Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

With KeyMe, an iPhone Pic Now Means You Can Always Print More House Keys Later

Locked Out

A little bit of prepping in advance could save a lot of headache next time you lock yourself out, lose your keys, or need to let a friend into your place when you’re not there.

KeyMe, a New York startup, is today releasing an iOS app that promises to help users replicate keys after they take a picture of them lying on a white sheet of paper.

KeyMe users will be able to bring a description of their key to a local locksmith who can cut it on the spot, or order custom keys online. On-the-spot data access costs $9.99 and mail-order keys cost $3.99 and up.

“There’s actually very little information required [to copy a key], but there’s never been a way for people to pull that information off their key and store it and retrieve it,” said KeyMe CEO Greg Marsh. “Now you can get a key when you don’t have the original present.”

A locksmith needs two pieces of information to replicate a key, Marsh said. 1) The key type — that is, which blank key to pull off the wall. And 2) the “bitting code” that specifies the depth of the notches along the key shaft. (So, really, once you grab those, I imagine you could write them down somewhere outside the app rather than paying KeyMe each time to access them. Just saying.)

Bottle Opening Key In ActionBut isn’t storing digital copies of keys a security problem? Marsh contended that KeyMe is secure because it never asks for any information about users’ addresses, and because it treats user data with care. He said the system should work as long as people print keys only for people they trust.

Still, I’m skeptical that people really need to print keys all that often, and that they will download an app in advance to help them do so. Marsh said KeyMe’s market analysis has found there are something like 90 million lockouts in the U.S. each year. Plus, the added ability to remotely print keys for friends may open up the market further.

Marsh also described KeyMe as a more lightweight and compatible approach than new smart locks like August and Lockitron, which replace a door lock and can be opened via mobile app or other means.

“A lot of people are starting to focus on your door hardware and replacing it with pricey electronics,” Marsh said. “That tech is cool, but we think keys work pretty well. They’re portable, and there’s no learning curve, no batteries, and they don’t crash.”

KeyMe has 14 employees and has raised $2.3 million led by Battery Ventures. In addition to the mobile app, it is distributing key-making kiosks at 7-Eleven stores in New York.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik