When I first went to work as a locksmith, in the 1970s, it was at a shop that was already over 50 years old. I began my training using some tools that should have been considered antiques even at that time. Some of those old machines had the name Independent Lock Co. on them, and others had the name Ilco. I soon learned that the two were essentially the same. Even as a newbie, I soon realized the Ilco was one of the major players in the industry that I had decided to work in.
In 1988, when I started Tech-Train Productions, making training videos on VHS for locksmiths, I forged a relationship with the Locksmith Ledger and its editor at that time, Bill Reed. I soon began traveling with the Bill Reed Seminar Group, also known as the “Frank and Bill Show” which was sponsored by the Locksmith Ledger. At almost the same time, the Locksmith Ledger was purchased by “Ilco Unican,” and Bill Reed went from editor to publisher. Suddenly, I found myself dealing with a lot of people from Ilco Unican. At one time, Ilco even considered buying my business and during the negotiations, I got a great guided tour of the Ilco facilities located in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The plans for Ilco to purchase Tech-Train fell through and Ilco sold the Locksmith Ledger to a publishing company in 2000.
In short, I’ve been involved with Ilco at various levels since the day I cut my first key. I’ve used the products, met the people, and watched as the industry has grown and evolved. In my experience, Ilco has been one of the moving forces behind the evolution of the security industry. In the Ilco Unican days, they helped and supported the cause of locksmith education with the “Ledger World” free seminars while pioneering keyless locks. When the transponder revolution began, Ilco merged with Silca to produce transponder keys, tools, and educational resources. And recently, Ilco merged with Advanced Diagnostics to further enhance their dominance in automotive transponder technology.
Of course, during that same time, Ilco has changed as well. What started out as the Independent Lock Company, became Ilco Unican, then Kaba Ilco, and now Ilco is a part of the dormakaba Group, which makes them a part of a multi-billion-dollar world-wide industry leader. When it comes to security and security hardware, locksmiths have always been a small part of the total industry, but at the same time, we are important because we service what the big players sell. Just as the local electronics stores have been replaced by the “Big Box” retailers, and local hardware stores have been replaced by giant “Home Improvement centers,” locksmiths have had to adjust to the times.
We are fortunate that corporations like Ilco realize the contribution that we make and support our relatively small industry. I’ve been in the locksmith industry for almost 50 years and Ilco is one of the few names that were important when I started and are still important now. As an automotive locksmith, I’m especially grateful because I know that automotive locksmithing is quickly becoming a separate – and even smaller - field of locksmithing. Yet, I use Ilco products, reference guides, and resources daily.
I feel that the Ilco “Auto Truck Key Blank Reference” is one of the few indispensable items in my truck. In fact, I have pdf copies of it on all my computers and even on my phone. When you think about the fact that this book is updated annually and provided free of charge, it becomes a truly amazing resource. I know that it is not perfect, but then again, nothing is. It is true that it generally lists just Ilco part numbers, but that is why I have several key blank cross-reference resources. And in most cases, since Ilco is the largest key blank manufacturer in the world, other companies often base their part numbers on the Ilco part numbers anyway.
I know that locksmiths are just a small part of Ilco’s business, and I am truly pleased that Ilco gives us as much support as they do. Let’s take a quick look as some of the new products that Ilco has introduced in the last year.
As the largest key blank manufacturer in the world, Ilco naturally is on top of all the new keys being introduced. In addition, they manufacture a line of key machines that are sold worldwide. One of those machines that has intrigued me recently is the line of “Futura” machines. As an automotive locksmith, I need a machine that is capable of cutting both edge-milled and side-milled keys. It must be able to cut both types of keys from code as well as duplicate. Since I also operate out of a small van (Ford Transit Connect) space is at a premium, so I want the smallest machine that I can get. The basic Futura machine fits that bill pretty well, but recently Ilco has introduced a version of the Futura specifically for automotive locksmiths called the “Futura Auto.”
The Futura Auto shares the same basic design as the other three Futura machines. All of these machines are controlled by a removable 10” tablet with an intuitive interface. (Having broken the screen on my current machine, which has a built-in screen, I can really appreciate the importance of this feature!) The tablet can be held in place on top of the machine with the included tablet stand, or used hand-held or on the workbench. The tablet connects wirelessly to the machine via a built-in Wi-Fi connection or via a USB cable if the user prefers. The rear of the machine has two USB ports that can be used to connect the tablet, charge the tablet and update the software. For easy updating, a USB flash drive is included. (The built-in Wi-Fi connection is used only for communicating with the tablet and does not have Internet capabilities.)
The Futura features a single “cutting station” that uses interchangeable cutters of various types. There is even a handy rack built into the face of the machine for storing a variety of cutters along with the necessary tools for changing cutters. The Futura uses an innovative modular clamping system for securely holding the key that is being cut. The base clamp (01RA) can be used with a variety of different jaws that can be swapped out quickly and easily. In addition, there are two optional clamps that expand the capabilities of the machine for cutting tubular keys such as those used by Harley Davidson motorcycles, and Tibbe keys like those used on older Jaguar vehicles and the Ford Transit Connect from 2010 – 2013.
The Tubular key option intrigues me, since every time I make keys for a Harley Davidson that uses that system, I have to use a friend’s machine to actually cut the key after I have decoded the lock. I don’t do enough of that type of work to justify the purchase of a dedicated tubular key machine, and I certainly don’t have room for one in my van. The Tibbe option is also something that I would use, since I have built a local reputation for working on vehicles that most of the local guys don’t want to tackle.
The Futura Auto has a number of features to make it easy to learn and operate. The color-changing LEDs are just one nice touch. When the machine is ready to be used, the LEDs are white. While cutting a key, the LEDs change to yellow, and once the key is complete, the LEDs change to green.
The Futura Auto also has a database of specifications for a huge range of vehicle keys. With this database, you can produce keys that are precision cut to factory spacings and depths. The included Instacode® and Kreate-A-Key™ software make cutting keys from code fast and easy. Firmware updates are provided free of charge for the life of the machine. Software updates which include updates to Instacode® and Kreate-A-Key™ are provided free for six months. After six months, software updates will require a software subscription. Software subscriptions are sold in 1, 3, 5, and 10-year terms. All subscriptions expire on December 31st so you should purchase your subscription as close as possible to the first of the year. Updates are normally provided quarterly.
About the only thing that the Futura Auto won’t do that the its big brother the Futura Pro does is cut dimple keys and do engraving. The Futura Auto also does not include software for residential / commercial applications that some of the other Futura machines come with. But, at less than half the cost of the Futura Pro, the Futura Auto seems like a bargain to me.
For more information on the Futura line of key machines go to: http://www.ilco.us/products/key-machines/1523084/futura-series.html
When Renault introduced the world’s first remote-entry system in 1982, they started a revolution in vehicle technology. Today, it is very difficult to find a new car or truck that is not equipped with remote entry. Once the technology was made available, the public embraced it to the point that many cars now have hidden door locks that are only intended to be used in the case of a malfunction, or if the battery in the remote or the car is dead.
Remote keyless entry has become a big revenue stream for both the manufacturers and the dealers. In order to drive business back to the dealerships, the manufacturers change the specifications on a regular basis to try to discourage competition and allow the dealers to charge premium prices for remotes. But that strategy has backfired to a certain degree, alienating customers and forcing dealerships to only stock the most popular remotes and make the others “special order” items.
Ilco has only recently ventured into the arena of vehicle remotes, and now has two different options for locksmiths to sell and program vehicle remotes. Let’s take a few minutes to look at both of these options.
The basic idea of this system is very simple; stock a few multi-purpose remotes that can be programmed to fit hundreds of different vehicles. This is not a new idea, but Ilco has approached the problem from a novel direction that also includes transponder programming and/or cloning. Most of the programable remotes on the market also use a wired connection to the programming device. The Smart4Car™ system uses “Near Field Communication” (NFC) that allows the remotes to be programmed wirelessly. You may already be familiar with NFC as used on some smart phones that allow you to swap files and perform financial transactions by holding your phone close to another device.
There are two basic types of remotes in the Smart4Car™ system: Flip-Key Remotes, and a modular remote that can be used with any Ilco “Modular System Blades” (Horseshoe key blades) to produce an Integrated remote head key. Some of the remotes are supplied with transponders for programming to specific types of vehicles and some come without a transponder so you can add the appropriate transponder as needed.
The Smart4Car™ device is powered by either a USB cable, or 4 “AA” batteries. It can be connected to a PC via either the USB cable or Bluetooth, or to a smartphone via Bluetooth. (The phone apps are available in the Google Play store for Android devices, or in the App Store for iOS devices.) Updates are free after the initial purchase.
To build a remote for a specific application, you would begin by looking up the vehicle in the Smart4Car™ database. Once you have located the correct application, you would send the programming information to the programmer. After choosing the appropriate Smart4Car™ remote, you would place the remote on the programmer where the NFC programming will take place. When the programming is complete, you will then fit the remote with the correct transponder (if necessary) and the appropriate blade. From that point on, you can treat the new remote just as you would a factory remote. Cut the key and program the device into the customer’s vehicle just as you would an OEM remote.
According to Ilco, with the Smart4Car™ system you can cover over 450 vehicles by stocking just five remotes. This system is designed to work seamlessly with the new Smart Pro™ multi-vehicle transponder programmer. In fact, there is a spot specifically made for the Smart4Car™ programming unit to fit into in the Smart-Pro hard case. For more information on the Smart4Car™ system, go to: http://www.ilco.us/products/automotive-key-tools-equipment-and-remotes/remotes/1415854/smart4carTM-vehicle-remotes.html
The newest remotes from Ilco are new “FCC Certified” remotes that look just like the OEM remotes, but without logos. These are new aftermarket remotes, NOT refurbished, priced to compete with refurbished remotes. Ilco announced the first of these Look-Alike® remotes in November of 2018 and added many more in March of 2019. At the time that I am writing this, there are already 50 different part number available and more are on the way. Not all Ilco distributors have begun stocking them yet, but most soon will.
Look-Alike® remotes are now available for most popular vehicles, including: GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda / Acura, and Fiat. Proximity Remote fobs are also available for many GM, Chrysler, Ford, and Nissan.
For more information on the Look-Alike® remotes go to: http://www.ilco.us/search-results.jsp?query=look-alike+remotes&language=en
The Smart Pro™ from Advanced Diagnostics and Ilco
The Smart Pro™ is the successor to the T-Code Pro and the MVP Pro. It went on sale over a year ago, but despite trade-in programs and a marketing blitz, many MVP Pro and T-Code Pro owners have still not made the switch to the Smart Pro. I must admit that I am one of those. I was reluctant to trade in a tool that I depend on daily for a new unproven tool that had just hit the market.
On paper, the choice is a “No-Brainer.” The Smart Pro offers the same capabilities (more or less) as the older tool, but has a sleeker design, built-in Wi-Fi, USB connectivity, built-in “Help” features including a database of vehicle information, and the ability to operate with or without “Tokens” as a “Hybrid” machine. But, like many of us, I rarely work on brand new vehicles and need the ability to program older vehicles much more often that the ability to program something brand new. I have also learned that “early adopters” are often just one step away from being “Beta Testers” and are the ones who usually find and have to deal with the bugs in new technology.
As things turned out, I was more or less correct. There were bugs that had to be worked out on the early units, particularly with the Wi-Fi system. But, at this point those issues seem to have been solved. I get a lot of calls for tech-support, and for a while I was getting a lot of calls from early adopters of the Smart Pro™. I heard a lot of complaining at first, but gradually those calls tapered off until now I hardly hear anyone complaining about the capabilities of the machine or its ease of use. As a result, I’ve decided to pull the trigger and update to the Smart Pro™ in the next few weeks, depending on my budget.
Ilco and Advanced diagnostics have been working very hard to work out the bugs in the Smart Pro™ and to enhance its capabilities. That is obvious in the number of updates that they have produced in just the last year that require the increased capabilities of the Smart Pro™. Let’s look at some of those updates.
June 2018 – ADS2261: This update provides new software for servicing Volvo® vehicles that use “Slot Keys.” This software is a major break-through for most locksmiths. I personally am sick and tired of turning down customers who own Volvos. Previously, I considered making keys for modern Volvo vehicles cost-prohibitive. Even though I live in a area with lot of Volvo vehicles, I just haven’t had that many calls for them. In the past, I’ve looked into what it would take for me to service these vehicles, but the cost of a subscription to the Volvo website, and / or EEPROM equipment just wasn’t worth the potential return, so I usually referred Volvo customers, who needed anything more than a cloned key, back to the dealership. This update is one of the reasons that I have finally decided to upgrade.
August 2018 – ADS209 & ADS2209: This update provides the capability to deal with the new 20-Byte Ford systems and with an active alarm system. Programming a Ford product in an “All Keys Lost” (AKL) situation can be a real nightmare if the alarm has been activated. You MUST turn the alarm off before you program the new key. Some of the ways that I have dealt with these situations in the past is to program a new remote into the vehicle and then use it to turn off the alarm, or to pull the code for the door keypad and then use that to turn off the alarm. However, for many of the newer Ford products that is either not an option or requires a lot of work. (I recently had to pull a door code for a newer Fusion that had been repossessed. I had to get under the dash, dismount the “Smart Interface” (fuse-box) and use a mirror to read the code off the back of the smart interface – backwards!) This new software allows the user to turn off the alarm by way of software over the OBD port, which should be a huge time saver. Unlike most of the new updates this one is also available for the T-Code Pro and the MVP Pro, but the Smart Pro is required for some of the newest vehicles.
February 2019 – ADS2282: This update is only for the Smart Pro™ and provides the ability to pull the “pincode” on many new GM products using both bladed keys and proximity keys. This software pulls the pincode directly from the vehicle BCM module, which improves reliability since it eliminates variables caused by different engine sizes and types. Although on-board programming is still available on these vehicles, use of the pincode greatly speeds up the process in an AKL situation. Keep in mind that as of the 2017 model year, two keys or prox-fobs must be programmed in an all keys lost (AKL) situation.
February 2019 – ADS2272: This update gives the user the ability to deal with all key lost situations on many new Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles that use the new Fiat based software. These vehicles also require the use of a new cable to access the “STAR” connection which is located in various places on the vehicle depending on the model. This update also eliminates the need to obtain the PIN. This update works on both bladed and proximity keys. The PIN is automatically bypassed in the background as you use the software, requiring no actions on the part of the user. Once again, Advanced Diagnostic and Ilco were the first in the world to offer software for many of the vehicles covered in this update. No working key is required, this software can be used in an all keys lost situation.
February 2019 – ADS2286: This update allows the user to add keys and remotes to Subaru vehicle that use the “H” bladed keys. The pincode is bypassed in the background requiring no input from the user. A working key is necessary for key programming, and the software allows for erasing all keys (except for the one in the ignition) and adding keys, up to a total of four keys. A working remote is not required for remote programming.
March 2019 – ADS2269: This update is the first aftermarket solution in the world for 2018 and 2019 Ford products that use proximity keys. In addition, it will allow the user to program earlier model Ford proximity key equipped vehicles that have received the new “Security Update” at the Ford dealership. The pincode is bypassed in the background, requiring no input from the user. The key and remote are programmed at the same time. This software can be used in an all keys lost situation, and there is also an option for adding a key. Proximity keys can be programmed even if the alarm system has been activated.
For more information on the Smart Pro™ or software for the Smart Pro™ go to: http://www.ilco.us/products/automotive-key-tools-equipment-and-remotes/programming/1454410/smart-pro.html