It’s a common juggling act on the doorstep: rummaging for the house keys with one hand while balancing a bag of groceries with the other. A manufacturer in the US is now aiming to streamline household entry with a deadbolt lock that reduces the need to fish for keys. Instead, the lock opens with the swipe of a finger.
The lock is a scanner that stores the fingerprints of authorized users. If your print matches the stored ones, the bolt slides open smartly with a crisp, satisfying clack, welcoming you home the biometric way. The lock looks nothing like the bulky commercial scanners that read entry cards in building lobbies. It is small, close to the size of a standard lock, and comes in upscale finishes such as antique bronze and silvery nickel, suitable for home decor. The sensor is hidden in a teardrop-shaped overhang below the keyhole.
The lock, called SmartScan, is made by Kwikset of Lake Forest, California. ($199). The device is powered by four AA batteries and requires no wiring. It works by emitting radio waves that detect distances between the ridges and valleys of a finger just below the surface of the skin, said Michael Maridakis, the chief electronic engineer for the hardware and home improvement group of Black & Decker, which owns the Kwikset brand.
Because the scanner reads subdermally, it is not affected by dirt or oil on the fingertips. “It will even work for fingers that have minor cuts and scratches,” Maridakis said. He said the lock’s batteries would last about a year if the lock is used about 20 times a day. The deadbolt also works with standard keys that accompany it. The SmartScan can also be programmed to grant temporary access—for someone to enter a home from 8-10am on a particular day, for instance, to take the dog for a walk. The lock holds about 50 different fingerprints.
Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technical officer of the security company, BT Counterpane, in Mountain View, California., says that while biometric locks may not be appropriate for guarding Air Force One, they are suitable for use in homes.
“Honestly, who’s going to get a photo of your fingerprint to trick the scanner?” he said. “If I had a photo of your key, I could fool your lock. I can also get a rock and throw it in your window.”
Biometric door locks have an advantage, he said, because they store information locally, not centrally, where it might be hacked. “The fingerprint reader says, ’Yes, it’s you,”’ he said, just as other such readers can do for applications such as authorizing owners of cellphones and computers. “It’s a great idea,” he said. NYT