Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bitlock: Bluetooth Bike Lock

Bitlock, a Kickstarter project for a Bluetooth-equipped bike lock, looks like it has a lot potential. It is a nice example of one more physical thing that a mobile device can replace. More than once, I have embarked on a local bike errand, only to realize I forgot the key to the lock.

So the obvious number one benefit is--one fewer physical object in life to keep track of. Based on the video, a close second is the effortless proximity unlock. Fishing out one's key, and fiddling with it in the lock, is a bit of a hassle. Instant, effortless proximity unlock (it's not NFC, you don't have to hold your phone against the lock) is a big value-add.[1]

The video goes on to describe more esoteric use cases, mostly variations on ad-hoc bike sharing. While novel and intriguing, I suspect these are, for most people, the features that look cool in the demo, but never get used in real life. That's fine--the two core features are compelling enough.[2]

The Kickstarter price is $99, not bad. U-Locks are pricey, easily $50-70 in the bike shop, so if this works as advertised, for a frequent bike commuter, could be well worth it.

As an aside--if I were an incumbent seller of U-Locks, I would make this a Manhattan project internally. It's kind of amazing that this hasn't already come on the market. Classic example of the adage that innovation comes from startups, not incumbents.

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[1] It looks like they have covered the important exception case of phone unavailable, with provision for a pre-assigned code. Nice touch.

[2] They say a 5-year battery life, and weatherproof. So assuming that is as-advertised, they have those important details covered.

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