Bike locks, while incredibly necessary, are way behind the times. Even the best of them will break under brute force, and then where are you? Bikeless and alone. The new Skylock, from ex-Boeing and Jawbone engineers, is about to leapfrog the competition and bring bike protection into the 21st century. It looks amazing.
Skylock looks pretty much like your standard U-lock, but there's a lot of technology inside, and amazingly it's not just gimmicks. It looks like legitimately useful stuff.
Skylock has Bluetooth 4.0 in it. Just like keyless unlocking systems you've seen on cars, you can do the same thing for you bike. Via Skylock's smartphone app, you can press a button to unlock the lock. Or set it up to have proximity detection, so as soon as you get right up next to it, it unlocks. If your phone dies, you can still unlock it via a combination (pattern) lock on the lock itself.
In addition to being as strong as any U-lock on the market (or so it claims), Skylock has built-in accelerometers and Wi-Fi. It works like this: When you lock up your bike, you can connect the lock to a nearby Wi-Fi network. If someone starts messing with your bike, the accelerometers will detect it, and it will send a push notification to your phone via the app, so you can run out and thwart any evil-doers. You can adjust the sensitivity, too, so it's not disturbed by a single, accidental jostle.
Obviously, if there isn't a nearby network you can connect to you're out of luck (it works over Bluetooth, too, but you'd have to be within 30 feet of it), but this is still an awesome feature.
While you're off and riding (with the lock onboard), Skylock's accelerometers will feel it if you have an accident, and its app will ask you if you're okay. If you don't respond within a certain number of seconds it will automatically call emergency responders and give them your position. Pretty amazing. To help ensure accuracy, Skylock cross-references the data from the accelerometers on the lock with the data from your phone's accelerometers. Really smart, though we still worry about false positives.
In addition to easily being able to lend your bike to your bestie or significant other (they just need to have the app), you can also chose to rent your bike out to the world at large. "With the Skylock app, users can arrange to lend out their bike to anyone in their trusted network or the Skylock community while keeping track of it via the app," says Skylock. "Within the Skylock bike community, bike owners can lend their bikes based on prices relative to demand and location." So, basically, you could start your own Citibike if you wanted, but with lighter, prettier bikes.
If you've read all this you've probably wondered, "Yeah, but what about when the battery dies?" Well, there's a handy solar panel on the outside of the lock which recharges the built-in battery. Skylock claims that one hour of sunlight provides enough power for a week. Worse case scenario, if you live in a land of eternal darkness, the lock has a micro USB port so you can charge it manually (and you can even jump-start it with your phone). Regardless of how you power it up, a fully-charged battery should last 30 days in total darkness. Very solid.
For all that, it weighs just under three pounds (2.95) and Skylock claims it's small enough to fit in your back pocket (skinny jeans need not apply). Of course it can be easily mounted to your bike's frame, too. Obviously, we've yet to confirm the lock's physical toughness or its reliability, but the feature set is killer, and if it can deliver on all its promises it would be a gigantic leap in bike lock technology.
Now the catches. First, its crowd-funding campaign is just launching today (seeking $50,000), which means you won't be able to get your hands on it for a while. According to the company it should start shipping by Christmas 2014. Second, it doesn't come cheap. The lock will eventually retail for $250, which is a significant chunk of change. If you buy it during its campaign, though, it comes down to $160, which is actually on-par with some other high-end locks that don't have anything approaching these features.
We have to admit, we're really excited about this thing. While it may not stand up to an angle-grinder better than any of the other locks out there, if it can alert you that it's being attacked, you've got a better chance of chasing the perp away (or calling the cops on him/her) and riding off into the sunset. [Skylock]