Startup of the Week / Jasper: The Key to Ensuring You’re Never Locked Out

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House keys, a thing of the past if Jasper gets its way.Credit: Bloomberg

Being locked outside, your keys lost or inside, is as universal an aggravation as the common cold. Now an Israeli startup may end that particular frustration with a simple app that opens locked doors by smartphone.

Jasper Technologies doesn’t intend to supplant the traditional key entirely – being stuck outside because your phone battery died is pretty silly. Its solution is a lock that can be opened in two ways. You can unlock the door with the key. Or, you can tell it to open using the app, into which you enter the profiles of people allowed to open the door.

The app can even be programmed to limit access for specific people – such as a cleaner or plumber – to a specific time of day. Others – for instance, a handyman doing various repairs – can be given temporary access for a limited time, say a day or month.  

Jasper is presently working with a manufacturer to develop a lock that features a cylinder and its software system. The new lock that communicates with the phone is planned to have a Bluetooth range of about 40 meters. At a later stage, the company plans to enable customers to open locked doors via the Internet by interfacing its system with iBeacon, Apple’s smart home technology. The system also has a security layer to prevent incursion by others.

The smart lock and app will cost consumers 990 shekels ($290), including installation of the lock.

Jasper had three founders: Benyamin Parto, CEO, who comes with 20 years’ experience in software and hardware; Meir Arbel, formerly CEO of Mercury Interactive, which was sold to HP for $4.5 billion in 2006; and Boaz Femson, the chairman of the Israeli branch of the International Professional Locksmith Association.

Parto and Arbel met in 2010 and began to write a patent for cellular-operated lock technology. The patent technology is pending in six European countries and Israel. The company was officially established in 2012 and the founders stepped up product development. Today, the firm has a working prototype and has sold 50,000 units in a presale. The company currently focuses on the consumer market, but plans to expand to solutions for the business market as well.

“Our vision is that your telephone will be your only key, with which you can enter the office, go to a hotel, or open a house you rent through Airbnb,” says Parto. “If you have several doors that you use for entering and leaving on a daily basis, you’ll do it via your mobile phone. That way you’ll avoid carrying around a bunch of keys.”

To finance development and to begin manufacturing the device, the founders turned to crowdfunding – among the locksmith community, since it will provide future customers for the product – rather than the general public. It managed to raise $150,000. Now the firm is raising more money to begin mass production, which will be done in Israel and Asia.

Jasper is joining a group of startups, including dozens of Israeli firms, that are developing products to make your home environment smarter. Like Jasper’s smart lock, other companies are developing products that are part of the trend of the Internet of Things (IoT) – in other words, connecting devices to the Internet. For example, there’s Sensibo, which developed a system to control air-conditioning in the house by means of a smartphone app and a hardware component that attaches to the air conditioner. Two others are GreenBox and GreenIQ, which are making systems for smarter management and watering of your garden.