Having a bike stolen is a terrible feeling, and in the hive of scum and villainy known as the United States, it happens 1.5 million times every year. Being able to share your bike with friends while always knowing right where it is, and getting a push notification if it's been in a crash or someone is messing with your lock--that would be pretty great. That's what Skylock thinks too.
Skylock is a tough, solid U-lock that has smart features like keyless unlocking using a smartphone app, without the added friction you might expect when a formerly dumb product gets smart. You don't have to worry about charging it, for starters. It's got a solar strip that can keep the battery charged--its creators, Velo Labs, told us that Skylock can run for a week on an hour's worth of sunlight, and a full charge should last about a month.
Skylock pairs to your smartphone with Bluetooth LE, and it's also got Wi-Fi and an accelerometer. You unlock your bike over Bluetooth, since you'll be standing right next to it. The Wi-Fi is so you can receive alerts out of Bluetooth range, if, say, you lock up your bike in your backyard or outside a coffee shop with Wi-Fi. After you tell the app which network to use, the Skylock can send a notification to your phone when the accelerometer detects someone tampering with your bike. If there's no Wi-Fi, you'll still get the notification if you stay within Bluetooth range, so try to snag a barstool near the front door.
It doesn't have an alarm, because let's face it, we all ignore blaring car alarms except to wish harm upon their owners. But just knowing someone is messing with your lock could be enough to stop a thief--especially since the Skylock locks on both sides of the U shape, while most bike locks only lock on one side. So the jerk would have to saw both sides, and Skylock's rugged design won't make that easy.
Since you unlock the Skylock using an app, you can give your friends access to the bike as long as they also have that app on their smartphones. Access can be for a specific window, or just anytime. The app shows on a map where the bike was last locked up, thanks to the paired smartphone's GPS. It would be great for college students or roommates who want to share a bike without all having to carry keys.
Backup if your phone crashes... or you do
Speaking of keys, if you lose your smartphone or its battery is dead, you'll still be able to unlock Skylock. It's got a small, unassuming touchpad on one end, where the key would go on a traditional lock. This lets you program a backup passcode.
The Skylock even checks on you if its accelerometer detects your bike has crashed. It'll first send a push notification to your phone asking if you're OK. If you don't respond, it can notify your preferred contacts that you might need help, or even call for emergency responders.
I knew some guys in college who would justify their propensity to slack by claiming they were all sharing a single pen, and if one guy had the pen, the other guys couldn't go to class. That was stupid. But using a Skylock to share a bike with your roommates--and knowing you've got that extra protection from theft--will make you feel like the smartest person to ever strap on a brain bucket and put rubber to the road.
Skylock starts its crowdfunding campaign Thursday with the intention to ship the first units by Christmas 2014. They'll retail for $249 with a preorder price of $159. That's pricey compared to some traditional U-locks but we think the security and sharing features will win it a lot of fans.