Jan 31, 2016 | By Alec
Have you ever forgotten your office keys? Does a coworker have the only key to the office and he doesn’t show up? There are so many key-related problems that can arise when needing to monitor access to a home or an office, and we’ve all suffered from them at one point or another. Fortunately, a Brooklyn-based German company could have the solution. Called Kisi, they have developed an app-controlled 3D printed device that replaces keycards and keys with the simple swipe on an app.
This intriguing alternative for spare keys has been under development for some time, and is now finally ready for the prime time with the help of MakerBot. Started in a small office in Munich, Germany as Kisibox in 2012, it got a lot of attention in innovation competitions. Winning the 2012's Gründerwettbewerb IKT Innovativ hosted by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, it was taken to New York where it won the NYC Next Idea Competition (cash prize of $35,000). The startup settled in Brooklyn soon afterwards.
As Alex Shamy explains, their interesting concept grew out of their own frustrations with office keys. “Our founders worked in a cloud-based fitness machines company that grew from five employees to 50 in a year,” explained Kisi’s Alex Shamy. “Being two of the early employees, they found themselves with 50 coworkers and only five security keys. That didn’t exactly improve the security in the office, everyone was buzzed in manually without checking who was at the door.” This frustration grew into a software solution that issues keys and access digitally: Kisi, named by combining “key” and “easy.”
So how does it work? Kisi is essentially a keyless access control system for offices that enables management of access through the web. A 3D printed device is installed at the main security panel and is integrated into any existing key card system. But instead of swiping a keycard, you need to use the Kisi app to unlock the door. “Once installed, the device is wired to the main access doors and connects to the office WiFi,” Alex Shamy explains. “Office managers can then connect to the KISI dashboard on the web and begin issuing smartphone keys to employees. Keys can be restricted by time, date, door, and lock.” Once an employee connects to the Wi-Fi, Kisi will recognize what doors you have access to.
And interestingly enough, 3D printing technology is key in producing the Kisi devices. It’s hardware essentially consists of installation board, made up of printed circuit board(PCB) components. This is embedded into a 3D printed case, a technology chosen for its fast prototyping and testing possibilities. “We develop all of our physical hardware in sprints, a method that is normally reserved for mobile development,” Shamy explained. “That’s why sometimes 3D printing is the only way to get a product to the market within our timeframe. Making a tool, ordering from Asia and waiting for shipment often takes six to eight weeks and that is way too long for today’s new technology.”
In fact, the company revealed that contracting a vendor or machining the part themselves using traditional technologies would take far more time and money than 3D printing. One US vendor charged $10,000 for five identical prototypes, which would be developed over three months, while an overseas vendor asked $5,000 for five over a course of two months. Machining the parts themselves was also expected to cost around $10,000. This is why they turned to MakerBot, whose Replicator 2 3D printers would make several pieces a day for a fraction of those costs.
As a result, 3D printing was extensively used when prototyping the Kisi. Their products are still being refined through feedback of early customers, and each new iteration is being produced in the office for about $2.50 in filament costs. Kisi cofounder Bernard Mehl told MakerBot that altering designs in that fashion would be financially impossible. “So you’d say, ‘I’d rather accept the bad design than change it.’” What’s more, this 3D printing approach is also enabling Kisi to customize device housing to match company logos and colors.
It seems undeniable that 3D printing has played a key role in developing this interesting concept, which has already become quite a hit in New York City and surroundings, where hundreds of tech companies and startups have adopted Kisi already. “KISI is perfect for co-working spaces with high tenant turnover and fast growing startups. It gives the office manager a clear understanding of who has access and at what time and location,” Shamy explains. “When an employee or tenant leaves, access can be revoked instantly. New keys are issued instantaneously.” The company is understandably growing at a very high rate, with an initial round of funding being invested in R&D. More Kisi solutions are expected in the first quarter of 2016, while their offices are expanding.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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