Tapkey enables mobile access

Key-based locking systems are going out of fashion: Today, cars are opened by radio signal, offices with smart cards or transponders, one’s own front door by a smarthome solution. But especially for shared vehicles, hotel rooms or rented offices, there is one hurdle – handing over the key. This requires a face-to-face meeting or shipping. Things can be done much more efficiently and quickly with a cloud-based platform developed by Tapkey, a Vienna-based company. Owners and service providers can use it remotely to issue, revoke or set time limits for authorizations. And the user then simply opens the door: either via Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) or, in an alternative solution, via NFC.

Tapkey’s solution turns the smartphone into a secure key for doors, cars, parcel boxes or storage boxes. The basis is an open and secure platform in combination with an associated app and matching locking devices. The system can be used to implement a wide range of access systems for shared properties. The young company from Vienna offers a globally unique technology with extensive integration options for developers. Together with a global network of partners and integrators, solutions are created for a wide range of applications such as building automation, automotive and urban mobility. Mobile Access is thus the basis for novel business models and services.

Tapkey has been able to optimize the entire Mobile Access technology platform for mobile applications since the very beginning. Compromises in terms of security concepts did not have to be made due to non-existing legacy (e.g., outdated card systems). Tapkey hosts all data in a secure, scalable infrastructure in accordance with the strictest data protection regulations. This allows businesses or landlords to provide ad-hoc access with the secure and user-friendly technology, whether for real estate, coworking spaces, hotels, car sharing or delivery. In doing so, Tapkey combines the benefits of NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy.

The advantages of Bluetooth technology

“When we founded Tapkey, we developed our first solutions based on NFC,” recalls Gregor Zehetner, co-founder, and co-CEO of Tapkey. “However, it turned out that especially on iPhones the user experience with NFC is not optimal. Therefore, we are now using Bluetooth LE as a second channel. The Bluetooth LE standard also has a much longer range. This allows cars and doors to be opened from a greater distance to save time. This is particularly important for service providers such as parcel delivery companies, as well as for drivers to open gates.”

With Bluetooth LE, devices can be controlled within a range of about ten meters. This means that it is not necessary to approach the locking system directly – a shortcoming of many systems based purely on NFC. In addition, Bluetooth LE is available on almost all modern mobile devices such as smartphones, regardless of manufacturer and operating system. Today, these devices are already the control center of many applications in building technology as well as in the automotive and mobility sectors.

Open platform

“It is particularly important to us that we offer an open platform that can be used individually depending on requirements and needs,” explains Gregor Zehetner. “That’s why we provide our Management API and Mobile SDK to partner integrators so they can add keyless access to their own solutions. Our Management API enables fast and cost-effective integration of automated authorization management into third-party software. In addition, our SDK offers solution providers the ability to build their own mobile application with seamless integration of the Tapkey keychain.”

For the different target groups, the Tapkey platform offers tremendous benefits:

  1. A corresponding software development kit is available for electronic door lock developers. With the help of Tapkey’s Lock SDK, lock manufacturers can add smartphone-based access to their electronic locking systems. The product range thus becomes significantly more attractive in a very short time and new markets can be addressed. These advantages have already been discovered by DOM, a leading European manufacturer of locking cylinders, and the global automotive supplier WITTE Automotive, among others. They have been using Tapkey’s solutions for several years to facilitate access to real estate and vehicles.
  2. Through API and Mobile SDK, Mobile Access can be implemented into any Vertical Solution’s own user experience. This gives integrators the ability to create a total solution for each market. This allows processes to be optimized and all Tapkey-compatible locks to be used immediately. For example, Locaboo connects their room booking system with automatic dispatch of a mobile key.
  3. The classic key ring is no longer necessary because sharing digital keys is possible at any time. End users can easily open all doors with their smartphone.

Use Case 1: Intelligent locking systems

With a tap of the finger on the Tapkey app, DOM’s smart locks are open. To do this, access authorizations can be sent directly to users’ smartphones – just like a virtual bunch of keys. They are then granted access to specific areas. All communication between the app and the locking cylinder is fully encrypted. With the help of the app, hotel operators, for example, are always informed about who has entered their rooms and when. All data is stored in Europe in accordance with the German Data Protection Act (DSGVO). In addition to access security, economic aspects also play a role. This is because hotels and operators of commercial properties save themselves the purchase and physical handling of plastic access cards.

“No Internet connection is required to open the smart door locks – neither for users nor landlords,” says Gregor Zehetner. “The access keys are temporarily stored on the smartphone of the authorized person. The keys are regularly renewed in the background while the Internet connection is up and running, without the user noticing. The smart locks can even be used in areas without any online connection, such as basements or underground garages. The smart lock checks the access authorizations stored in the app offline.”

Use Case 2: Smart car locks

Whether for car sharing or pool cars, shared vehicles can also be equipped with virtual keys. This avoids the time-consuming handover of car keys and simplifies the assignment of authorizations. This is realized, for example, by the flinkey system from Witte Digital, which enhances classic locking technology with digital technology. Witte and Tapkey are jointly developing car access boxes that use a vehicle’s car key to open or close it. In addition, with such mechanisms, suppliers, for example, can also place a package in the recipient’s trunk.

“Our solution is suitable for many scenarios, even across the board,” says Gregor Zehetner. “If a coworking operator, in addition to building access, also provides its tenants with a box accessible by smartphone or a pool vehicle that can be booked ad hoc and used with a digital key, then it suddenly becomes clear that the smartphone is already the key for many scenarios in daily life.”

Partner Ruptela has also decided to implement Tapkey technology in their own GPS tracking device. This allows fleet managers to not only track where a car is, but also grant access to vehicles via smartphone. In addition, such telematics solutions provide rental companies or businesses with further contextual information, for example, to identify the need for refuelling, service or repairs.

Use Case 3: Room booking

Another use case, for example, is room booking systems that digitize their booking processes. For example, Locaboo, a modern software solution for online booking of rooms and sports areas, has integrated Tapkey into its booking system. When booking conference rooms or sports areas, customers automatically also receive access authorization to the specific rooms—in line with the motto “Book & Access”.

Outlook: Many more possibilities

The Tapkey platform enables even more applications for mobile access. For example, all rental vehicles such as bicycles or e-scooters can be equipped and secured with it. But it can also be used to efficiently control access to smart boxes such as intelligent mailboxes or to cleaning and garbage rooms remotely. The cleaning service then only gets access to the rooms it needs that day.

“Basically, our solution is suitable for all shared services that should run as smoothly as possible and with as little effort as possible,” sums up Gregor Zehetner. “That’s why it’s important that it can be easily integrated into other systems and uses common standards such as Bluetooth LE. Bluetooth technology in particular has given us an important boost – through its widespread use, intuitive use, and high range. This gives us a solid and proven basis for flexibly developing our technologies and solutions further.”

Case Study by Bluetooth SIG

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