New iOS app stores key photos in the cloud, saving time and money when you find yourself locked out.
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You've likely experienced that sinking feeling when you arrive home and look for your keys -- only to find they're gone. KeyMe founder Greg Marsh was all too familiar with the stress of being locked out and the expense of paying for a locksmith, so he created a business to prevent it.
The company, which launched last year, recently released a free iOS app that offers a simple and secure way to store photographs of keys and share keys with others. Key images can be used to create physical copies at locksmiths and KeyMe kiosks.
How does it work? To properly scan a key, you must photograph the front and back of the key on a white sheet of paper, according to Mashable. Photographs must be taken from four inches away and the key must be detached from a keychain.
The free mobile app stores this photograph in the cloud and determines the key type and serial numbers, which can be given to any locksmith to duplicate it from scratch. While photo storage is free, it costs about $10-15 to access the information -- much less than the average locksmith's fee.
Last month, KeyMe implemented five kiosks into New York City 7-11 stores for key duplication. Kiosks use "computer vision" to create physical keys: After you insert your key, you log in to the kiosk with a fingerprint scanner. It duplicates your key from blind keys inside the machine after analyzing a variety of images. Kiosk use takes about a minute and costs between $3 and $6. You can also choose to have KeyMe mail your keys to you, which costs from $5 to $7 and takes about two to three weeks.
KeyMe also allows you to store multiple keys on a digital keychain and share keys with others. Friends who receive your digital key can also create physical copies via kiosk, locksmith or mail order. However, the app does not grant the security of knowing that your information is retrievable after you share it. "We make it clear that the sharing is a one-way street, a 'forever' thing with people you trust," said Marsh. "It's the same thing as handing your physical key to someone -- there's no guarantee you'd be able to get it back."
As you'd expect, an app like KeyMe raises security concerns. Marsh said that the system is safe and never asks for address-related information, except for mail-order purposes. In those instances, address information is deleted after keys are mailed. The photography method used to store the images also prevents "flyby" photography, so others cannot snap and store your keys without your knowledge. KeyMe also uses advanced password protection and encryption levels and provides email alerts for any account activity. The app is just as secure as a physical key, and accordingly should be shared only with those you trust.
The app is currently available for iOS. An Android version of KeyMe is in the works but is not anticipated to be released in the near future.
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