Teo Bluetooth padlock lets you secure school lockers, chains & gates with Apple's iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
The humble padlock has hardly changed for thousands of years, but AppleInsider recently talked to one company who believes they can make a better one --?by using your iPhone as the key.

Teo


Whether securing cargo on ancient Roman trade routes or fortifying a schoolchild's locker against prying eyes, the elements of a padlock are simple: a metal shackle attached to a locking mechanism, hinged at one end and latched at the other. Gord Duncan doesn't want to alter that winning formula, he just wants to change the way we use it.

"At the end of the day, we're not replacing the lock, we're replacing the key," he told AppleInsider via phone from his office in Canada's Yukon territory.

Duncan is the inventor of the Teo, an electronic padlock that accepts digital keys blasted over a Bluetooth Low Energy connection from a smartphone, tablet, or other BLE-enabled device. The idea surfaced while Duncan was exploring Costa Rica with his family --?he worried what might happen if he lost the keys to the rented SUV the group was traveling in, stranding them in a remote area.

"I'm deathly afraid I'm gonna lose these things, 'cause we're gonna be in a world of pain," he said, "and I thought, wouldn't it be great if you could lock this carabiner?"

Teo


Once back home, Duncan continued to refine his idea and began working with Vancouver-based industrial design studio Form3 to craft a prototype. Along the way, a mutual friend introduced Duncan to Heliox Technologies, a stealthy Silicon Valley firm that makes hardened products --?like deep dive computers --?for the U.S. military.

With both Form3 and Heliox on board, Duncan said the goal was simple.

"I wanted a design like an Apple, and I wanted it to function like a Leatherman," a folding multitool widely lauded by craftsmen and outdoor enthusiasts for its quality and rugged construction.

The trio experimented with a variety of designs, including one based around a special type of wire made from a metal alloy that contracts when an electrical current is run through it, like muscles in the human body. The wire, called Flexinol, was ultimately shelved after they spent a significant amount of time prototyping around the technology.

Eventually, they settled on a rectangular design with an L-shaped housing for the electronics and latching mechanism. A similarly-formed shackle pivots into the closed position, rather than sinking into the body like conventional padlocks.

Teo


Security, Duncan stressed, has been a development priority since work on the Teo began more than two years ago, emphasizing technical partner Heliox's extensive experience building mission-critical military hardware. He said the crew consulted specifications from traditional padlocks to ensure the finished device would work in all of the places a padlock would ordinarily be used.

"At the end of the day, it is a lock, and it has to do what a lock does really well. We have to make sure we don't leave any doubt about that when we go to market with this," he added.

Since the Teo is an electronic lock, hardware is only half of the equation. Duncan and his team have also worked to innovate on the software side, imagining a future where the Teo's electronic keys can be shared --?or revoked --?as easily as sending a text message.

One scenario from the Teo's early marketing materials shows the lock securing a bicycle, while the bike's owner grants access to his friend remotely via a companion app. The Teo's creators also have enterprise integration in mind, allowing businesses to have the same type of access control over toolboxes and work sheds that they do over buildings.



With working prototypes in hand and a clear manufacturing roadmap, Duncan has taken to Kickstarter to raise funds for the final production push and to gauge public support for the idea. At press time, the campaign had raised CA$25,660 of its CA$165,000 goal in just over five days.

If the campaign is successful, Duncan aims to launch the Teo in December of this year. No matter the outcome, though, he is appreciative of the effort it has taken to get this far.

"We faced lots of challenges getting to where we got to here. It turns out it's not a slam dunk," he said. "It took some pretty bright people working at the top of the game to get us to where we are."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47

    Cell phones? Banned at school.

    Locker lock? Requires cell phone.

     

    Great going.

  • Reply 2 of 47
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

    Cell phones? Banned at school.

    Locker lock? Requires cell phone.

     

    Great going.


     

    Are they banned, or do the kids just have to keep their phones in their lockers?

  • Reply 3 of 47
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,438member
    Looks and sounds like a winner, hope they get the remaining investment in order to produce them. I do wonder how long the battery on the lock will last.
  • Reply 4 of 47
    I really like the idea. This is a product I 100% would buy.
  • Reply 5 of 47
    Cell phones? Banned at school.
    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">Locker lock? Requires cell phone.</span>


    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">Great going.</span>

    Please don't limit your thinking to US. Other parts of the world where phones are not banned you know ;)
  • Reply 6 of 47
    dcgoodcgoo Posts: 212member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    The humble padlock has hardly changed for thousands of years, 

     

    Thousands?

  • Reply 7 of 47
    cpr1cpr1 Posts: 41member

    Not banned in our school district.

  • Reply 8 of 47
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,153member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

    Cell phones? Banned at school.

    Locker lock? Requires cell phone.

     

    Great going.


     

    In other parts of the world cell phones are allowed in schools. Beside, this company is Canadian. It seems to require Bluetooth 4.0 device so new iPads and iPod touches should work and as far as I know they are not banned from schools.

  • Reply 9 of 47
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    muppetry wrote: »
    Are they banned, or do the kids just have to keep their phones in their lockers?

    Many schools ban them outright, and will confiscate them.
  • Reply 10 of 47
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    dcgoo wrote: »
    Thousands?

    Surprisingly yes, did a quick search, saw a Viking padlock, and the Romans had padlocks as well.
  • Reply 11 of 47
    dcgoodcgoo Posts: 212member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post





    Surprisingly yes, did a quick search, saw a Viking padlock, and the Romans had padlocks as well.

     

    I suspect there has been a handful of rather substantial "design changes" along the way  :)

  • Reply 12 of 47
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    dcgoo wrote: »
    I suspect there has been a handful of rather substantial "design changes" along the way  :)

    Judge for yourself.
    400
    This one is from the Vikings era.
  • Reply 13 of 47
    Hackers and thieves would absolutely love breaking this lock. A hacker can do this from a distance.
  • Reply 14 of 47
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,947member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

     

    Are they banned, or do the kids just have to keep their phones in their lockers?


    Either way, you can’t use this on the typical school locker in the U.S. So just like Tallest says... great going.

     

    Plus, this thing obviously has to have a battery to work. What happens the day the battery goes dead and you don’t have the physical key?

  • Reply 15 of 47
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

    Are they banned, or do the kids just have to keep their phones in their lockers?


     

    Oh, that’s helpful. <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" /> 

  • Reply 16 of 47
    Curious how this is going to be powered? AA batteries, something rechargeable? And what happens if the batteries die?
  • Reply 17 of 47
    fetch wrote: »
    Curious how this is going to be powered? AA batteries, something rechargeable? And what happens if the batteries die?

    They said the same thing back in 1870 about the newfangled horseless carriages powered by liquid petrol. "And what happens if you run out of fuel?" It was clearly something you didn't have to worry about with a horse in the middle of a journey. :)
  • Reply 18 of 47
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    They said the same thing back in 1870 about the newfangled horseless carriages powered by liquid petrol. "And what happens if you run out of fuel?" It was clearly something you didn't have to worry about with a horse in the middle of a journey. :)

    I had a feeling you were old but not that old. :lol:
  • Reply 19 of 47

    haha ... so they're powered by horses? what? ... I'm kidding



    After I posted I was looking at design sketches to figure out what they are thinking ... I'm going to say battery (deep. Obviously) but with a physical key backup that would grant access to the lock and the battery compartment. ... Or a spot to attach a pony.

  • Reply 20 of 47
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

    Are they banned, or do the kids just have to keep their phones in their lockers?


     

    Oh, that’s helpful. <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" /> 


     

    I thought it was amusing, anyway.

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