This Smart Bike Lock Protects You and Your Bike

Bike locks have long been a source of innovation, but from a structural point of view: locks need to stay one step ahead of the thieves. Companies like Kryptonite and OnGuard have been hardening their shackles with millimeter upon millimeter of manganese steel, but in cities like New York, some experts contend that any lock that isn't a nine-pound chain is an invitation for theft. Instead of making a lock that's more resistant to a jack or an angle-grinder, the ex-Boeing and Jawbone engineers from San Francisco-based VeloLabs have created something different — the Skylock smart lock — which could revolutionize how we lock, share, and interact with our bikes.

The main feature of the Skylock is convenience. Connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth Low Energy, the Skylock can automatically unlock when it senses your proximity, or you can pull out your phone and use the app like a remote key fob. You can also use the keypad for entry should your phone die. And since there's no key involved, you can give others access to your bike, allowing you to share without leaving a key. 

While the Skylock does have a shackle that's about as solid as any garden-variety U-lock, it doesn't rely on its strength to deter thieves. With a built in accelerometer, the lock notifies you if someone is touching or moving your bicycle so you can stop the theft. And if you happen to have left your bike over a rumbling subway, you can dial back the sensitivity threshold to get fewer false positives.

That's not all the accelerometer is good for, however. The lock's electronics also function as a crash-sensor, and work with your phone to notify your emergency contacts if you've been in a crash. In the event of an incident, you'll get a push notification. If you don't respond, it'll call for help.

All these features are powered by a battery that's trickle-charged by an on-board solar panel, so you don't have to worry about plugging in the lock. While the battery is huge and the Bluetooth Low Energy protocols don't chug too much power, you can monitor the battery life on the app. Besides keeping bikes more safe from theft, we're excited to see whether this will launch Airbnb-esque bike sharing. Stay tuned.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is the Gear editor of Supercompressor. He carries a very heavy bike lock around. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.