Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Digital Keys - creating new services, markets and possibilities that can change the way we live and operate

Do you know who has access to your physical assets?

If you are like most people then you will probably access 3 main assets on a daily basis (i.e you will open a door that normally has a lock on it). These assets include:
1. Your house
2. Your car/public transport
3. Your office/place of work/school/University.

Isn't it odd that for these three different assets, you will most likely have 3 different methods of entry ?

i.e house = metal key

car = fob

workplace = card/fob/key. 


What if you have to go somewhere like the gym or the public swimming pool, or a conference centre, or a hotel, what do you use for access?

These three different access methods also offer 3 different levels of security.

The least secure method of access is a metal key. Isn’t it ironic that we protect our most valuable assets, our house, which holds our family - the most valuable asset of them all - with the most least secure method of entry?

But what’s wrong exactly with metal keys? Metal Key locks have been around for 4000 years – they can’t be that bad surely? The majority of metal key locks can be bumped, cracked, snapped, broken, drilled, picked, opened in seconds by anyone by simply watching a short, couple-a-minute youtube video – e.g see this article here for more information  and some video here

Before YouTube existed the security of metal key locks probably wasn't such a big problem. Lets face it, most thieves aren't exactly going around and running courses teaching people how to break into houses. Now anyone can learn in a few minutes on YouTube how easy it is to force entry through a metal key lock.

And more recently Current Affair type programs have begun to question the security of locksmiths themselves, with a creative method of entry – e.g posing to be an owner of a house, that you have been locked out of (but you are not really locked out) and ringing up a locksmith to break open the door, e.g see this video from an Australian Current affair program

What about people who might have copies of your metal keys to get into your house?
If you live in a rental house, then there is the possibility that past tenants may have copied the metal key to your house, and could let themselves in at any future date and time?
When did you last change your locks?
Can you really be one-hundred per cent certain that no-one has copied your metal key? For example when you have been to valet parking, or given out your key to a family member etc, and is that family member guarding that key 24/7?

But the aim of this blog post is not to frighten and scare you, and make you paranoid about home security -  there are plenty of video’s and news articles out there for that – like we pointed out earlier. The purpose of this post is about exploring some solutions to the security problem from a completely different angle.

Before we consider a solution, we want to ask some more questions about supply/delivering things that you use everyday like access, and to see if there are any correlations.
Q:Who do you trust to securely and reliably deliver/hold/supply your money? 
A:That’s easy right? – a bank
Q:Who do you trust to securely supply your electricity? 
A;The Utility/electricity/energy company
Q: Who do you trust to securely supply you the internet?
A: An Internet Service Provider Company/Internet Access Provider
Q: Who do you trust to securely supply you water?
A: A water company/utility company
Q: Who do you trust to securely deliver you telephone calls?
A: A telecommunications company.
Q: Who do you trust to securely supply your TV shows?
A: A television station

Perhaps you are starting to see a pattern here – it has something to do with supplying a service – there are just a few big companies that do that right, and we trust them right?

But if you ask the question, who do you trust to securely supply you the service of access to an asset such as your home, your car, or your office/school/University?

A: a locksmith? a superindendant? a Real Estate Agent? Your friends? your family members? Property Managers? On-site managers? A concierge? A Car rental company? A shop owner? Your boss? A car company? A school principal? Company owner? A housing association/cooperative? A local Government employee? A State Government employee? A Federal Government employee? A Cleaner? An Airbnb host? University staff? You! A bus driver, a taxi driver? Can you think of any others to put on this list?

So why hasn’t a small number of companies ever taken over the supply of access control in your everyday life like it has happened with electricity, internet, tv, water etc? 
A: Because the technology hasn’t allowed this to happen yet – until now – enter Digital Keys.

We see an analogy between Digital Keys and how electricity was generated a century ago. Sure, the electricity analogy has been used often in cloud computing, but we think it works here too.

The electricity cloud computing analogy goes a little something like this; back in the 1800s, individual businesses built their own power generators. Sitting next to a company, whether it was a steel mill or a factory, was its own power plant. The advent of Thomas Edison's Direct Current (DC) power allowed for the creation of power plants that let companies simply pay for it from a third-party.  DC power had a short transmission length, however, and in 1910, 60 percent of firms still generated their own power.

Back in the day
It was the arrival of Alternating Current (AC) from mad genius Nikola Tesla that allowed for long distance power transmission. Now we're all plugged into the power grid and our lights, appliances and computers are powered by giant utilities.

So mag-stripe keycard access control technology is like individual business’s building their own power generators in the 1800’s. The mag-stripe keycard system probably has as much supporting infrastructure as a power generator.

A mag-stripe system

To get a mag-stripe system working you need big servers, often in the basement of a building; you need a whole bunch of supporting network infrastructure like encoder boxes, controller boxes, PC’s and software, and of course special locks; and the building had to be completely wired so that the locks, joined to the servers and boxes, and the PC’s etc. The mag-stripe system is completely closed, and it is only used for that one business – which was usually a hotel.

In the last five years we are beginning to see these big clunky mag-stripe systems being replaced with wireless smartcard/RFID technology – perhaps this is the equivalent to Thomas Edison’s DC power. Car sharing companies, for example, are using wireless smartcard technology. And we are seeing it more often used in hospitals, offices, and in hotels. The Car-sharing technology is perhaps a classic example of Thomas Edison’s direct current(DC) technology. That is, the car sharing company’s head office is like the powerplant, and car owners are paying for the access control to the car sharing company.

A better keycard system?

Now, the main problem with Edison’s DC technology was the short transmission length. The problem with the wireless smartcard technology is not necessary the short transmission length, although in certain situations this could be a problem. For example if the car sharing/property management companies head office is in one side of the world, and the car/property is on the another side of the world, and if there is congestion on the wi-fi network, then you are not always going to get in straight away.

The biggest problem with the new wireless smartcard technology, and why it won’t be able to be simply rolled out and every asset around the globe, is similar to the mag-stripe problem – you still need on-site supporting network infrastructure. The wireless smartcard RFID technology still needs to have onsite PC’s (in the case of car sharing companies, these are plugged into the car’s electronic systems), you still need onsite wi-fi devices, and they still need onsite controller boxes, and significant onsite power. Taking out the wiring also doesn’t simply reduce the price – sometimes it’s even more expensive to install the wireless smartcard technology than it is to install the mag-stripe cards. For example it cost around $600 and it takes around 2-4 hours for a trained technician to install the wireless car sharing access control kits in cars.

The arrival of Digital Keys technology, utilizing cloud-based algorithms to essentially allow for the storing of billions of pre-programmed codes for any future date and time period, and the use of apps and smartphones, and web-based software and secure encryption technology, and cloud computing, means all the problems above are solved. There is no need for onsite wi-fi/wiring or onsite PC’s, or onsite power. All that is required is one small device which can be installed in minutes by anyone on the door, or on the frame/wall of the asset. And this device can be as cheap as it cost to buy a mechanical lock.



Using Digital Key technology, an authorized person can simply use their smartphone, or PC to download time-sensitive digital keys and easily distribute them to anyone anywhere in seconds. This means one (or a handful of companies) can manage access control from a head office/cloud server anywhere.

Digital Keys technology is the basis for a whole new set of services, markets and possibilities that can change the way we live and operate, but also threaten the dominant security industry.

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