Tuesday, 8 December 2015

2015 - a year in review for smartlocks and digital keys.

Just like the last two years, 2015 has been a big year for the crowdfunded smartlock. And once again it's been a big year for being disappointed by the crowdfunded smartlock.  

Hot on the heels of shipping delays to 2013 crowded funded smart locks Lockitron and Goji, two smartlocks called Sesame and Friday had some good success on Kickstarter and Indiegogo early in the year, only to be followed by delays and disappointments. Sesame Smart Lock raised over $1.4 million on Kickstarter in February but at the time of writing in December 2015, they still haven't shipped any product yet despite promising delivery in May and November. Next Market insights were one of many who were a little worried that Sesame backers may never see their smartlock - e.g see their Sept article hereFriday still hasn't delivered their smartlock yet either, although they are promising delivery in 2016. 

Pioneers of the smartlock delayed shipping dates, Lockitron, announced a new product in January 2015, the $99 bolt.  They announced that at the end of November they'll start shipping the bolt, even though they still haven't met all the deliveries yet from the crowdfunding campaign in 2013. Once again it will be interesting to watch how the 'Lockitron and their frustrated backers' story unfolds in 2016.

2015 saw a number of newly designed smartlocks for the floor of your home, Haven, for bike u-locks, Noke, and in padlocks, Quickloc.

A lot of money went into smart lock companies in 2015. August raised $38 million Series B in March,  Unikey raised $10 million in April in Series A, and Lockstate closed a $2 million capital raise, 

Smart lock technologies came under some significant scrutiny in 2015. In August researchers and security experts exposed the insecurities with Zigbee - see here  in smartlocks and smarthome devices. The insecurities in wi-fi devices have been around for a while, and they continued to make headlines in 2015 - e.g see this one here.

2015 has also been a big year for smartlock makers partnering with big players to go after the smarthome market. August partnered with Apple and started rolling out in Apple stores early in the year. In October Apple completed the Homekit interfaces only to have their product pulled from the stores in November - see here. Kwikset and Schlage joined the Apple smart home party too in 2015. On the other side of the smarthome street, in May, Google announced its answer to Apple's Homekit called Brillo and Weave. So far Yale's Linus smartlock is working with Google's Weave. 

Although there has been many other partnerships with smartlock providers in 2015 (for example this one between Kwikset and Swann),  the last exciting smartlock partnership we want to mention is the Airbnb one. Airbnb finally succumbed to their hosts demands for better key management, by announcing the Host Assist smartlock program in November, and August and Lockstate were invited in.

Although smartlocks have had significant movements in the smarthome space in 2015, its really been the hotel industry leading the way in rolling out smartlocks this year. Just like in the past in the access control industry, with hotels rolling out mag-stripe keycards in the nineteen seventies and eighties, and then RFID smart cards in the nineteen nineties and early this century, the hotels are the leading the way with rolling out digital keys smartlocks.

Hilton Hotels Digital Key
Following in the footsteps on Starwood's keyless program announced in 2014, In August Hilton Hotels announced its own "digital key" - a plan over the next two years to enable Hilton HHonors loyalty members to use their smartphones as their room keys to enter more than 170,000 rooms at 250 US properties within Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Waldolf Astoria Hotels and Resorts, Conrad Hotels and Resorts and Canopy by Hilton Brands. Many of the Hilton brand hotels have advertised their digital key installations since August including the Hilton Los Angeles Airport here in November .

Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president and global head of digital at Hilton Worldwide, in this article said, "despite some teething problems, it's working better than we thought". Intercontinental Hotels have also been testing their own digital keys, and other hotels chains such as this one in Germany, and this one in the UK began delivering digital key solutions in 2015.

Hotels in 2015, finally began following in the footsteps of airlines, using travelers smartphones to provide services and streamline interactions. In 2016 and beyond, Hotel owners and operators everywhere will be increasingly tasked with preparing for and embracing the keyless mobile check-in trend, which is already well on its way to making plastic hotel key cards a thing of the past.

So what should we expect in 2016 for smartlocks and digital keys? Expect most the major hotel chains, and many of the smaller ones to announce digital key rollouts in 2016 like Starwood did in 2014, and Hilton did in 2015.

As the smartlock/digital key technology grows, and comes down in price and improves in quality, expect to see smartlocks and digital keys popping up in more different types of locks/hardware such as school lockers to car boom gates, to electric boxes in people's homes, community centres, sporting facilites, cars and even poker/gaming machines. 2016 should see an explosion of the use of smart locks/digital keys in public buildings and applications, rather than private use.

As for the smarthome smartlocks, expect a wider range of hardware options to become available in 2016. For example August and Kwikset just released a keypad version of their products. But until a company offers a secure "offline" and "unhackable" smartlock for the home (supported perhaps by some global standards), which offers all the functionalities of timed access control, and what smart locks offer now, don't expect homeowners to embrace smart locks in a huge way in 2016.

BRING ON 2016!!!

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