What makes a device smart? Internet of Things (IoT) technology has brought on a rush to connect any and every household appliance to AI-enabled assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.
Smart locks are one application of IoT technology that offers a substantial upgrade from existing electromechanical locks. With a smart lock, each user can have their own identity so it can track who is coming and going and at which times. Smart locks can be locked and unlocked remotely, using only a smartphone app.
Some smart locks enable the creation of temporary or permanent entry codes. In the home, this is useful for guests or for allowing service people to enter your home when you’re away. In offices, hotels, or vacation rentals, this feature can be used to manage access for visitors.
Smart locks can be configured to lock automatically after a set period. They can be integrated with other smart features such as lights. They also offer great potential in smart cities, for managing rentals of public bicycles, cars, e-scooters, or locker spaces.
Unlike standard electromechanical locks, smart locks can be made tamper-proof. If someone attempts to brute-force open the lock, it can send a notification to a smartphone, or alert the police or security service.
Current Challenges of Smart Locks
Like the much-mocked smart toaster, smart locks also have their critics. IoT devices, including smart locks, are dependent on a connection whether it’s WiFi or Bluetooth. If the connection fails, or if you lose your phone, you could end up unable to access whatever the lock is securing.
Smart locks are also more expensive than their mechanical counterparts because they require electronic parts to complement the mechanism. Furthermore, electronic locks also incur ongoing costs due to the consumption of electricity and the requirement for an internet connection.
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns around smart locks is, ironically, security. Although the lock itself may be tamper-proof, the underlying technology may become vulnerable to hackers. Researchers have previously demonstrated how easy it can be for a hacker to gain access to smart locks using only a few lines of code.
Skeptics of IoT technology also point to concerns that smart devices offer hackers a back door into the entire WiFi network to which they’re connected. A smart lock may keep a space secure, but someone doesn’t necessarily need physical access to do damage. With access to your WiFi network, hackers can cause all sorts of problems, such as installing malware on your devices or stealing credit card or other financial data. Ultimately, these problems could end up costing more than a theft or burglary would have done.
Computer and smartphone manufacturers are wise to the security challenges of connected devices and regularly release upgrades and patches to fix vulnerabilities. However, with a vast market for smart devices, not all IoT manufacturers may be as security-conscious. The nature of blockchain technology could overcome the challenges.
Using Blockchain to Overcome the Challenge
Merging blockchain technology with smart locks offers the potential to overcome many of the afore-mentioned challenges, along with enhancing smart lock functionality.
As a decentralized network, blockchain is far more resilient against hacks and malicious actors than a centralized system. Instead of receiving instructions from an inbound connection, a smart lock can simply read data from a blockchain address. This means that a smart lock can benefit from the same security as the underlying blockchain itself, protecting both the network and whatever the lock is securing.
The critical advantage of a blockchain-enabled smart lock is that there are no instructions sent between the user and the lock directly. The user communicates with the blockchain, and the lock subsequently reads the user instructions. This provides an enormous security boost, because a READ-only IoT device is much safer than a READ/WRITE one.
Let’s take the example of a public locker like the ones you can find in many railway stations. A smart lock connected to the internet will receive an instruction from an app to open or close the locker. This is unsafe, due to the risks posed by hackers could gain access and write their own instructions to the lock.
In contrast, a blockchain-enabled smart lock comes with full safety of a private key infrastructure (PKI.) The lock will read the state of its smart contract. It will know whether the user paid or not and will open accordingly. Payment can only be made by the user who originally locked it.
If someone tries to brute-force the lock, the station security guards will be alerted. If you’re delayed on your journey, you can use the app to extend the duration of your locker rental.
However, a blockchain-powered smart lock does have some drawbacks. As the payment transaction is a blockchain transaction, it can take up to several minutes to process, depending on which blockchain the system is operating. While it makes the smart lock safer and reduces transaction costs, the settlement time severely impacts the overall user experience. This limits the ability of blockchain to replace existing instant payment systems.
Now, a Swiss startup is launching its smart bicycle parking infrastructure with a blockchain-powered smart lock system. The challenges mentioned above are solved, and it could be a perfect blueprint for the broader roll-out of blockchain-powered smart locks systems.
smartmo — Smart Locks Powered by CoreLedger
smartmo is set to launch a bicycle parking smart lock solution in Switzerland, powered by CoreLedger. Switzerland is among the top ten countries for cycling, with around half of the population owning a bicycle. Particularly around the main railway stations, bicycle parking is in high demand. Particularly for expensive bikes — E-Bikes for example, the average cost is around $3,500. This has established a market for secure and reliable bike parking, as well as charging stations.
With the smartmo solution, bicycle owners can reserve a parking space in advance, lock their bikes in a single-bike stall, and charge their e-bikes. Their bicycle and payments are all secured with their private key. Thanks to CoreLedger’s smart lock technology, all payments are settled instantly and without incurring any transaction costs.
The bike parking solution has been launched together with the Swiss railway operator SBB, which hosts six premium locations for the pilot. The pilot will launch in Lucerne central station in September.
smartmo is just one application of CoreLedger’s smartlock technology. The same use could be applied in room rental, car parking, equipment usage, and many more. Infrastructure owners can have the assurance that their smart lock is backed with blockchain-level security, and users can enjoy instant payments and seamless usage.
Transaction fees are also significantly reduced when using a blockchain compared to traditional bank or credit card payment methods. This makes blockchain-based payments particularly beneficial to smaller transaction values such as bicycle or car parking.
This article is brought to you by CoreLedger.
As a prominent blockchain infrastructure provider, CoreLedger is making blockchain technology simple for businesses to use. With CoreLedger’s offerings, clients can readily tokenize their offerings with fast-to-implement resources that will allow them to modernize their services. Thanks to our in-house developed software solutions and experienced blockchain specialists, CoreLedger is ready to help you make your next move with blockchain technology.