A key to success

A while ago, I had all the windows and doors in my house replaced. Hopefully the improved insulation and low maintenance will all prove beneficial over time – they certainly look smart. The house has three external doors: the front door, a side door and some French windows [which are really doors – why do we call them windows?]. In talking with the installer, I ascertained that, if I paid a little extra, I could have identical locks fitted to all three doors. I thought this was very worthwhile for the added convenience. So now, I just have two keys on my key-ring – the house and my car – and I can come and go freely.

But, of course, it is not that simple. There are other keys: garden sheds, bicycle, my partner’s car, other houses to which I have access – the list goes on. And then I had an idea …

When I was last buying a car, one model that I looked at featured a contactless lock. You simply needed the key in your pocket and, while you were in close proximity of the car, it would open and start without fuss. I thought that was very cool and it might easily have swung me towards that car, if everything else had been equal. But this got me thinking about keys and locks.

Would it not be possible to have such a contactless key that not only gave me access to my car, but to the house as well. I could just wear it around my neck and always have it with me. I visualize a system where each individual has a unique key to which they also have a numeric code [for those who know about such things, this code would be the public key to an public/private key encryption system]. Thus, the owner of any lock could, using the codes, instruct their locks to respond to any number of keys.

This has numerous implications. With one of these key/lock systems, I could:

  • Access my house.
  • Access my car.
  • Access my employers premises [all over the world].
  • Access other cars and houses if their owners permit – this might be for a temporary period, like when one rents a car or a hotel room or a holiday cottage.
  • Give guests temporary access to my house.
  • Gain access to my computer and to secured websites.
  • Get money from an ATM [with a PIN too, of course].
  • Validate my identity [at passport control perhaps].
  • Be recognized as a valid ticket holder on trains, planes etc.

The possibilities are endless. Such a key would be a secure way for the owner of any resource to gives controlled access to any number of specific people.

What I have described would fundamentally change our lives for the better, providing greater convenience and extra security. The technology required exists and is actually quite mature. Could such a system be hacked? Yes, of course it could. But do you really think your house/car/bank are totally secure? So, why can I not buy such a system right now?

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2011/09/15/keys-and-locks/