It's 11 pm on a Saturday and you've locked yourself out of your house. You'll have to call a locksmith. Then you'll wait for him or her to come to your place… and, if you're a New Yorker, you'll end up paying about $100 to get back into your house.
But what if you could go a 7-Eleven and get a whole new copy of your key for about $20, instead? A homegrown startup called KeyMe has just installed two kiosks in New York City 7-Elevens to do just that. Three more are coming this week, says the startup's founder, Greg Marsh. But don't first go to a kiosk when you're in trouble. You'll need to have the foresight to have had a copy of your key scanned digitally beforehand.
Here's how it works. When you first go to a kiosk, you scan the key you want copied. If you like, you are able to make a copy right then and there for $3.49, for a basic key, or $5.99, for a novelty one.
You may also choose to make an account with KeyMe and save a digital file of the key in KeyMe's online database. Simply storing the digital file is free. Then, if you lock yourself out in the future, you can go to a KeyMe kiosk, log into your account and get a new key cut from the file for $19.99. Logging into your account requires your email and a single fingerprint scan.
I don't know why making a key from the account is so much more expensive than making a copy from the original key. It seems to me that the key-making process should be identical--and therefore the price should be the same--but I'm not sure. I'm waiting for a comment on this from KeyMe.
I tried one of these kiosks yesterday with Marsh at hand to chat. I went to the 7-Eleven at 224 5th Avenue. Everything worked well, except that KeyMe isn't able to make several types of keys. It cannot take a mailbox key. It also couldn't copy my gate key nor my deadbolt key because it didn't have the blank keys of those types. In fact, of all the keys on my keychain, the kiosk could only scan and save my front door key. KeyMe plans to add more types of blanks, such as mailbox blanks, to the machines soon, Marsh says.
I made an account and a $5.99 copy printed with a bit of the New York subway system map.
All of the technology inside a KeyMe kiosk took a year and a half to develop, Marsh says. One of the main innovations is the key scanner, which uses a secret method combining visual and mechanical techniques. Another important feature is the robotics inside the machine, which grab inserted keys and cut blanks. In fact, one of the most surprising things about the kiosk is all the noise it makes. In spite of all of its high-tech bells and whistles, it still needs to cut keys from metal blanks, just like your local human locksmith does.
Later, with my subway-map key in my purse, I asked a couple of computer scientists who research security how safe it was to save a digital copy of my house key in the cloud.
"It's safe up to a point," says Ed Schlesinger, the head of the electrical and computer engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University. "Are your bank records secure? Yeah. Have people broken into banks? Yeah."
The fingerprint access makes KeyMe much safer than a password or PIN would, Schlesinger says. Researchers have demonstrated before that they are able to spoof fingerprint scanners. A safer login could use scans from two fingers or an iris scan, says Kevin Bowyer, chair of the computer science department at the University of Notre Dame.
KeyMe says it doesn't store users' home addresses with their digital key accounts. "That makes sense and I can believe it," Bowyer says. However, the KeyMe system would need a way to keep digital accounts separate from the credit card information people use to purchase keys, he says.
Ultimately, Schlesinger says he would use something like KeyMe—because it would probably be too much trouble for thieves to put together the information they want from KeyMe. "You can always put a brick through my window," he says.
The other New York City kiosk lives at 1594 York Avenue. Additional kiosks are going up this week in 7-Elevens at 368 8th Avenue, 676 Amsterdam Avenue and 351 Bowery Street.
I am not sure if this is the same system that I my father-in-law used at our local Lowes. The system ate his key and had to have the store manager open it to get it back. I agree the price for the copy should be the same as an emergency key
So.... am I the only one who sees crazy potential for thievery here. Rent apartment, copy keys, return at later date and rob blind. Etc etc etc... any time you can get access to a key, you can store a copy in the cloud. Used to manage a store? Make a copy.. rent a car? Make a copy. I mean.. seriously..
Hi ROH2013! KeyMe is not the same system that caused some trouble for your father-in-law. That self-service machine was made by minuteKEY. Thanks for your feedback about lockout keys' pricing, it's very helpful to hear what you think because we are launching this week. If you or your father-in-law are in NYC, please visit one of our five kiosks in Manhattan 7-Elevens. Also check out www.keyme.net and www.facebook.com/keymeinc for more info.
@Xionanx The practice of just making physical copies and doing the same thing is common. Any time you move into a new space you should replace the locks or request the landlord do it for you.
I'm beginning to hate the cloud. It's a good idea up to a point. But I will not entrust critical parts of my existence to the virtual world unless absolutely necessary. My music and movies are all on disc. They're REALLY mine.
How hard it to make physical copies of all your keys and stash them somewhere? It's worked for me the past 30 years or so. If you have to have files like this accessible to you anywhere online, buy a crappy e-machine and set up your own server in-home.
Can't you steal someones fingerprint with something as simple as tape? I think it should use a whole hand scan at the very least anyway since it would be more difficult to steal someones entire hand.
I love this idea as I live alone.
But I want something more -- an emergency kit for if, say, I was locked out and lost my wallet!
I would want to be able to use something I carry around in my head, like my Facebook acount, and login and get restored with a key, some i.d. and some money.
"It seems to me that the key-making process should be identical--and therefore the price should be the same--but I'm not sure. I'm waiting for a comment on this from KeyMe."
Yes, the process is likely identical - maybe a slight difference in having to first retrieve the model from a user's account.
But the price difference isn't at all based on the process. It's based on that value proposition (the way it should be based).
When you scan your key and can make a copy for cheap, you then have to figure out what to do with the extra key so that you don't need to go back to the machine. Most people aren't going to go through that much trouble. Instead, the real value to them comes in when they're locked out entirely (like you mentioned up front). It's much more worth it to pay $20 when you really really need the key, than $4 potentially way earlier than you'd need it.
So, you can wait for the response from them as long as you'd like, but the price difference comes down to the fact that they recognized locked out people will spend more than proactive people.
Blanks? What happened to the 3D printing technology?
Xionanx makes a valid point...thieves WILL try these things...I can guarantee that; but ""TECHNICALLY"" apartment complexes are supposed to change the locks before a new tenant moves in.
Does this lock-change actually happen?
I wish I could say I had faith, but I have a hunch, the locks do NOT get changed as often as we might think.
The apartments I deliver to either have very determined thieves or they have extremely lazy maintenance people. I see all sorts of negligence when it comes to security and locks. So it is quite wise to worry that someone else might have your apartment key.
There should be stiff penalties for apartment buildings that DON'T change the locks.
I am fairly sure the difference in price is to cover overhead for storing your digital copies in the cloud. Since the instant copy of the key does not require the storing of your digital copy that would make it cheaper.
Sure, upload your home (and while you are at it, your car, your boat, and your booze locker) keys to the "cloud" and then the NSA silently forces the key company for the key files and viola!
The Feds have the keys to not just your home, but your LIFE!
No more messy break ins. No warrants. They just make a key and walk right in!
-Just a 'bot that is hot in a 'lectronic world.
And yet robotbetty9 forgets that ones home address need not be part of the file.
my classmate's step-aunt makes $89 every hour on the internet. She has been without work for 6 months but last month her pay check was $16775 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site...... www.bay95.com
Would it not be easier to have a 3D printer print out the key ...
just as Linda explained I am shocked that a mom can profit $6614 in a few weeks on the computer. did you look at this page.... www.bay95.com
So the ones that are going to thieve through this would be the ones that can work with phones and other small devices that are easy to clone or dupe. Aren't we lucky that there's only about 20,000 of them or something running around out there now, with more every day?
I just don't get it. As each vulnerability in fairly porous gear is widely discovered, here come 1000 new apps for the next two years to expose yourself and your loved ones with. Once upon a time, products had to actually work well to sell. Isn't it weird how most of the products between then and now have liked to call themselves new, improved, or both?
my buddy's sister-in-law makes $70 every hour on the laptop. She has been out of a job for 9 months but last month her paycheck was $16749 just working on the laptop for a few hours...... www.bay95.com
I guess the government would be delighted if you put your entire HDD, your money and, why not, your family in the cloud.
The Cloud... Dumbest thing I've ever heard.