Skylock is a Bluetooth-equipped U-lock that automatically unlocks when you approach your bike? Does that excite you? Does that excite you to the tune of $250? If you’ve got beaucoup bucks and are ostentatious by nature and love owning access to the smaller conveniences in a tech-happy universe, your natty Skylock deprives you of the embarrassment you may feel when locating your errant keys or don’t want the ugly sight of them rendering the svelte figure you cut in your cool, skintight clothes or compression shorts getting ruined by, you know, gauche metallic lumps.
Velo Labs was founded by Jack Al-Kahwati and Gerardo Barroeta, former hotshot whizz kid engineers at Boeing and Jawbone, respectively. The pair are used to sarcastic questions, it seems, and have become pretty slick about answering the kind of tongue-in-cheek questioning an ‘elite’ or at least über expensive product draws. Easily souped-up by a built-in power cell, Skylock juices up approximately a week’s worth of runtime from only a single hour’s worth of direct sunlight. This also includes a four-button capacitive pad, which means that if your smartphone is, say, stolen, or its battery is out, you’ll still have no problem in freeing up your ride in pretty short order. It costs $250, although, as I write, it’s going for a preorder advance price of $159.
This sort of keyless entry abracadabra is just one of a few available advantages in your Bluetooth toy. Other perks include a theft alert system that pings you when your bike’s touched in any way, and a crash detection alarm which informs you, or another rider, that there are other accidents in your immediate locality you might watch out for. Additionally, if, say, you loan out your bike to Cousin Ralphie and he’s been involved in an accident, Skylock will summon a push notification on your phone. Thus, if you or your guest riders do not dismiss the alarm after a few seconds, the app will call emergency responders to the scene. For some people this is worth the high price of the product in and of itself. Especially good, I would posit, if you’ve got one of those athletic great-aunts or a frisky grandmother, who might not call out of pride if she’s been hurt. Of course, I would never lend my beloved Grandma my $1,200 bike with its $250 alarm. I was just saying.
Al-Kahwati and Barroeta are both very obsessive/compulsive when it comes to the debate over future cities of America. One of the things profits from the Skylock app allow them to do is further enhance the public debate over removing empowerment from the current automobile-driving majority. If they have their way, inner cities would be turned into pedestrian mall spaces exclusively utilized by pedestrians, bike riders and buses. As with giving your Skylock to your cousin, kid or lover, there’s a broader notion of pluralized citizenship as everybody utilizes public access. Indeed, for those who can’t afford to invest in a bike or keep their vehicles in the suburbs— instead of picking up and depositing bikes at a handful of official locations as we do here in my home town of Chicago and with many other city-wide programs—Skylock are proposing that they be officially designated pathfinders who could pave the way for something shared but far more decentralized.
In the near future, then, in a carless inner city, riders can bring up a map on their iPhones to view the wheels available in their area. That way you could theoretically grab a nearby bike, pedal to your destination, lock it up wherever, and you’d be done, leaving it for someone else to claim when they needed a ride. As a shared economy ideal—a kind of green communism—worrying about strangers riding your bike would be beside the point. Nevertheless, you can certainly see the potential for a fleet of municipally or privately owned bikes.
Talking about “that dream” is what got Al-Kahwati and Barroeta excited about a smart bike lock in the first place. Their civic-mindedness at $250 a pop may be debatable, but time will tell. “We’d like to position ourselves as the largest, flexibly distributed, peer-to-peer bike share network in the world,” Al-Kahwati says. “And we think Skylock would be the perfect intermediary”.