Shark Tank Security Startup (UniKey)

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Aug 30, 2013

A startup featured on the US Shark Tank TV show, UniKey, is trying to disrupt residential access control. Now, they are partnering with one of the biggest incumbents in the space "Kevo" to bring it to market. Is the product ready to dominate the market, leaving competitor startups behind in the dust? We examine the details, pro and cons compared to traditional locks as well as smart locks such as Lockitron, Goji and the Yale Z-Wave Deadbolt.

Backstory

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Comments (12)

While our access control needs are modest, we've been successfully using Schlage Z-Wave with the Mi Casa Vera hub. We chose Schlage over Kwikset Z-Wave door lock because it has 10 code buttons vice 5, supporting a greater codespace. We were unfamiliar with Yale Z-Wave offerings at the time of our selection. The cost among Schlage, Kwikset, and Yale Z-Wave offerings appear comparable.

Only one critical issue has arisen. Although exterior rated, the older Schlage Z-Wave locking door handle appears to allow modest airflow from outside to inside. While not directly noticeable, during the summer we've observed substantial condensation within the shell on the interior air-conditioned side of the door. The only noticeable effect (so far) has been to very substantially shorten battery life.

That's interesting feedback! Is Schlage aware of this issue?

I don't know. It's been a while since they discontinued that FE599 product in favor of the FE599NX. I think I installed the newer FE599NX on an interior door, so haven't any sense of the newer product susceptibility to internal condensation from outdoor-to-indoor airflow.

If you're already thinking "Maybe he should switch the two devices to possibly avoid future problems," I know that would be smart, but I have a lot higher priorities right this second ... :)

Since I regularly return home with a dead battery phone in my pocket, I question the viability of this product. I can just see it now...

Cold and stormy late night taxi home from the airport after a long flight. Family all asleep upstairs. And me sitting in huddled in the rain at the wall outlet on the side of the house waiting to build a charge sufficient for to unplug the phone and go use it at the front door to get in.

This is an interesting point, and one that none of these 'phone based key' systems has solved.

Kwikset deflects the problem by instructing users to carry 'backup' mechanical keys at all times for just an event. Translation: throw a key under the welcome mat.

Even NFC, which is being pushed heavily for commercial use, suffers from the same weakness. One difference between NFC and BLE (that Kevo uses) is that NFC can be passively powered by a hard wired reader, so even if the phone was dead, the chip could still be read by the system.

However, the wheels come off during implementation. For example, HID's workflows on using the NFC chip for access require the phone hit a cloud server first to provision the onboard chip. Result: no power, no access.

Story Moral: Your unsexy mechanical keyed locks aren't going away just yet.

To be fair, even in commercial access control, mechanical keyed locks haven't gone away ever. EAC power and battery backups fail jut like phone batteries. So I'm okay with carrying a key. I just don't want to always have to use it.

Mophie Juice Pack

Who can afford dead batteries?

So what happens if one of the teenage kids leaves his/her enabled iPhones in their car in the driveway (within 150' proximity)..would an intruder merely need to touch the lock housing to gain access? The "side detection" would be irrelevant because the iPhone would be on the invasive "side".

That's a good question, and one where a test would be beneficial. The published range of BLE is ~150ft, but the lock itself may have a less sensitive antenna, resulting in a closer activation range.

Our 'media' contact at Kwikset did not know the range, as they've only been coached on the 'two step' process. A test would be enlightening on questions like this!

This is on the front page of Amazon right now, btw.

It's going to be the Dropcam of Internet locks! But seriously, home page promotion on Amazon is pretty amazing exposure.

Ethan, John!!

It is likely personallized on YOUR Amazon home page, as the major banner-ad guys have tokenized you as someone who is interested in security. For example, if I go to a sporting goods site to buy triathalon gear for my wife, I see ads for Avigilon. Same if I go to order aquarium supplies. That is no accident.

I wonder how likely it is that the Kevo ad would appear for my wife when she goes to Amazon. If I look on her laptop, it's all wetsuits and bicycle stuff.

Jon

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