Of all the procedures connected with locksmithing, one of the most notable features is the ability to duplicate or originate keys. New locksmiths in business may start with depth and space keys, but will quickly move on to owning a mechanical or electronic code cutting machine. Fitting keys manually or by code is what we do best. Key fitting in the field is even better because it involves a service call.
Within the last few weeks, ideas from two different entrepreneurs have crossed my desk. Both ideas involve reading owners’ key cuts and originating keys with an electronic key origination machine.
One company called KeyMe is making automated kiosks which are being placed inside convenience food stores. A map on the Internet shows three current locations in New York City. Customers are expected to insert their house key into the kiosk machine while the machine takes a reading of their key cuts. There is no charge for this operation. If the customer either loses his house key or is locked out in the future, he can return to a convenience food mart for a replacement key. The saved cut reading is retrieved and the on-board electronic key cutting machine will immediately originate a new key for $19.95. As an added benefit, the automated kiosk can also duplicate house keys for $3.49 to $5.99 depending on what type of house key it is. Duplicates can be made on a key blank which includes a bottle opener in the keybow. This ‘invention’ was actually shown in an Ilco key blank catalog in the 1930s.
Another contender is a company called Keyicam. This company has developed a smartphone app. Customers take a picture of their house key using the special smartphone app. Once the key cut information is obtained, it is stored in ‘the cloud.’ According to the Keyicam website, a customer can retrieve his key cut information by using a computer or cell phone. The Keyicam website mentions 11,000 ‘installations’ which will be available across the country where a customer can take his keycut information and have a replacement key made. Internet videos show KW1 and SC1 keys being made. It would be interesting to know if their app can also read cuts from an old Welch or Barrows key.
Neither of these two companies appear to be connected with the locksmith community. In both instances, the companies are backed by investors who are looking for a way to make money by offering a service and key cutting looks like a good bet. If they succeed, locksmiths will not be the beneficiaries. The basic idea of key reading for future needs is good, but the plan should be coming from the people who know keys best - locksmiths.