Innovation That Matters

Public locks

RFID-enabled public bike locks could put an end to bike theft


A scheme that aims to place extra heavy duty bike locks in public locations, which can be used by any cyclist through contactless cards.

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One reason why many bike owners don’t cycle to work is the concern that after they’ve locked it up outside, it may not be there when they get back. While new technology such as Lock8 has offered keyless locking before, PubLock is a scheme that aims to place extra heavy duty locks in public locations, which can be used by any cyclist through contactless cards.

Typically, cyclists can spend upwards of USD 60 for a bike lock that may or may not deter thieves with bolt cutters from snipping through them. Plus, the stronger the lock, the heavier it usually is to carry around while cycling, and the more portable the lock, the greater the likelihood that it’s not capable of properly securing the whole bike. The team of graduates and students of the Mechanical Engineering department at the University of Pennsylvania, who are behind the development of Publock, want to create an infrastructure of public locks situated at current bike racks. The devices will give cyclists access to 20lbs of high security metal chain without the need to take it with them when they unlock. All they need is an RFID-enabled card that can be swiped next to the Publock after locking. The lock will then remain secure until the same card is used to unlock it. Watch the video below to see the device in action:

According to the creators, many US universities will begin including RFID chips in student IDs from next year, making trials at colleges a possibility. However, it’s easy to see how the system could also be implemented on a city-wide scale, perhaps with small payments for the RFID cards. Could something like this reduce bike theft — and increase cycling uptake — in your part of the world?



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