by Leigh Beadon

Filed Under:
awesome stuff, locks

Awesome Stuff: Lock It Up

from the safe-not-sorry dept

This week's awesome stuff is all about security, but not of the "cyber" variety. No, we're taking a look at some brand new takes on good old fashioned locks.

Lock Your Mail!

Though technology has drastically changed the role of snail mail in the world, that doesn't mean the latter can't benefit from the former. The wi-fi enabled Smart Mailbox is designed to offer convenient security (it locks and unlocks via smartphone app) and plain old convenience (it can notify you inside when new mail has arrived). And despite American preconceptions about us not even bothering to lock our doors, it's being made in Canada! The project has only just launched, so it remains to be seen if it will come anywhere close to its $50,000 goal.

Lock Your Bike!

Speaking of local locking habits, they seem to swing wildly from place to place. In some cities, locking up a bicycle isn't enough — some enterprising thief will strip it of its precious wheels. If you live in one of those places, you might benefit from the Nutlock system, which builds extra security into the nuts and bolts of the bike, literally:

Some cities, however, are the exact opposite — people don't even need to bother locking their bike to a rack or post, instead sticking with the token gesture of locking the frame to one wheel, because who would steal a bike they can't ride away on? If you're lucky enough to be a cyclist in such a city, the ultra-compact VIER lock might be for you:

Lock Your Locker!

It's back to school season, which I imagine is like Christmas for combination padlock manufacturers. But if the nearly $400,000 (at time of writing) raised by the Bluetooth-activated, smartphone-controlled Noke is any indication, people are getting a little tired of the old standard.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    jdc (profile), Aug 30th, 2014 @ 12:38pm

    The Noke looked good for a short while.

    But unfortunately, the first thing I noticed upon it being used is that it has a single locking shackle (the shackle has only 1 notch in it). Single locking shackles are used for low security locks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2014 @ 7:05pm

    Re: The Noke looked good for a short while.

    Hard keys are not really as secure as 'soft' keys (ie: proximity cards). With soft keys you can arbitrarily assign and revoke keys conveniently simply by changing a setting in a computer, you can control who has access to what doors and easily change access parameters at will, and you can audit who came into what door when (or at least what badge was used). You can also program the key reader to beep whenever someone places a card next to it which alerts those around it that someone is here and attempting to enter. With a hard key if someone duplicates it then you would have to physically change all the locks to revoke the key and who wants to do all that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Beta (profile), Aug 30th, 2014 @ 9:07pm


    Before I trust the Noke, I'd like to know the exact challenge-and-response protocol. When a company doesn't reveal such details, it usually means that the protocol is full of holes. It's not hard to imagine a "straightforward" design that would allow a device pretending to be a Noke to quietly collect the keys of all Noke-users who walk past it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Smeagol, Aug 31st, 2014 @ 12:59am

    Stale cache somewhere?

    I can't see today's "A Look Back in Techdirt History" post for some reason. It's missing from the main page, the forwards link to it is missing from this page, etc. -- almost as if it is still not yet noon on Saturday, instead of already into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

    This suggests that my view of the site is stale by over half a day.

    Is there anything I can do to view the Techdirt History post for this week right away, or do I just have to wait for whatever the logjam is to clear up on its own?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Smeagol, Aug 31st, 2014 @ 1:05am

    Re: Stale cache somewhere?

    OK, it must be something stranger than that. Reloading, I can now see my own previous comment, and reply to it as I am doing now, but I still don't see the link forwards to the next article at the top of the page. How can the top of this page be fifteen hours out of date while the bottom of it is up to date to within at most a few minutes, at the same time?

    The only "simple" explanation that could explain those data seems to be human error, to wit, someone simply forgot to post the Look Back article at the normal time today. But techdirt has a reputation for running a tighter ship than that, so I dismiss it as unlikely.

    I'm scratching my head though to think of what sort of technical problem could cause a single .shtml file to be served to an end-user as a patchwork mix of different versions spanning most of a day of the file's history...are some of the navigation links dynamically generated by client-side scripts, based on AJAX requests for objects that might be seen from the client end as staler versions than the comment objects, perhaps?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    PopeRatzo (profile), Aug 31st, 2014 @ 6:31am

    Re: Re: Stale cache somewhere?

    You're probably just falling through a singularity.

    This happens all the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Rekrul, Aug 31st, 2014 @ 8:15am

    So what makes the Noke emergency click code easier to remember than a traditional combination?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Touche79 (profile), Aug 31st, 2014 @ 9:08am

    Also great physical locks for any rack-mounted electronics

    Check out Denver Innovations at - they have some really cool physical locks that go over rack-mounted switches, routers, multiplexers and musical equipment.

    Nobody gets to your stuff without the keys or combinations, and they can be installed over already working equipment and have built-in cable management

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2014 @ 9:27am

    Re: Also great physical locks for any rack-mounted electronics

    go peddle your wares somewhere else, spamhole. that shit's ridiculous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    allengarvin (profile), Aug 31st, 2014 @ 6:18pm

    Lock my mailbox?

    I do pretty much 100% of my financial transactions online (with the single exception of tax documents mailed at the start of the year). Lock my mail box? Bah, I'd love for thieves to get into it, and still the bulk junk advertisements that fill it up every week.

    (Apparently no one else needs it either. A week in, it doesn't have a single solitary contribution)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Leigh Beadon (profile), Aug 31st, 2014 @ 6:51pm

    Re: Re: Stale cache somewhere?

    While I appreciate all the detective work, it's actually quite simple: we're spacing the posts out over 3 days for the long weekend.

    Sorry for the confusion!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Ninja (profile), Sep 1st, 2014 @ 7:35am

    Hmmm, I don't fully trust those locks that can be opened wirelessly. What would prevent a criminal from using some homemade device from making it try tons of combinations till the right one arrives? Or install something to read the exchange between the lock and the phone and try to crack it?

    I don't know how security is carried out here so I might be worried for nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2014 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Lock my mailbox?

    Another road block for their Kickstarter to keep in mind is that the Canadian postal service has been making noise about getting rid of door to door mail delivery all together. Maybe they plan on marketing themselves to Americans but there's a strong possibility that if you purchased it in Canada you wouldn't even have a use for it within the next few years. It seems like a neat idea but it's just not that useful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2014 @ 2:43pm


    That depends on if it is done right or not. Say if you are limited to a try every ten seconds and the key is very long they'll be there for a very, very, long time and a combination spammer would be useless enough. Likewise if the protocols are done well listening to the exchange will give them nothing useful.

    What I would worry about most with the design is how it deals with loss of power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Ninja (profile), Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 4:24am

    Re: Re:

    True enough, if you limit the amount of tries it should be safe. As for the power loss it should remain locked by default but you could add a mechanical mean to open it or a way to provide energy to the device.

    Reminds me of those electronic locks they use in hotels that could be easily hacked heh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 10:45am

    Re: Lock my mailbox?

    This was my thought, too. The only snail-mail I get anymore is junk mail, and I have no need to ensure that it is safely locked.

    I'd prefer it got stolen, so I can just get rid of my weekly "move all the mail to to the recycling bin" chore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 2nd, 2014 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The thing about those hotel room locks was that they were hackable because of a criminally bad design (it was possible to physically access a diagnostic port without a key), not because of any inherent technological flaw.

    (Not to say that there is no inherent technological flaw in them -- I don't know about that one way or the other)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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