July 30, 2014

On Monday this week the Kansas City BBB released a startling report that alerts consumers about two locksmiths operating in the area: ASAP Services and 24/7 Locksmith. The BBB said that "it has received complaints against both companies for charging considerably more than the industry standard to unlock homes or vehicles. Both businesses are known to use inexperienced locksmiths who damage locks. Neither company operates with proper licensing in Kansas City, Missouri."

It costs you quite some time and money If you lose your key or it is stolen. Fortunately there are some alternatives that could help you. Digital key storage startup KeyMe launched a new 3D key printing service back in December 2013.

KeyMe's mobile app lets users scan and store digital copies of their keys in the cloud and create duplicate copies anytime they need them. Copies can be ordered by mail. Specific to New York KeyMe also offers an emergency lockout key delivery service and physical key cutting kiosks in 7-Eleven and Bed Bath & Beyond stores across Manhattan. Users can order 3D printed keys in plastic, brass or gold via the KeyMe iOS app.

But many people are also concerned that new technology is used by thieves to duplicate keys. A Wired magazine reporter tells a story that he broke into his neighbor's home with a key he scanned when the neighbor wasn't looking and later 3D printed a copy. He spent only 30 seconds in the stairwell scanning the keys with a software that requires no special skills.

KeyMe CEO Greg Marsh told Wired that digitally reproducing keys is safer than other methods because it leaves a digital trail with KeyMe's account information, credit card records, and its kiosk fingerprint scanners. "We have all this accountability and data that doesn't exist when you make keys with traditional methods," Marsh says. "If a key was found to be used maliciously, we have a clear path to find out who was responsible."

Two other services similar as KeyMe, are San Francisco based company KeysDuplicated and the Belgian Keysave, which use Smartphone apps to let you scan your keys. You can then order duplicated through the post.

It seems any keys can just be copied in seconds. KeysDuplicated argues that thieves could always "imprint them on clay or measure them with a key gauge then copy them at a hardware store." For security, KeysDuplicated requires a credit card to ship the key so they can always track it back. In addition they only accept key pictures in high quality, and they need pictures of both the front and back. So a quick snapshot of your key is not acceptable.

In 2009, a group of researchers proved that they could reproduce quite accurate replicas of keys simply using photos taken from nearly 200 feet away and at an angle. So do we need to take extra care of our keys from now on? At least, you should always keep your keys out of sight of others or in your pocket. Just like in old times.

"People are now starting to understand that it only take a couple of seconds to duplicate a key." says Jos Weyers, a Dutch lockpicking guru and security consultant.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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