The sharing economy is well under way with companies enabling the sharing of everything from hotel rooms to sporting equipment and from parking spaces to construction tools. We have however still only seen the beginning of it, and new technology is enabling more sharing every day. This is a trend that has the potential to radically change our urban landscape, so we met up with Anthony Chow, CEO of Singapore-based smart access start-up igloohome to see how they are contributing to this change.
All around us in the urban landscape there are under-utilized assets, such as swimming pools, gyms, meeting rooms and houses. A big obstacle for enabling sharing of these assets is however the practical issue of how to give access. Keys need to be handed around, people need to sign in and then there’s the issue of payment. Without an easy way to manage access, the costs simply outweigh the benefits to the asset owners.
This is something Anthony Chow knows only too well. He founded igloohome two years ago with two partners as a response to the hassle of renting out their rooms on Airbnb. Guests would come at inconvenient times and handing out keys would be a hassle, making a simple rental into an inconvenience for the host.
”The final barrier for the sharing economy to take of is access – and this is something smart locks is breaking down”, says Anthony Chow.
Igloohome’s solution let Airbnb hosts control access to their properties remotely. As the locks are fully digital they can be opened either with the use of a pin-code, automatically generated by the system, or bluetooth key on the user’s smartphone. Igloohome locks do not, unlike many other systems, rely on WiFi as the team found that many properties often were of the kind where WiFi is not always present.
And smart locks are becoming increasingly popular. In South Korea, the majority of new homes already have digital locks.
“I believe that within 3-5 years we will see the same thing happening in Singapore. Smart locks are however not just a convenience, like smart lighting or smart blinds for example, but also an enabler of a whole range of new services” suggests Chow.
Chow sees a future where smart locks combined with other emerging technology, like sensors and biometrics, will truly change the shape of our urban landscape.
One group that could particularly benefit from this are the elderly. Many elderly are today forced to move to nursing homes as they need a greater array of services provided to them, and visits to their homes by staff is costly. By using smart locks, homes could be opened up – under safe conditions – to a wider range of service providers. The grocery delivery could be placed directly in the fridge, even if you are not home. The cleaning person could become a network of cleaners, offering flexibility without the loss of control over who has access to your home. Parcels would no longer need to picked up at remote locations but would be found at your place, and the list goes on.
Chow is at the same time aware that only because people can give access to their homes they won’t necessarily want to do so, mainly due to not trusting the person who enters the home.
“Authentication will still be a big problem, but by combining smart locks with biometrics and other systems like blockchain I believe we will overcome also the barrier of trust”, suggest Chow.
So perhaps smart locks will not just be a way to break down the final barriers of the sharing economy, but also enable the beginning of the trust economy.