App Replaces Locksmiths: KeyMe

The claim is bold: Use KeyMe's app, and losing your keys won't be a big problem.

In the recent rash of VC funded security startups, KeyMe has raised $2.3 million to flesh out a concept that works like this:

  • Take two pictures of your housekey - front and back.
  • Upload the images to KeyMe, who then translates the image into information:
    • Kit Bitting: The cuts on a key translate into a specific combination. The profile of the bitted cuts are coded (ie: 344358), which describes how deep the notches are according to a standard depth position.
    • Key Profile: Not all keys fit in all locks. The shape of a key often is tied to a specific lock, so making sure the keyblank fits the lock is critical.

Then, when/if you lose a key, you use the app to recall your key information and give it to a locksmith, who then can cut a replacement key sight unseen. You pay a fee of $10.00 to make this happen.

Here are the major problems I see:

1. Duplicators vs. Bitting Machines: Most keys are 'copied' using duplicators, not bitting machines. New keys cannot be cut unless they have a copy to work from, even if you have the bitting information in hand. The typical counter guy at the hardware store isn't going to do much with bitting information, so you'll need to seek out a locksmith with an actual bitting machine. This is more expensive and less convenient compared to running to the big box store or automatic kiosk.

2. Locksmiths have Eyes: You can take pictures of your key and store them for free. Even if you do not understand the key's details (code/profile), the chances are a Locksmith will be able to interpret your picture anyway. Since you already need a locksmith to use KeyMe, why not just cut out the middleman?

3. Locks/Keys Wear over Time: Ever had a key made and when you try it out, it does not work? One of the benefits of a duplicator vs. bitting machine is that it copies a worn key that is proven to work. Because locks and keys wear when used, there is no guarantee a nice, sharp, mathematically correct 'code key' is going to work in the lock.

4. "Do Not Duplicate"? No problem: While keys embossed with the command are no guarantee a locksmith or machine tech will honor it, there is even less chance it does any good when using the app. Even worse, what is to keep a total stranger from snapping a few pictures of your keys and having them made without your knowledge?

What are your thoughts? Any opinions? Care to change my opinion that KeyMe is a dud?

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