Lock without a key
Fabian Peters: Jakob, you are Head of BIG Ideas, a kind of R&D department at BIG. How did BIG Ideas come about?
Jakob Lange: Our effort as architects is sandwiched in the window of opportunity between analysis and implementation. And our influence happens in the translation from information to material. In an attempt to increase our sphere of influence on our built environment, we established BIG Ideas which is an internal tech-driven special projects unit, expanding the traditional scope of the architect into the realm of information and material.
What projects is BIG Ideas involved in?
Jakob Lange: Among other things, we are currently working for Virgin Hyperloop One, a company that wants to help Hyperloop technology achieve its breakthrough. The aim is to enable people traveling at more than 1000 kilometers per hour to set in capsules that move through a system of tubes. We’re designing the whole passenger experience – the seating, everything that the passenger will be involved in, the station design. The next step will be mock-ups, which are in in production as we speak. We are also working on an architectural handbook for building on Mars, a kind of "Neufert" for outer space. We have just shown the first results at the BIG exhibition "Formgiving" in Copenhagen.
Your latest invention is the "Friday" lock – a smart lock you have developed. What can you tell us about this product?
Jakob Lange: The most special thing about Friday is its size: Compared with some of the main competitors out there, the Friday lock is only one third of the size. The visible part of "Friday" is a metal shell that sits on the front of the door. This metal shell comes in different variations, meaning that it will suit any door handle.
Is BIG Ideas’ approach different from that of classical lock manufacturers?
Jakob Lange: Definitely! I'll give you an example: In Scandinavia very often the door opens outwards and many smart locks are going to hit against the door frame. But the Friday smart lock is made in such a way that it tapers inwards more like a traditional thumb lock, which means that actually it can sit on any door. So in a way it was an attempt to tackle a number of issues, not appealing to the typical tech nerd who likes gadgets for his home, but actually maybe aimed at those people who want a nice-sounding stereo in their homes or who love the convenience of an intelligent lock, but don’t necessarily want to brag about how smart their home is.
Have you founded a company to produce and distribute the "Friday" smart lock?
Jakob Lange: BIG helped to establish a company called Friday Home and an online store called FridayHome.net. We established this company together with d line, a door handle manufacturer that has been producing door handles and locks for many, many years, for buildings such as those of Arne Jacobsen, for example. So, they are a very well-established company in Denmark as well as , wanting to move into this new market. Our other partner is a Taiwanese company called Brinno that develops smart home security products. We are now aiming at ramping it up for the holiday season and making this a success.
What is it that the "Friday" lock offers?
Jakob Lange: The basic feature is that your phone becomes your key. So, you can unlock it from anywhere in the world. Wherever you are, you can connect to Apple HomeKit that communicates with the lock so that you can unlock your door through that or using Wi-Fi. Very soon, it will be possible to use other "ecosystems," Google Home and so forth. Maybe most importantly you can set different key features. For example, your own phone detects that you are coming from outside and as soon as you are in Bluetooth range, the door will be unlocked automatically. You don’t even need to take your phone out of your pocket. and when you are inside your home and close the door, the lock automatically locks for you again. You can also set a timer so that if you haven’t manually locked the door within five minutes it will do that automatically.
Can I give other people access, too?
Jakob Lange: Of course, and you can also share keys. You can also send a digital key to your friends so that they are able to enter your home in a given time frame.’ This is ideal for Airbnb guests, for example.
Is the system able to connect with other smart applications in your home?
Jakob Lange: We are now developing an API, which means that other products can connect to it. So in the future a company could develop a card reader you can put outside the door and when you swipe your card the door will unlock.
I would imagine that a lot of people need the feeling of locking something physical.
Jakob Lange: One of the key differences between some other smart locks is that the "Friday" lock does not interfere with the outside of the door. You can still use your normal key to get in and out. It only replaces the doorknob. So it’s essentially like a helping hand that turns the doorknob. You can still see that the lock is turning. On the outside there is just the normal key. Eventually, of course, if you feel secure enough about it, you can completely remove the keyhole.
What can you tell me about the upcoming projects from BIG Ideas?
Jakob Lange: We have a lot of cool stuff in the pipeline. We are developing new products for several companies, for example outdoor furniture and lamps. And for the Triennale 2020 in Milan we are designing a very special playground.