No Keys, No Problem: How 2 S'poreans Built Smart Locks After Frustrating Airbnb Experiences

Anthony Chow, 33, and Kelvin Ho, 46, often found it troublesome when they had to pass keys to their Airbnb guests when they hosted them at their houses.

This was especially so when guests wanted to check in at odd hours.

Both of them are big fans of the house-sharing platform and were frequent hosts or guests at Airbnb houses.

Even when they were Airbnb guests, they found it a problem to get the keys from the host. This sparked an idea for them to develop a solution for it: smart locks.

Subsequently, they discovered that access management is a problem not limited to just Airbnb hosts — most home and property owners also faced similar issues.

With that, they combined their knowledge in software and algorithm design, and worked with partners to develop a smart lock system.

Not Just Any Digital Lock

The duo founded smart lock company igloohome in 2015, which specialises in a unique smart lock system that allows home owners to grant access to visitors remotely via a mobile app.

They offer smart locks, lockboxes, and padlocks that adopt the same unique system for both individuals and businesses.

Officially, the name “igloohome” means evoking the security and smart design of an igloo, which weathers storms and stays warm inside. 

Unofficially, it was reported that the founders were fans of tech companies like Google and Yahoo, which both had double ‘O’s in their names, so they decided to adopt the same in “Igloohome”.

Anthony Chow and Kelvin Ho igloohome founders
Anthony Chow and Kelvin Ho / Image Credit: Park Ga-young/The Investor

Their first product was a WiFi-enabled smart lock, which lets property owners set custom PINs for guests through the internet, without having to physically meet them.

Anthony, who studied electrical engineering and machine learning at Stanford University, designed the Igloohome Smart Lock with Kevin and then-co-founder Walter Wang Yue.

Anthony Chow igloohome founder
Image Credit: HardWareZone

The igloohome Smart Lock was warmly received by fellow Airbnb hosts, but there was one problem: the WiFi.

Whenever the WiFi went down, the smart locks wouldn’t update itself with the new PINs, causing guests to be locked out. This led to bad reviews, which was bad for business.

Therefore, the team set out to make a better smart lock — one that didn’t need WiFi.

Their Smart Locks Don’t Require WiFi

After six months of R&D, igloohome released the Deadbolt 02 in March 2016, which works with Bluetooth.

Their website currently features the latest version of the Deadbolt called Deadbolt 2S, along with the Smart Padlock, Smart Keybox 3 and the Smart Mortise 2 — which has been dubbed the Best Mortise Lock by The Wall Street Journal.

igloohome Smart Deadbolt 2S
Smart Deadbolt 2S / Image Credit: igloohome

What sets them apart from existing products in the market is their unique technology — algoPIN™ — that enables their devices to be highly secure and able to operate remotely without the need for WiFi connectivity — but they also provide a physical key, just in case.

As our products work offline, there is increased reliability against WiFI disruption or hacking. Guests do not need to download an app to unlock our devices, unlike most other Bluetooth locks.

– Anthony Chow, co-founder and CEO of igloohome

As mentioned, homeowners can generate a PIN code for guests, allowing them to enter and leave the unit without a physical key. They can also select the duration for which they wish to give access.

For instance, homeowners can hand out personalised PINs to contractors or cleaners, granting them access into your homes without having to be physically present.

igloohome Smart Deadbolt 2S
Smart Deadbolt 2S / Image Credit: igloohome

This ensures that such one-time or temporary workers can only access your home for a certain amount of time, so homeowners won’t have to worry about unauthorised entry after the completion of the assigned task.

Moreover, the igloohome smartphone app also allows property owners to view access logs within the same app.

This means that property owners can track the date and times at which visitors or family members enter their home.

Gaining Accreditation From Airbnb And IMDA

According to a 2018 article by Enterprise Singapore, it took just two years of for the startup to become one of the preferred partners of Airbnb, and its products are currently available in over 80 markets.

The Smart Padlock igloohome
The Smart Padlock / Image Credit: igloohome

They also integrate with many real estate services platforms like self-viewing and self-touring services to enable more efficient methods to sell or lease the property.

Furthermore, in Singapore, they are the only smart access company to receive accreditation by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

The Smart Keybox igloohome
The Smart Keybox / Image Credit: igloohome

According to Tech Startups, the company has undergone year-on-year growth of four times since launching its first product in April 2016. 

To date, igloohome has raised a total of US$16.3 million in disclosed funding. Their investors include Insignia Ventures, Wavemaker Partners and SEEDS Capital.  

COVID-19 A Catalyst For Contactless Solutions

As the world eases out of lockdown in the second half of 2020, Anthony observed an acceleration of digital transformation in their enterprise customers who now want to explore and adopt contactless solutions.

“With the pandemic as a catalyst, many enterprises are now looking to go keyless with our enterprise line — iglooworks,” he said.

He added that human resources departments should also eliminate the need for access cards or keys, which may take some time to process. 

This way, employees don’t have to borrow access cards or spend time waiting outside the office door, especially for new hires.

Furthermore, with the ability to track access logs, businesses may also leverage on this function for employee’s attendance records.

In an increasingly digitalised world, punch card machines or non-digital access logs should be phased out.

This is because the smart lock can easily track the movement of people in and out of an office in real time and employers can use that data for employees’ clock-in and clock-out records.

Featured Image Credit: e27.co / igloohome

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