One of the first things you think about when you picture a lock in your head is a key. Typically, if you lock something up and throw away the key (a popular phrase), you most likely won’t be getting anything you locked up back without a powerful cutting tool. The company BIO-Key however has changed everything, allowing you to throw that key away, as you won’t be needing it any longer.
BIO-Key is a manufacturer of a number of lock solutions that don’t require a standard key. They also specialize in USB fingerprint readers as well as related software applications. They have a number of locks that center around using either your fingerprint or a passcode via a mobile device (using Bluetooth). For former requires nothing but a touch on the face of the lock with your finger. The latter of the two means that mobile device of yours can now control more than just your front door’s lock. It can now get you into your locker, a shed, a box, or anything else you can clap a padlock onto. It doesn’t just stop there though, as they are also rolling out a bike lock, as well as a few other options this month. Impressed yet, because we were.
We ran into them at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, where we discussed some of their solutions (the video is available after our conclusion below), all of which seemed to be quite impressive. Luck for us, we got to play with a few of them, including one each of their pad and bike locks, which we get to talk about today.
These two locks do not feature a fingerprint reader on the face of the lock, but instead make full use of your mobile device to access them through. By doing this you can unlock them wirelessly by either entering a pin code, or your fingerprint if your device has a reader built-in (ie, like the modern Samsung Galaxy phones). Even better, they aren’t hard to use at all. You can breeze through the short instructions, but if you’re a savvy person, you can figure it all out on your own without any complications.
You start off by downloading the app to either an iOS or Android device (iOS 8.0 or above, and Android 4.3 or above, so that covers a pretty good range of devices). We have included the QR codes for both in the image above. Open the app and press the lock’s ring down (or the button on the bike lock) to wake the lock up. You can refresh the page in the app and the lock should pop up as pairable. You then click “activate” where it will pair to the lock and ask you to change the passcode (as well as the admin code). Each code is 8 digits long, so make sure it is something you will remember. Once you have done that, all you have to do is hit the “unlock” button, enter your code, and the lock pops open. See? Self-explanatory once you get as far as downloading the app.
If you phone does feature a fingerprint sensor, you can use your any finger already stored in your phone. No reason to scan one if your phone already has the information logged. You can even go into settings, and choose fingerprint only and that will be the only thing that pops up when you click to unlock–else it will ask you to choose between pin or fingerprint each time.
We found that it worked flawlessly each time unlocking with both pin and the fingerprint, making it a solid product. It’s best of course to charge it fully before you begin using it so it doesn’t die on you (if it doesn’t already come to you fully charged). This is the same though with any chargeable device you buy. The app will also tell you the locks battery status so you know when to plug it in for a refresh.
To take things a bit further (quite a bit), you can add as many users as you want. You can bring in friends, family or co-workers, granting all of them access to using the lock (or take away their access if you ever need to). This means a regular consumer could use the lock, or an entire apartment complex–in case you wanted to give them access to a pool area or something without handing out physical keys to everyone (I know, that is a bit of a stretch).
The pad-style lock we have been testing out is the TouchLock BT XL. It has a good amount of weight to it, quite similar to what you would find with a Masterlock or any other “regular” lock solution. It features an all-metal design that feels like it might be able to take a pretty good beating (and it is weatherproof). There is no keyhole since there is no key (duh), but you will find a tight flap on the right side leading to a USB port to charge the lock with.
Pressing down on the lock will wake it up. When it is connected to the app, there is an LED light on the face of the lock to show when it has properly connected and ready to unlock. Once you enter your code or press your finger against your device’s reader, the lock opens instantly. The icon on the screen also shows it is unlocked. If you lock it while you have the screen open, it will also update on the app almost instantly (speed is everything and they seem to have this down).
Just to make sure we tested the durability of the build, we made sure to drop it a few times. We tested anywhere from 3ft (pocket height) to 6ft just to see what would happen. Thankfully no pieces went flying off, and the lock functioned perfectly thereafter. Also, there was minimal visual damage to the unit (some minor scraping).
The lock is currently available for purchase and can be found here.
The bike lock we tested was the TouchLock Bike BT, and looks a lot like what you’d expect a bike lock to look like. The main body of the unit is a little larger than a normal lock (because it houses awesomeness inside?–and also a speaker). Overall, this lock also feels about as durable of a normal key-style lock of the same design. Usage is self-explanatory as it wraps around your bike and something to secure it to, and plugs into itself. When the end connects into the body, it does so with a good secure snap (and it sounds off with a beep).
As for the beep, it will sound off when you plug it in or unplug the lock. Quite similar to an alarm on your car, only it doesn’t actually feature an alarm it seems (that would have been cool). The sound is loud so it will grab attention and warn people around you that “hey, I am locking this up, so don’t go touching anything!”. Chances are, they will probably automatically assume an alarm will go off if they touch it.
It responds just as quickly to the app as the pad-style lock, and the lock and unlock of the lock feels pretty durable. We also dropped it a few times as well to see if anything went wrong, and no troubles came from any of it.
This lock isn’t out just yet, but it will be launching into the market sometime this month more than likely. You should be able to find it at places like Amazon or via their website directly at bio-key.com.
The Wrap Up
Both locks are supposed to last around 4-6 months (battery life) depending on how frequently you play with them. We found the battery icon dropping a little within a day, but we also used the crap out of them (so our experience won’t necessarily be real-world results when it comes to that). Charging them back up should only take you around 30 minutes or so. Even if the charge lasted a couple of months, it wouldn’t be too bad (unless it was a lock is for something you set and forget about, like a shed in the backyard you never bother with).
Which brings us to what happens if the lock does die during use. The answer would be to plug it into an energy source nearby using the USB to micro-USB cable (or any other cable of that type, if you feel you need a longer reach). If you don’t have an outlet nearby, you would have to use a portable power bank or something. Not the most ideal situation to find yourself in, but you can at least still get into the lock worse case scenario.
The cable each lock comes with is pretty short–around 6-8 inches, and each one comes with instructions that will walk you through everything just fine.
BIO-Key also has other locks (as previously mentioned) that instead of BT, use a fingerprint reader located directly on the face of the lock. You can find those and other BIO-Lock solutions here on Amazon. Most solutions will pop up as they make their way into the market.
Both locks function quite well, making them perfect for each of their individual uses. Their response time working with the app is quick, and the app feels quite intuitive.You should only (hopefully) have to charge them every 3-4 months, giving you a decent battery life; and they seem to be as durable as any other lock of their type. The ability to unlock a lock using your finger is nice and the only thing that didn’t fully sit well with us was the price since you can get regular key solutions within the $5-$15 range. The BIO-Key TouchLock BT padlock falls around $50 and we don’t have the price yet for the bike lock until it becomes available. Thankfully this doesn’t hurt the score too much since similar options on the market (there aren’t many) feature similar pricing.
|Buy from Amazon (Pad Lock) / (Bike lock coming soon)
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
TouchLock BT User manual – Click here
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.