It’s a cell phone… it’s an MP3 player… it’s a prox card?

Every morning before I run out the door I do a quick check for three important items--do I have my wallet, keys, and cell phone?  I've made it a pretty good habit and it's rare that I'll forget one of them (although I did forget to wear a belt to work yesterday, which was kinda embarrassing, so maybe I should add that to my morning checklist). 

On a serious note, most of us aren't looking to add to our checklist of things to take with us everyday.  Instead, we'd like to simplify our life with fewer things to remember.  Interestingly enough, cell phones seem to have great potential for not only empowering people on the go, but also for reducing the number of things we need to carry. We've already seen MP3 players and cameras migrate to cell phones (and TV has also migrated to cell phones in countries like Japan), but more could be on the way. For instance, wouldn't it be nice if your cell phone could take the place of you keys?  Well, it could be closer than we think...

Last week Dr. Nick Willis, CEO, ECKey Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand, and Ken Erickson, U.S. Business Development Manager, came into my Chicagoland office to visit wtih some editors in the security industry (Deborah O'Mara, Gale Johnson, and me).  They introduced to us a new product that they will be launching at ISC West and entering in the SIA New Product Showcase.  Essentially, this product is a 2-inch Bluetooth reader and relay which could theoretically be integrated with any existing electrified lock. 


There will be various versions of ECKey available eventually, but the one demonstrated in the office was $269, can register up to 20 Bluetooth-enabled devices (such as cell phones or PDAs, etc.), and it doesn't require any software to be installed on the Bluetooth device. (Bluetooth is a wireless technology currently on more than one billion devices worldwide.) Once your phone is registered, then whenever it gets within a certain range of the reader--a variable that you can set between 1m and 15m--then your phone will "unlock" the door like a proximity card (a higher-end "smart card" version is in the works).  Also, it should be noted this device essentially works like an on/off switch, so it could also be used to disable your own alarm system when you arrive.

Pictured above: Dr. Nick Willis demonstrates ECKey on an electronic lock and how he can change various parameters from his laptop.

Willis said he got the idea for ECKey after observing how "everything is going onto the cell phone."  He figured the next logical step was for our keys to migrate to the cell phone, and so he got to work programming the solution.  He noted that the market for Bluetooth technology is strong and growing, and despite the fact that Apple purposely diminished Bluetooth's capabilities on their new iPhone, ECKey still works with the iPhone because its interactions are on the lowest layers of software.

The demonstration given by Willis and Erickson in the office worked pretty well.  However, as with all new products, it takes a while to see how effective they are in the real world.  We'll keep an eye on the ECKey.  It should be interesting to watch.