The digital bicycle lock

It is kind of strange: there are products out there, which constantly evolve, for example, the mobile phone. Think about the brick you owned ten to fifteen years ago and compare it to the slick smartphone you’re holding in your hands right now. And then there are those products that – despite everybody using them everyday – do not want to be changed, at least so it seems. One of them seems to be the good old bicycle lock. Of course - one could say – why would one want to modify something so trivial? But behold, because in the twenty-first century there is always an opportunity to make technology better, even if it is as simple as the lock.

Some clear advantages

Michael Usher [1], a young American entrepreneur living in Berlin and his partner Lars Kopmann, realised the stalemate and took it to heart. However, instead of re-inventing the (bicycle-) wheel, they tackled the bicycle’s indispensible companion: the lock. As part of a project of the Berlin Start-up Academy, Michael Usher had the idea to engineer an electric lock, which can be operated by smartphone.[2] It is very similar to how you open your car these days – you simply press a button and it unlocks. All in all then, the product will allow you to have a bicycle lock without a key but one which you open using an app on your phone. The result of this new lock, should it ever make it into production, is twofold: firstly, the good old bicycle lock gets the long-awaited facelift. Of course the mechanism will be the same – open, shut, open, shut etc. – but without touching the actual bicycle. Never again will you have to look for the bicycle key in your pockets or – even worse- realising the loss of the bicycle key. You wont have to tie the never-ending chain around the saddle while engaging in body postures (like bending over) that cannot be too beneficial for your health. Ok, these changes are not entirely ground-breaking, are they? However, there is more to it! The idea of a digitally operated lock means that the bicycle itself can be operated digitally. If you are the owner then it is you who holds access to the bicycle. Because everything flows via the app, you can potentially give access to others – for a limited time, for instance. You could allow your entire family to unlock and thus use your bicycle when you’re not using it yourself. Or imagine a friend of yours is in dire need of a bicycle. Within seconds you could send her the access details and off she pedals.

Opening up new sharing possibilities?

The electronic bicycle lock is thus more than it seems. With such an innovative idea the bicycle could now become the ultimate sharing object. Connected via the app, thousands of users sharing bicycles at specific places at certain times could engage with each other – always aware of who has their bicycle and where it is going right now. Well this all sounds great. But so far the only thing that stands is the idea. It will be difficult to implement a semi-hardware, semi-software solution to the bicycle lock. How easy or difficult will it be to break the lock, digitally or physically? And is this even a worthwhile product, investors should put their money in? So far the lock-and-key principle has been working just fine, right? All these questions remain. However it would certainly be quite cool to unlock one’s bicycle at the touch of a button. Unfortunately there are no pictures available at the moment. But we will keep an eye on it and provide you with images as soon as possible.

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