Having your bike stolen is never fun, yet it’s almost a rite of passage for anyone who lives in an urban area. Even if you have a good bike lock, virtually any of them can be cut in under a minute by a determined criminal. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 2 million bicycles are stolen each year in the US (not all are reported); in the UK, it’s around 400,000, which comes out to about one every 90 seconds. The stolen bike market in the US is worth more than $350 million, and the problem doesn’t seem to be going away.
To help combat this epidemic, some innovators are realizing that bike locks don’t necessarily need to be stronger—rather, they need to be smarter. So now, from Daniel Idzkowski, an inventor and entrepreneur from San Francisco, comes SKUNKLOCK. According to the company, it’s “The only lock that fights back against thieves…” You may have guessed its weapon of choice: noxious chemicals. Essentially, the idea is that if someone tries to cut the lock, the lock will make them vomit. #ClassicDeterrent
Unlike other locks that rely on batteries, GPS, and other technologies that are relatively easy to destroy, or can just lose juice, SKUNKLOCK just contains a pressurized agent that acts like pepper spray. Its execution is simple: when a thief cuts through the bike lock (which is still made of hardened steel), the agent is released. While a thief could wear a gas mask or something similar (like an anti-pollution scarf) when cutting the lock, the company says that on top of an offensive to the olfactory senses, the spray will also ruin their clothing. Hey, the concept is kinda working for pool-pee-ers and clothing thieves.
To ensure the bike lock is safe to use, the chemicals are stored in a hollow chamber throughout the device. This means that the only way to release the chemical is with an angle grinder or other heavy machinery. Getting that far in on the SKUNKLOCK is just as difficult as existing high-end locks, as it’s made from hardened medium-carbon steel that exceeds 450 brinell. Each lock comes with a unique code which can be used to request additional keys (in the case of loss)—the replacements can be shipped via overnight mail if needed.
It’s worth noting a potential limitation to getting this product onto the streets; the legality of shipping certain chemicals. In March 2016, the makers of SKUNKLOCK conducted a survey of state laws within the United States. From this research, they found that there are potential shipping limitations for the lock as it contains capsaicin, an active compound in chili peppers. As a result, the company states that they reserve the right to deny shipping.
There is still almost a month left to help fund the SKUNKLOCK on Indiegogo, with available (as of writing) early bird specials at $109 plus shipping (32% off MSRP). The estimated shipping date for the first batch is June 2017. The campaign has already passed its $20,000 funding goal, now approaching the $30K mark.
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