John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
The smart lock's piercing alarm can draw attention from 150 feet away.
It says something about the speed of technology that this is not even the third or fourth Bluetooth-enabled bike lock. But the "Nokē" U-lock does have a slew of bells and whistles that—if you're device-savvy enough to operate it—might make it a treasured accessory for wired riders.
The remote-sensing device, in development by Utah's FŪZ Designs, looks as if a bar of Kryptonite was attacked by leather patches from a professor's jacket. But its homey design masks an interior jam-packed with electronic ... stuff:
The $99 gadget's main selling point is that it syncs with your phone, so when you push a button on the crossbar it senses your presence and unlocks. If you forget or lose your phone, there's a way to open the lock by pressing a customized series of short and long touches, sort of like Morse code. The app also allows you to set up friends as designated users of the lock (or as banned users if they become enemies).
Because it's so smart, the Nokē has perhaps unintended human characteristics. It doesn't want to be abandoned, so it will let users know its location via phone. It also gets angry at potential thieves: An accelerometer senses when it's jostled for more than three seconds, and then activates a "shrieking alarm" that will "definitely send [a thief] running and get the attention of anyone within about 50 meters," write its creators. "Yes, it's that loud." (The annoying alarm is an escalation of the Cricket's antitheft technology, which texts you when it senses movement.)
Though it sounds like the Miracle Lock of the Future, I can think of a couple downsides. The biggest is its spacious U, a glaring vulnerability for thieves using quick, brute-force pry attacks. It's also easy to imagine a scenario where the alarm continually blares due to unintentional bumps. Here's hoping the Nokē warranty covers replacement costs after angry, sleep-deprived neighbors beat it to death with hammers.