There may be a new solution in the works for anyone prone to losing house keys and accidentally locking their keys inside their cars — some new apps on the market allow users to scan their keys using the camera on their smartphones, and store a 3-D image of the keys to the cloud. Once the images have been uploaded and saved, users can access the images anywhere (experts seem to infer that users would want to do this at a friend’s house) and print copies of the keys using a 3-D printer. The online news source The Bitbag likens these apps to the “‘forgot my password’ service of email and other web-based accounts.”
The Telegraph and Los Angelos Times report that there are currently three different tech start-ups which have already begun offering key scanning services: New York-based KeyMe, San Francisco-based KeysDuplicated, and Belgian-based KeySave. These apps — which are available in the U.S. for anyone with a smartphone — appear to produce scanned images of high-enough qualities that any 3-D printer would be able to reproduce working plastic duplicate keys. App developers say that, for anyone who tends to lose keys often, these apps could save both time and money. But the obvious drawback, as many critics have noted, is the incredible security risk inherently present in these apps.
As the developers at KeysDuplicated have noted, keys have never been completely safe — there’s always a risk that they could be stolen before you realize it. But the threat posed by these digital services is mostly that your keys could be stolen any time you put your phone down on your desk and walk away — and unlike if your physical keys were taken, you probably wouldn’t immediately see that someone had gained access to the digital images.
“This kind of service could definitely be helpful if you lock your keys in your car or lose your keys to the house,” says Joe Bir, Dispatcher for Direct Locksmith. “Of course there will always be a need for locksmiths as they offer a level of convenience that 3D printed keys do not.”
The apps have security features in place (KeyMe uses email verification, while KeysDuplicated ties your key-producing history to your credit card information), the American public would be remiss to think that talented smartphone hackers could be deterred by simple email verification processes. The developers of these key apps seem to focus on the convenience of the services (“You do not have to wait for a long time for such a professional to help you resolve your problems!” according to The Bitbag), but when services like 24-hour emergency locksmithing are widely available, it appears that “convenience” may not be enough to sustain key duplication programs.