For trash, post and recycling service providers, requiring keys to get into apartment buildings is more than just a minor hassle. ALBA, for example, one of Germany’s largest private waste management companies, typically uses 80 to 140 keys per tour in Berlin.
“They’re stuffed in two small suitcases and they have many of those key chains inside,” Claudia Nagel, one of the founders of keyless apartment building access system Kiwi.ki, explained. “I explained our system and what we want to do and they were like, that’s so great – we want to get rid of all this key hassle, it’s a nightmare.”
She and cofounders Christian Bogatu, Peter Dietrich and Jeff Katz tagged along on several tours as research for Kiwi.ki, which combines a key fob that doesn’t need to be taken out of a pocket or bag to work, a “wi” door sensor and a mobile app.
ALBA, Berlin Recycling and Deutsche Post are now partners in a pilot trial in a hundred buildings in Berlin. The idea is to partner with these kinds of companies to cover the costs of installation – all a building owner or manager needs to do is check a box. If private residents want to use the service, they’ll pay a small fee starting at €2 per key per month.
The team developed Kiwi.ki using open radio-frequency identification (RFID) platform OpenBeacon and produce and manufacture their devices in Berlin. To ensure security, the fob and door sensor communicate with a different randomly generated number each time. Kiwi.ki also worked with RFID hackers to check for exploits and is now confident enough to make the relevant parts of their code public.
During Kiwi.ki’s pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe in Berlin on Monday, one of the judges dismissed the product as too similar to existing technology in the US. “Germany’s a big market and an interesting market but it’s not the market,” he said.
Still, it’s a proven and unmet need – and it’s more than possible to build an international business without setting food in the US. While there are competitors in Europe, including Spain’s Param 24-7XS Technologies, Kiwi.ki is off to a strong start. Bogatu previously founded Kirsen Global Security, a successful smart container company. He met Nagel at McKinsey, where she specialised in travel, transport and logistics. So far, the company is backed by a small group of angel investors, including ZocDoc backer Shaun Abrahamson.
Bogatu and Nagel are most excited about bringing their technology to regular residents. When Nagel told her parents she was quitting her job at McKinsey, she expected them to tell her she was throwing away her career, she said.
“But my father said – I remember this evening when I stood in front of my door, and it’s -12°C outside, our light broke so I couldn’t see the hole… I was so afraid I couldn’t get into the door and I didn’t dare to ring the bell of any of my neighbours because it was midnight.”
Fixing that kind of situation – especially for the elderly and for small children – adds genuine value, she said. “Really just having this easy comfortable entry into what you call your home. It’s something many people are able to appreciate.”
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