Hello lock pickers
I'm a real fan of Dragon's Den, the British TV show where plucky entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a group of successful men and women who have proven track records in making money. I like to try and second guess the dragons, as if to test my own business acumen, and see if I am right about the pros and cons of the different and sometimes crazy pitches.
I set up my lock picking retail business son no money. I didn't even have a computer. I'd washed-up back at my mother's house having spent 7 years studying art and philosophy, which although was a great time, a crazy time, it was pretty much useless in terms of getting into the job market. And to end up living back at my mother's, in the room I grew up as a child, was not doing wonders for morale.
So when a friend lent me a computer, a chunky big box with dial-up internet, I seized my chance and got busy learning about the new and largely baffling world of eCommerce.
My 'donated' PC looked much like this monstrosity! Beggars can't be choosers!
The rest is history and now, over 15 years later we are one of the world's most respected online lock pick supply companies, something I am very proud of. Dedicated customer service and competitively priced products were what made it work then, and they're the same principles we run by today.
The Dragons. Worth a cool 1000 Million between them.
You can see why something like Dragon's Den would appeal to me. I know what it's like to run a business. I know the ups and downs, the stresses and the celebrations. I know what it's like to have a logistics failure or a business plan success. I know what it means to have dedicated, quality staff, and what it means to bring a new product to market.
So having seen every single episode of Dragon's Den, I was happy to find out the format was also running in the USA, and immediately set about binge watching all of them on You Tube.
Called 'Shark Tank', they don't have the edge of Dragon's Den, but nonetheless I enjoyed watching them - and then came along a man called Phil Dumas and his company 'Unikey Technology'. Did he say 'Unikey'? And my ears pricked up more than usual.
Phil's Unikey presentation - 'revolution' perhaps, secure, no.
In short, Phil's invention is a way of controlling door locks via your smart phone. The idea is good. A small motor in the lock which can move the bolt in and out, and software on the phone which can tell the lock when to lock and open the door.
There were many other features which made this project very appealing. You can share the 'key' so to speak, simply by sending it to a friend on your phone. You can share it permanently, like you would a partner or children, or you can share it temporarily if you need to let a cleaner or a delivery man access within a 1 hour window. All very good I thought - the combination of a business project and lock technology obviously really appealed to me.
Things seems to be going well for the confident entrepreneur, and that's when one of the sharks asked "Can I use the regular, original key on that lock if I want?"
And the answer was, "Yes"
You see when I see developments in lock technology, my primary interest is 'Does it add more security?'. We all know as long pickers, the pin cylinder lock offer next to no protection. Sure it holds the door locked should anyone try to push it open. But the truth is, they do not offer much security. The amount of pin cylinder locks I've bypassed over the years with a sheet of MICA is in the hundreds. You can rake a lock in seconds, you can bump a lock in even fewer seconds. And the lock companies, the housing companies have known this for years.
Why don't they care? I mean let's be honest, your front door lock is a tiny device, with an even smaller selection of tiny brass pins - and those pins are all that's protecting you, your family and your property from a would-be thief. Had Phil Dumas invention done away with the old key altogether I think you'll agree that's an immediate step-up in its ability to secure your home. But to be in essence a simple pin cylinder, open to the many varied non-destructive attacks, for all the interesting smart phone activities, in truth, it's real function - to secure the property - remains questionable.
It reminds me of the Ford Transit vans, which up until 2013 were fitted with the Ford Tibbe lock. One of the worst locks in history. A variation on the disc detainer lock. Everyone knows - including Ford - that Transit vans are used primarily by tradesmen, who have all their expensive kit inside. Why would you 'secure' (and that's being generous) such a vehicle with such a terrible lock. Even the Ford Tibbe pick makes it look better than it is, because the Ford Tibbe pick looks that way because it also decodes the lock. In truth you can pick a Tibbe lock with a stick of metal with a little nub on the end. I've even seen one opened with a cotton bud!
The Ford Tibbe lock, and a pick that will open it. Oh dear.
Lock manufacturers are not doing their best. it would make sens for them to work with lock pickers such as you and me, to work out what actually makes a lock secure, and what doesn't. We offer a wealth of knowledge in this area and I think it's a tragedy that rather than admit we exist and that we could assist them no end in providing far better locks, they just ignore us and keep manufacturing, selling and installing locks, that really are not fit to purpose. It leaves you thinking the ugly truth that in short, they don't really care.
And if Phil Dumas with his Unikey had talked to us, maybe he'd have realised he could have offered a far better product by removing the keyway and key altogether, thus providing a far more secure product - something that actually did what it was meant to do - secure the property.
You can watch the Shark Tank episode below.