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What if you could save a digital copy of your physical key?

By David Matthews · 14 replies
Jan 8, 2019
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  1. CES 2019 kicks off today in Las Vegas, Nevada where we'll see a whole host of future tech. However, yesterday was a kind of "CES Day 0" in which Pepcom had their Digital Media Experience that's only open to the press and media. This event allows members of the press to have more hands-on experience with new devices without having to fight through throngs of people on the actual CES show floor. I was there to see a variety of interesting tech including one called KeyHero, a service that lets you make digital copies of your physical keys.

    KeyHero is an interesting concept from The Hillman Group. KeyHero basically allows users to create a secure backup of your physical key that can be stored in the cloud and managed via a smartphone app. You can then use that digital backup to create physical replicas at any Home Depot in the country for around $3-4 per key.

    To start, you simply go to the Home Depot Key Center to have your key scanned. That digital copy is then encrypted and stored on KeyHero's cloud. Once that is stored, you can log into the KeyHero app to manage the backup and even share the key with friends and family. One use case is that perhaps you want to share it with a family member that's staying at your home for the holidays and so you could simply send them instructions on how to securely access the digital key and make their own copy at Home Depot.

    “We are excited to have a solution in KeyHero that can help us reach our mission of eliminating the anxiety, helplessness and frustration that comes from being locked out. KeyHero creates a platform for consumers to safely manage their physical keys in a digital world.” said Greg Gluchowski, President and CEO of The Hillman Group “It is the most convenient, reliable and secure digital key backup and duplication application on the market and our goal is to have every key digitally backed up, to end lock outs once and for all.”

    For those concerned about the safety of their backup, I was told by the VP of Home Solutions, Tim Ferguson, that all keys are stored using "multi-layer, military grade security encryption" that is powered by Unikey. Accessing the key requires a three-factor authentication process and is never tied to your address. In fact, because they had a key cutting machine right there on the floor, Mr. Ferguson was able to show me exactly how it works. Only a KeyKrafter machine can decrypt the digital key and even that requires a one time PIN that's not unlike the RSA tokens used by many businesses for VPN tunnels.

    The KeyHero app is available for both iPhone and Android. The backup service itself is also free with the only charge being to actually cut the key itself.

    Permalink to story.

  2. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,712   +2,507

    Huh? Some locksmiths and car dealerships have had this service for years. They don't even need to scan a key - they can cut one straight from a specifications file provided by the lock designer. Heck, Wal-Mart can make you a car key even if it has a chip in it. That said, this new service will be quite useful since it will be available in far more locations and will work with any key, even ones that predate the digital age. There is one issue, though: if this system uses standard blanks it won't work with a lot of keys that have unusual cuts. This won't matter once the cost of 3D metal printers comes way down but that may render un-chipped physical keys practically obsolete. This is already being exploited by major intelligence services that have scanner probes they can insert into a lock to map them from the inside.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
    xxLCxx likes this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,389   +3,775

    The only problem I see could be impersonators finding a way to obtain enough identification to have keys made. While this seems rather remote, if it could happen eventually it will happen. Still, lessening the changes so much would certainly be a worthy investment .... at least for the time being .....
  4. OutlawCecil

    OutlawCecil TS Guru Posts: 679   +495

    I'd muuuuuuch rather hold the digital version of my keys in my own digital wallet... say... on my phone or something. I'm not interested in trusting others to keep my keys safe.
  5. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,196   +1,623

    I find this humorous since I went to THE Home Depot last week and they had this fun device but they did not have a blank that matched my key XD
  6. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,237   +896

    A digital key is basically saying: Download the keys to my house and come in to say hi to my wife and daughter when I'm not home.
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,386   +5,013

    Right so they can be hacked and released to everyone in a data leak.

    This would be no different than any other file it relies on a file format. And my question would be. Have they made a designated file format standard for saving a physical key as a digital key? Or will the format be changed over the years? Or is it just one format of many to make everything confusing?
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  8. keyhero

    keyhero TS Rookie

    Wait a minute! Home Depot they can't even managed their own server and now they wanted to manage a key to your house...
    Godel likes this.
  9. Danny101

    Danny101 TS Guru Posts: 768   +293

    The cloud is the key.
  10. Danny101

    Danny101 TS Guru Posts: 768   +293

    How about this? Let's make a lock and key set that can be changed anytime. The lock can be mechanically re-programmed to a different keyset and that information can be fed into a key cutter and now you have changed the locks. All without pulling the locks off, much like changing your password, except it's physical. Sure we have combination locks, but they can easily cracked.
  11. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,944   +3,993

    Home Depot is the worst, bar none save for Walmart, to get a key cut that will work..

    I had to have both the key to my ancient Suzuki Sidekick, and my 750 Honda, cut by a good old fashioned hardware guy with a good old fashioned key lathe. And I swear to you, the new keys for the bike fork lock worked better than the old one! (Not lying. I think if both sides of the key are exactly aligned with each other, it's possible to improve on the original).

    In any case, every time I tried to have a double sided key cut by Home Depot, the next stop was customer service for a refund.

    I haven't been able to get a working key cut by Home Depot through two bikes and a car. Despite trying at Home Depots that I had never been to before. (In case anyone thinks I met the key guy before, and my personality was an issue).
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  12. xxLCxx

    xxLCxx TS Addict Posts: 231   +153

    All it takes for most keys are two pictures with a smartphone; one from either side, with a ruler next to them.
    Out of curiosity, I once made a key copy out of aluminium (easy to file). Anybody, even the halfway talented, amateur, can do that.
  13. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,944   +3,993

    You should get a job in Home Depot's hardware dept. They make a big production out of cutting keys that don't fit
  14. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,399   +627

    The original keys for my dad's old 1980 Mercury Cougar were made of aluminum instead of the usual brass. I still have that car and those keys.
  15. xxLCxx

    xxLCxx TS Addict Posts: 231   +153

    They have that process automated already. You send in the pictures, a machine creates your keys within minutes. Just look for "Photograph Your House Key With This App, Then Print A Copy". ;-)
    Needless to say, that this also works for somebody else's keys. If you have a good camera, you can take such pictures from afar. But if you're into that sort of stuff, you'll probably get a little machine that opens pretty much any lock (vibrating key bits)...

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