The Market

Will your phone soon replace your house keys?

By Lucy Cohen Blatter | January 6, 2016 - 9:59AM 

For those of us with a tendency to misplace our keys, word that keyless entry systems are catching on in New York City buildings is welcome news.

In fact, the New York Times reports that in coming months, thanks to keyless entry systems that allow digital access to apartments, controlled through your smartphone, "residents at a handful of buildings in the city will be able to walk up to their apartment doors and go inside without fumbling for keys. And if the dog walker or cleaning service comes by while they are out, residents can use an app to let them in remotely. Ditto for deliveries."

One such system is KISI, a company that's created keyless systems for residential and office buildings alike. KISI's master administrator issues "keys" to users that allow access to an apartment or office. You, the user, can put on location restrictions to make sure the door is only unlocked when you (and your phone) are a certain distance from your front door; but you can also turn off your location restrictions and unlock  your door remotely (that comes in particularly handy for letting dog walkers and cleaning people into your apartment when you're not there).

An added bonus: It's highly secure. "Even key cards can be duplicated these days," says Alex Shamy of KISI. You as an administrator will receive a notification if your door's been unlocked and you can see a log of locks and unlocks on any given day. And if your phone gets stolen or lost,  you can access the dashboard via a desktop or laptop and delete access immediately. 

And the data's secure, too. "All of our data is stored in the cloud, which means no data is cached on the physical KISI unit inside the building. In the case of a WiFi security breach, there is no threat of unauthorized access to the building because no access information is stored locally," says Shamy.

Later this year, Shamy says, the company plans to roll out standalone pin pads on every door with backup power. As of now, a power or WiFi outage means the entry system won't work (people tend to have traditional keys as back-ups).

The appeal of these new systems isn't limited to renters and owners. "Landlords and property management companies can track the comings and goings of workers, guests and deliveries," reports the Times. "If a tenant moves out, or doesn’t pay his rent, 'keys' can be turned off. Access to health clubs, children’s lounges, pools and bike rooms can also be easily added or subtracted." 

Shamy says privacy issues shouldn't be much of a concern. "The only data management companies have is when the door is unlocked and by who. They can't track your whereabouts through the app. The app acts simple as a watchful eye over your front door, as any doorman would do."

Stephen Kliegerman, president of Halstead Property Development Marketing, says he's talked to at least one developer about using systems like KISI—and the soon-to-launch Latch—in their buildings. "Technology is something that'll always be included in new developments, he says. "Anything that helps people manage their lives is interesting."

While the cost to developer is an issue (it's the developer who pays), Kliegerman says there's a certain cachet that comes with being an innovator or trendsetter. However, among his concerns are WiFi and power outages. "And just making sure that these work in multi-unit buildings," he says.

But according to the founders of Latch, all these things will be taken care of when the company rolls out. "People are going to be surprised by all of the things that Latch can do to let the right people in and manage everything a user trusts," a company representative told Brick.


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