Company Tech4Use recently released a video of Ōllkē, an “innovative key system” that’s designed to be a one-unit device for everything you own that needs locking or secure storage. It features a control screen that will allow you to lock and unlock things, like a car fob, and also to store digital files as a USB key. And although I admire their innovation and their design, there’s still one area in which they, like so many innovators, are still lacking: They refuse to give up past technology.
In this case, their innovative key system continues to include a holder for the old-fashioned metal key, the device (along with locks) that we have been using, virtually unchanged, for centuries… and which has given us plenty of time to figure out ways around it.
We should be getting rid of the little pieces of shaped metal that we lug around and stick into shaped holes filled with springs and pins. Metal keys can be lost, stolen, easily copied or mimicked with lockpicks. And the locks themselves can be defeated with lockpicks, stiff plastic cards (I repeat for emphasis: stiff plastic cards!) or good ol’ brute force. It’s a system that can defeat the casual person, but rarely deters or defeats the person who is serious about getting into your stuff.
We have developed better systems, more secure systems, over the last few decades. Instead of an easily copied or spoofed metal key, we can use biometric data, guaranteeing that the one in possession of that biometric data is the only one who should be accessing a secure store. And by biometrics, we don’t just mean an image of a fingerprint or retina scan; modern biometrics can not only make out 3-D images under the skin, but can detect blood flow and actual signs of life, effectively defeating those who apparently watch too many bad espionage thrillers and think they can take a high-definition picture, sever someone’s finger or steal an eyeball and get access to all their stuff using dead body parts.
We can embed that data in a sealed fob the size of a couple of quarters, and add security encryption that would take even an experienced programmer days to hack. In this security-conscious world, we should be replacing all of our metal key systems with more secure systems, whether they use biometric data, or just a heavily-encrypted digital code. Such systems are in use today to admit employees into their workspaces; there is no reason why they can’t be applied to a household.
Here’s how it could work: Everyone would have a private fob (an ALLKEY™, if you will). The best design would incorporate an external sensor that could read a biometric signature, such as a fingerprint (it could store all of your fingerprints, and maybe be unlocked with one or a specific combination of fingers). This one fob would store the digital access codes for everything you own.
It would be programmed by professionals using registered, certified and secured equipment. Say you just bought a car: You would hand your Allkey™ to a certified lock technician at the dealership, who would use their secured equipment to add the car’s access code to the fob (and the fobs of anyone permitted to drive the car). Suppose you’ve also replaced your old lock to your house with a digital lock: A technician at the lock store would use their equipment to encode the door lock to your Allkey™.
Now the one Allkey™ can open your house or your car. One Allkey™ could potentially hold the lock codes to hundreds of locks… no more rings of keys and multiple fobs to carry around everywhere you go. The Allkey™ could be easily secured to your person, or worn on an unobtrusive-looking piece of jewelry, a ring, wristband or necklace. As it can’t be used without your live biometric data, there’s no point to stealing it. If it’s lost, returning it to any registered Allkey™ programmer will allow them to identify the owner and contact them.
All of this has been technologically possible for about a decade, and our need for this has been around far longer. Though I applaud the efforts of companies like Tech4Use, when it comes to security we should be looking beyond the next street and clear to the horizon.