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Developing Locky: challenges

From the very first concept sketches, through several varied prototypes, some mechanical challenges, to the final product ready for mass production. See how my journey with Locky looked so far!

We’ve been working on Locky with our team for more than a year now. From the very beginning, our goal was to build a device that is simple to mount and use, but also multi-functional. Design was of no less importance – after all, Locky is a key overlay, so it had to be light, small, and handy. But we also knew that Locky just needed to look good! Minimalist, modern, stylish. To achieve all of this in one year? Oh boy… It wasn’t easy.

Design

The first idea for Locky came to us in June 2016. Since then, we’ve gone through many versions of prototypes, both when it comes to mechanics and appearance. The basic difference between our product and the others was that it was supposed to be easy to mount, without any mechanical installation, changing the lock, or modifying the door. We wanted to achieve a low entry threshold without any technical barriers for a common user, so you can mount it easily on your key and start using it within a few minutes. At that point, we had no idea which aspect of engineering would turn out to be a real nightmare…

The first and the second prototypes

Construction challenges

The biggest problem turned out to be designing a device that you could mount on every key. There are so many different types of keys that finding a universal solution seemed impossible. First, we thought that maybe Locky should consist of an adapter (that you put on your key) and a docking station. But we would have to make as many types of overlays as there are keys… Also, how to build a device which works after you just put the key in with one simple gesture? To be honest, no other producer has solved this problem yet. The simplest solution seemed to be just to screw the key to the device. That would have been firm and secure, just like in key organizers. The butterfly design was inspired by them. So that’s what we went with and it all seemed to be going great, until…

The first fail

Complex electronics… Locky is based on an innovative idea of monitoring the movements of your key instead of tracking the lock usage to get the very same data with only one handy key overlay. For that to work, a motion sensor is required that would track the circular motion of a key, as well as a dedicated algorithm that would interpret the data gathered. With the key organizer inspired model, we wouldn’t have any control over how the user removes the key (partially or fully) which would make it impossible for the sensor and the algorithm to work properly. A changeable starting position of the device means changeable data about the key movements. So we had to work out how to mount the key so that it guarantees its removing in one, specific way, for the key motion to always be the same. Also, it needed to be automatic, so that the user would never have to think about that… But how do we achieve that?

Locky butterfly concept

Car keys inspiration

We got inspired by car keys that work automatically. And that’s how we came up with a completely new design which was close to the final one. Adding the spring mechanism solved the problem of a firm staring position of the device – the key automatically always gets removed in the same way. Now all it takes is to push a button whenever we need to use it. Additionally, the spring mechanism gave the device a nice feel. You can call me childish, but for me, it’s really fun to play with Locky, even when I don’t have to use it. 🙂

Locky concept

Battery problem

The spring mechanism triggered by a push button turned out to be a blessing for another problem we had. From the very first prototypes we were struggling with how quickly the batteries would run out. It became necessary to set two working modes: active and passive. But how to wake the electronics up without engaging the user, who would have to push some button every time before using the key? We wanted to give you peace of mind, not more stuff to worry about. We were thinking about some sort of door stickers, beacons, magnets, well, different solutions, but they all went against the basic idea that the device had to be simple. Luckily, the spring mechanism has solved that problem. The user pushes the button to take the key out when he or she wants to use it; it’s done intuitively and naturally, just like in the car. And so the wake-up switch turns on and it puts the device in active mode when it’s needed. Now you can use Locky for up to one year on one battery!

Locky with the spring mechanism

Future goals

We’ve come a long way from the conception of the idea, through dozens of attempts, tests, and prototypes, to finally get Locky! We’re very proud of the result, especially the great look, but the job isn’t done. Many things are still to be improved. For example, the app. I don’t want to gossip, but working with iOS is such a hassle… 😉 However, that’s for next time. Now, our main goal is to try and make the mounting of the key in the overlay even simpler, no screw required. We want it to work like this: you put the key inside and… That’s it. And guess what. Recently, we’ve found a way! We just have to touch up on this and make the new solution ready for production. That’s exactly why we need your support during the upcoming Kickstarter campaign. In return, we promise to deliver a device that is: friendly, cool, stylish, and fully operational!

The final version
Published indeveloping

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