while you're out it doesn't prevent you from getting in the door. Likewise, I recall (at the Newark NJ Hilton, anyway) where they first installed the magnetic stripe locks in the rooms, and my associate had the bad fortune of having his door-mounted batteries die. The staff had to take the door off the hinges to enter the room in order to replace the D sized batteries that were held just below the knob. So that does mean that this lock would essentially require a wall-power type installation (low voltage, but wiring nonetheless) which means the cost will not be simply $150 or $200.

And then we get to the hackability question - seems like a deal breaker to me.

Bob Fately

Gosh people, if you had read to the bottom, you would have all realized, "The lock also does come with a traditional physical key" (if you had read the other comments, you would realize Slowburn already said this). The only problem left is hack-ability, but if someone wants to bother with that, they'll probably just break a window. It's pretty easy to encrypt something to be phone specific unless you have the kind of equipment that means breaking into someone's home would be a complete waste of time.

This would be bad for a fire safe, or gun locker, but for your house? Relax people!

Charles Bosse, some one steals your iPhone and because you are a hipster, they can now use the phone to buy things, start your car...and now, enter your house...because they know where you live because they have your phone and hipsters generally won't have an ICE entry in their phonebook....but they WILL have geotagged photos of their house that can be deciphered!


Is a thief really going to "hack" your electronic lock or just throw a brick through your window?

Do you really think the key-version of your lock is stopping people getting in... or is it just stopping you from getting in?

I know a lot of people who have been robbed. The all had key-locked front doors.

I'd be happy with a voice-powered lock that required me to say the date and time (plus or minus 10 minutes). Then you'd have to wait a year to break in with a recording and be there at just the right time... If there's a power out I'll just throw a brick through my own window :)

Richard Hauer

Or you could go on the UniKey website and see that it is indeed battery operated.

Vijay Reddy
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