Engineers Develop Smart Locking Technology with PIN Genie

The lock redesigns current number pads and randomizes the user's PIN number for added security.

Lee Zheng once had an ex significant other look into his phone while he was napping. She had seen him entering his PIN number and then gained access to his phone. This event made him think that security using PIN numbers needed to be changed. In his job as a product manager he also disliked the look of keypad buttons on smooth surfaces. Along with his team at PIN Genie he used these problems as design requirements to develop a new type of smart door lock. The company is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to fund their first run of production pieces.

PIN Genie uses button zones each containing three numbers to randomize the physical locations where your PIN number will be entered. The zones are then randomized for the next use. This technology is already available on the company’s iPhone app (and the Android version) and this new product represents the transfer of the tech to physical locks. All of the company’s technology uses the AES 256 encryption algorithm to secure information.

Zheng talked to us and answered a few questions about the PIN Genie’s design and development. He said that the aesthetic look of the lock itself was important, and after the team was happy with the internal components and features the focus turned to the industrial design. The competing requirements during the development phase were security and convenience. The challenge was to be applicable to physical locking devices and cell phones, while bringing together security concerns in both the physical and digital realms. The existing phone app has more than 100,000 downloads and a retention rate of more than 60% and gave the team confidence that the added security would translate well to a physical lock. The team worked to meet BHMA, UL, and FCC security standards while working with professional lock pickers. The lock pickers did benchmark testing and lock picking to benchmark against current industry locks like Schlage, Kwikset, and Yale. The lock itself was designed to be installed like a regular exterior door lock, and requires four AA batteries to operate.

As an engineering project the interest for me here is that an existing product is upgraded with digital content. This isn’t a reinvention of how we lock our doors or the mechanisms inside a lock, but an augmentation of current technology. The campaign page does a good job of showing all the possible applications and security situations that the PIN Genie can improve. The Kickstarter campaign ends on October 11, 2016 and if successful first units are expected to ship in December 2016.