back to article Big shock: $700 Internet-of-Things door lock not a success

You won't have a $700 smart lock to kick around any more, as Otto (no, not that one) shut down and sacked its staff just before Christmas – without ever delivering a product. Otto, whose sole gizmo was to be an internet-connected finger-scanning front-door lock, said it ran out of money, and will not be able to ship its gear …

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  1. elDog Silver badge

    This is such a worthless bit of reporting

    That I'm not going to comment.

    Except I will say that there are fools born every couple of hours that have too much money and still buy Piaget-type bing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is such a worthless bit of reporting

      You're not going to comment, except to leave a comment?

      I like the drugs you're on! Can you please share?

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: This is such a worthless bit of reporting

        That and whatever Jadallah took before writing that press statement

  2. Captain DaFt

    The perfect IoT device!

    Lots of Hype and superlatives, amusing anecdotes ripe with bon mots, a final tale of betrayal, and lastly, a product with absolutely no insecurities, backdoors, shoddy programming or construction, because it never existed!

    The only losers here are the suckers backers that fell for the hype.

    Hopefully, they'll know better next time.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: The perfect IoT device!

      Was recently sat in front of the telly with my partner and we were treated to the heart-warming Yale advert for their IoT-lock-thingummy.

      In the ad the prodigal daughter comes home having been sent an electronic "key" via smartphone. She let's herself in and joins the family Christmas gathering. My partner, a very measured lady with refreshingly little technical knowledge, quipped "If they loved her so much they'd have given her a real key".

      1. handleoclast Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: The perfect IoT device!

        Can you use electronic keys at wife-swapping parties?

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: The perfect IoT device!

          Can you use electronic keys at wife-swapping parties?

          One of the best Victoria Wood lines for me was:

          I once went to one of those parties where everyone throws their car keys into the middle of the room. I don't know who got my moped but I've been driving that Peugeot for years.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: The perfect IoT device!

          "Can you use electronic keys at wife-swapping parties?"

          or electronic wives at key-swapping parties...

      2. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: The perfect IoT device!

        > If they loved her so much they'd have given her a real key.

        Just going out on a limb here, but if they're all sharing a Christmas dinner, one of them could've just got up, and in the spirit goodwill to all mankind, opened the door when she knocked.

        1. AdamWill

          Re: The perfect IoT device!

          Heh, "why didn't she just knock on the fucking door" was my immediate thought too. Truly, technology is solving the critical problems of our times! I am so proud of what we do!

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: The perfect IoT device!

      absolutely no [...] backdoors

      It was supposed to go on your front AND back door, so that's $1400; $2100 if you have a garage with a door into your house. Or do you leave them with tumbler locks? Now there's a backdoor.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The perfect IoT device!

        "that's $1400; $2100 if you have a garage with a door into your house"

        and all could potentially be defeated with cellophane tape to lift a print, and some superglue and graphite to re-construct it (so it can be 'scanned')

        1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

          Re: The perfect IoT device!

          and all could potentially be defeated with cellophane tape to lift a print, and some superglue and graphite to re-construct it (so it can be 'scanned')

          I think you underestimate the ability and intelligence of your average burglar. Most will just put a brick through your window.

          Nothing like a $700 dollar lock to advertise you have a lot of nickable stuff

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: The perfect IoT device!

            Late 1980s. An office was constructed with doors into both the DC and the outside world. The DC walls were two layers of cinder block, with a large steel double-wide firedoor having twelve or sixteen electric deadbolts surrounding the perimeter. Tours for visiting bigwigs always included this door, as an example of how secure the DC was.

            I needed to get into the DC late one night to troubleshoot a problem with a major client, but my access code only worked "9 to 5". Nobody else in the building could get in, either. I called $BOSS ... at 3am. He said "handle it, jake, I've got your back". I handed the phone to the security guard. The guard listened for a couple seconds, hung up, and said "just do it".

            So I punched a hole in the office wall's 5/8ths sheetrock (drywall, gypsum board, whatever it's called in your jurisdiction) between the studs next to the door, reached in to turn the doorknob to let myself in, and strolled through the inner door into the DC. Took all of five seconds.

            Naturally, The Board had a conniption fit over my easy break-in to their "secure" room. When all the shouting died down, I was offered the "Head of Corporate Security" moniker on my business cards. I politely declined ... I much preferred working for the boss who indeed DID cover my back when the rest of The Board was calling for my head on a platter.

      2. Jtom Bronze badge

        Re: The perfect IoT device!

        I have two exterior doors in my daylight basement, two going to my deck, one to the garage, and the front door. Six doors. $4200 for locks? Don't think so. As I use to lecture udergrads, even the greatest ideas must be cost effective before it's viable.

  3. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I recently had to reconfigure the deadbolt on my pre-hung front door on account of the house changing shape every three months finally having walked the door frame enough out-of square for the deadbolt to bind in the mortise every summer (humidity expands frame of house) and winter (extreme cold causes frame to shrink) to the point it requires a team of burly longshoremen to lean on the door while the key is turned - from the inside!

    This, naturally, poses a security hazard as longshoremen are often of the swarthy, shifty-eyed foreigner sort HP Lovecraft warns us about on every third page. One can never be sure they haven't spent the day going through the underwear drawer, running up the pay-per-view bill or erecting shrines to Dagon and chanting in their foul, debased dialect.

    I would love to see what this small gear train would do if caught at the start if the process, when the door locks perfectly freely in the morning but won't unlock without placing both feet against the wall and pulling the knob with one hand while thumbing the lock with the other that night.

    We aren't talking nylon gears press-fitted on the shafts are we? Because I've several examples from model locomotives to a Sony remote pan head that demonstrate how that inexpensive design choice eventually ends up costing the owner deep in't purse when the gears split.

    My cartridge CD player has a habit every 18 months or so of shedding a worm gear when, instead of the transport unit climbing into position as the motor spins, the nylon gear walks off the shaft. Annoying but less catastrophic in a hifi unit than a front door.

    Reckon I'll stick with the old fashioned key. I've just spent an hour re-shaping the mortise, blanking off the old screw holes (used a sawn-off pencil because couldn't find the dowel I had no car to go get another one) drilling new ones and refitting the brasswear. It's be a shame if that was all for nothing.

    1. cosymart
      FAIL

      Re: Bah!

      You obviously have not heard the story of the 3 pigs and the big bad wolf. A house made with sticks is not a good choice :-(

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      Pffft. American door jambs are pretty much hollow cardboard. Maybe 1/4" of wood between me and the rest of "civilization" - put your weight into it and the bolt carves right through.

      Maybe that's why we all own guns...

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        Meh. My front door, which is quite typical for my city, puts maybe 4mm of glass between me and the rest of civilisation - and yet very few people own guns.

        The trick is to leave out the scare quotes around "civilization".

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        My doors are much more substantial than cardboard. They're reinforced to the point where going through a window or the wall is an easier option. The interior doors aren't all that tough, but kicking through the drywall from one room to the next is too easy to put in solid core doors.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          My doors are much more substantial than cardboard. They're reinforced to the point where going through a window or the wall is an easier option. The interior doors aren't all that tough, but kicking through the drywall from one room to the next is too easy to put in solid core doors.

          I looked round a flat in London which the estate agent had said was in a very good area i.e. low crime. The external doors all had solid metal cores, the windows all had inch thick bars across them and the locks were reinforced. There was an alarm which was top of the range and despite the bars on the window there were also window locks. It made me laugh when the agent told me that she thought the current owner was a little bit paranoid.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        "American door jambs are pretty much hollow cardboard."

        Not true. Unless the owner is a cheapskate, of course.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: American door jambs are pretty much hollow cardboard.

        Yours might be, but mine was a pre-hung Stanley door I installed myself, and it has a substantial frame properly fitted so that the important bits mount properly into the frame of the house.

        Said frame is made from wood so tough nails have been known to bounce out when driven - the last time I encountered wood with this tight a grain it was in a forklift pallet I was trying to repurpose.

        Frame on house dates from 1950, when forests were still around. The Stanley door dates from 1988 or so, when he concept was new and the materials used were of the usual first-run high quality.

        I freely concede that the framing on todays houses and the construction of today's Stanley pre-hung doors may be made of ticky-tacky.

        30 years from a door before the frame goes 1/8th out of true ain't bad in my opinion.

      6. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Bah!

        typical house locks only have tumblers on one side and 5 or 6 of them. anyone with lockpick skills should be able to manage it in a reasonably short period of time... or else just kick the door if you don't mind making a loud noise.

        a vicious guard dog costs less than the locks.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Bah!

          a vicious guard dog costs less than the locks.

          Really? Locks don't need to eat. They don't need to be taken for a walk twice every day either.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          Vicious animals cost an arm and a leg more than locks (if you'll pardon the expression). Starting with your insurance premium.

          I personally own three SchH3 GSDs. They will defend my property to the death if I ask them to, no questions asked. All three of them are also certified therapy dogs; the veterans in the Yountville Veterans Home love them to pieces, and they return the favo(u)r. Also no questions asked. One is currently snoozing with my 7 year old grand daughter.

          My properly trained dogs aren't vicious at all, and yet I can safely leave my house unlocked for a long weekend. I don't, mind ... Insurance says no.

          Locksmithing (as opposed to "picking") is a fairly easy skill to pick up. It's also quite handy occasionally. In my opinion, it's a "must learn" skill for any well-rounded hacker. (That's the real meaning of hacker, not the corrupt version the media insists on using.)

    3. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Bah!

      Sounds like you need the prototype Otto - An Otto-cycle 2hp engine on a series II Landrover gearbox. That should shift your bolt...

      1. Andy 68

        Re: Bah!

        > An Otto-cycle 2hp engine

        Where

        hp = Hurley Pugh

        ?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      I recently had to reconfigure the deadbolt on my pre-hung front door on account of the house changing shape every three months

      You're clearly not their target market, you appear to be placing security ahead of image.

      Anyone who'll pay $700 for an IoT lock can certainly afford the few $m to have their door frames built out of Invar, reinforced against Richter-8 quakes. And gold-plated, so the shiny-shiny doesn't fade.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Bah!

        "I recently had to reconfigure the deadbolt on my pre-hung front door on account of the house changing shape every three months"

        Is your house a caravan? I hear they can expand due to heat...

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Is your house a caravan?

          No, it is a wooden framed, brick and aluminum siding clad structure on a corner lot in a place where the summer temperature can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer with extremely high humidity, and dip below 8 degrees Fahrenheit in winter with no humidity to speak of.

          Even Pyrex changes size over that range.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is your house a caravan?

            "No, it is a wooden framed,"

            There's your problem right there, poxy pine framed construction.

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re:poxy pine framed construction.

              Spruce on today's houses here, on mine, maybe. But the grain is very very tight. Hardwood tight. If I'm driving nails in a part of the house that was reframed in the late sixties I can tell when I'm moving from an original stud to a Beatles-era one.

              You really need to let go of your preconceptions, AC. There certainly are shitty aspects of my house's construction, but the frame ain't one of them.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Re:poxy pine framed construction.

                No Spruce here. We use Fir for walls. Pine is only good for email.

                1. Stevie Silver badge
                  Pint

                  Re: Re:poxy pine framed construction.

                  Upvote and e-beer for Jake for Pine.

    5. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      This is such a massive pain in the arse. My bedroom door (not security related, just annoying) fits at the top but is at least 1/2" out at the bottom, my utility room door only fits because the door is as warped as the frame it sits in, and the glass door into the living room only closes properly in the morning. The only reason the outside doors work is that they come inside their own frame as one big uPVC bundle.

    6. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      " that inexpensive design choice eventually ends up costing the owner deep in't purse when the gears split."

      Having to buy a new lock every year isn't a bug, it's a design feature.

      Mockery aside, I'm actually with some of the other posters who say the idea of a smarter lock isn't inherently silly. To start with, more nuanced access rules is a very nice idea if it can be implemented properly. Attempts to do this with physical keys aren't great, not least because they always involve giving people the key to get into your house at some point, and no matter how well you try to control and log that they can always just get a copy cut before giving it back. Being able to assign temporary access to a fingerprint, for example, does solve that particular issue.

      Another important point I've not seen mentioned is that any system that relies on having a piece of metal poked into its working parts is vulnerable to having a different piece of metal poked into it. You can make locks more difficult to pick, but you can't avoid having that hole available for poking. A fully enclosed system should be inherently more resistant to physical tampering if it's designed properly.

      There are of course still plenty of problems, not least the issue of what happens when it loses power. And of course, relying on biometrics has all the same problems it always does. But just because all the problems haven't yet been solved doesn't mean the idea is inherently stupid and anyone suggesting there may be an improvement over centuries old technology we currently use must be an idiot. It does mean anyone actually buying such a system right now is an idiot, especially if it's like the one seen here, but it's entirely possible someone will come up with a useful solution some time in the not too distant future. It's easy to say that locks don't need improving, but that's what people always say right up until the improved version shows up, and given that locks are regularly compromised it's clear that the current version is far from perfect.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        "nuanced access"

        Maybe your problem is that this is an oxymoron.

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: relying on biometrics has all the same problems it always does.

        I urge anyone who has the opportunity to visit NASA in Florida or Universal Studios, and to make use of their Biometric Lockers before forking over 700 notes for a front door lock.

        Your own experience might be a good one but look around. The locker bank is a massively parallel proof-of-concept experiment for the tech and in any group of a couple of hundred you are guaranteed to see at least one person with an assistant placed strategically to unlock doors that prove recalcitrant.

        If you double those odds, once every 15 months or so you will stand a good chance of being outside wanting in with no recourse (unless you hire the bloke for Universal with the Magic Swipe Card).

        If I suspect someone has copied a key without my permission I can replace the locks for less than 50 dollars spent in any local DIY store (there are 7 within easy driving distance of my house) and 15 minutes work.

        Put that up against the chance that someone will wander virtually in without opening the door, turn on the heat and turn off the fridge on the first day of your two week vacation because your door lock is insecure and was the entry point for the hackers that rooted your home network for fun.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        and no matter how well you try to control and log that they can always just get a copy cut before giving it back.

        There are locks however, and they start at about one-tenth of the price of this Otto lock, that you can't get duplicated at your average locksmith. You want a spare? You present the dealer with a token you received with the original purchase (NOT the actual key), plus some ID. If you want to have an illegal copy made you would need to pilfer a blank and get (access to) cutting tools. Which means that, if one of your house guests is capable of that, you need to be slightly more discerning in your choice of guests.

        You can make locks more difficult to pick, but you can't avoid having that hole available for poking.

        I know a world-class security engineer whose hobby is lock-picking. In which he's also world-class. There are fully mechanical locks he grades as 'couple of minutes with an angle grinder is less bothersome'.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          You present the dealer with a token you received with the original purchase (NOT the actual key), plus some ID. If you want to have an illegal copy made you would need to pilfer a blank and get (access to) cutting tools.

          Or work in the industry. Not entirely unknown for crimes to be committed by insiders.

        2. grumpy-old-person

          Re: Bah!

          Gordian lock?

    7. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Bah!

      I recently had to reconfigure the deadbolt on my pre-hung front door

      Is it well hung or does it have a small knob?

      Start the new year with a bad joke I always say.

    8. Milo Tsukroff

      Re: Bah!

      You wrote:

      > nylon gears press-fitted on the shafts ...

      > several examples from model locomotives ...

      Yep, I have some of those loco locomotives too. They run ... nowhere, just sit and spin. And the door lock I recently replaced cost me ... $11. American plus tax.

    9. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      I've had to fix a few of those over the years. However, no burly longshoremen were harmed during the process.

    10. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      I and my neighbours had similar problems with the shoddy doors fitted by the builder. We complained to the landlord, but he basically told us to fuck off (since he was also the builder). So at various points throughout the year, you'd hear doors slamming as people tried to get their locks to work (sometimes slamming helped a little, but mostly it was wasted effort). Usually it was no problem from the inside (thumb latch) but a bugger with the key (so much so that we were afraid that applying too much force would snap the key)..

      I eventually found the trick was to push up on the handle, raising the door slightly. One of my neighbours tried a similar trick, lifting at the letter slot. Whereby he found out that the design of the flap meant it instantly snapped the plastic pivot/springy thing, irreparably detaching the flap. Well, you could repair it with wood screws into the pivot holes, but it no longer sprang closed.

      Eventually the builder/landlord sent one of his guys around to drop the striker plates a quarter inch.

    11. highdiver_2000

      Re: Bah!

      If the existing holes are too big, you can use toothpicks to help the wood screw to bite.

      My government build flat comes with steel door frames. Everywhere! Including the freaking bathrooms!

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re:use toothpicks to help the wood screw to bite.

        My tool-tip for the day would be to consider using the cedar wrappers from cigars (ask your smoker colleagues for them). They are great for all sorts of screw-tightening jobs. I've used them to tighten up the piano-peg tuners in an old autoharp for example.

        In my case the holes needed to move, but not very much. The old holes had to be unmade so new ones would be in wood, not half in pre-existing hole. One does that with tight-fitting dowels. Or a pencil. 8o)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Re:use toothpicks to help the wood screw to bite.

          Round toothpicks and wood glue. Scrape & blow out the loose bits from the hole, squeeze in some glue, place as many glue coated toothpicks as will fit into the hole, then tap in another coated toothpick or three with a light hammer. Allow to set, flush trim the protruding pieces, and treat the result as virgin wood. Works for me.

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