When you walk into a friend’s house, a hotel room, or an Airbnb rental today, it’s a given that you can use whatever stuff you find inside. By unlocking the front door, you’ve also unlocked almost every object and appliance in the house. But technology is slowly changing that equation, starting with the need to ask for the Wi-Fi password the moment you arrive.
And as the Internet of Things adds more smart, connected devices to homes and buildings — along with the myriad mobile apps and cloud services needed to control them — it becomes more and more cumbersome to let others use the stuff we own.
“That’s the key in a connected world: How am I going to share access?” says Matt Hartley, one of the co-founders of Prempoint. The answer his company has come up with is “virtual access control” — a way of separating questions of who’s-allowed-to-do-what from the hardware and software that makes up any given smart device.
Early adopters of smart door locks will recognize the power the IoT brings to access control, with apps, beacons and other methods of handing out digital keys and streamlining the process of getting in the door. But in nearly every case, granting access to a particular lock means both the owner and the person trying to get in need to use the lock-maker’s own app or cloud service; and then they have to do the same for each smart device on the other side of the door.
Prempoint clears away all that clutter by means of virtual access points. A homeowner or property manager can use them to group devices together, then share access with a single tap. And for visitors, a single login through the Prempoint app becomes a multipurpose key for everything they’re allowed to access.
“They key to this solution is that it’s software. We’re not a hardware company,” Hartley says. That means Prempoint’s virtual access points can be device- and protocol-agnostic, which will allow the platform to keep up with a rapidly changing IoT landscape. “I can maintain a user experience, and the underlying technology can change,” he says.
Depending on an access point’s settings and the kinds of devices an owner installs, Prempoint can use up to four different layers of security: geofencing (based on the visitor’s mobile device) for proximity; beacons for presence; PIN numbers entered through the Prempoint app; or biometrics, like fingerprints, collected by certain mobile devices. A particular user’s access can also be restricted to specific days and times. That gives property owners a lot of flexibility, so trusted friends and family can access everything in the house whenever they’re at home, while the cable guy is only allowed to use the front door on a specific day between noon and 2:00 pm.
“These types of features have only been available to enterprises,” Hartley says. “At Prempoint, we’re democratizing that so that you and I can have it.”
Eventually, Hartley intends for Prempoint to be seen as a sort of publishing platform and social network for the IoT’s things that could be integrated with other apps or mobile OSes. Future versions of the platform will allow access points to be “discoverable”, so apps will be able to notify users about nearby devices and let them quickly request access. He also plans to integrate it with back-end systems in, for instance, the service industry, where it could be used to allow technicians to access work sites and help to populate and manage work orders.
For now, though, Prempoint is starting talks with angel and seed investors and hitting the trade show circuit to show off a fully-functional demonstration using Bluetooth door locks and padlocks. Next steps include adding support for automatically configuring users’ devices to use local Wi-Fi networks, releasing an SDK, growing the company’s network of hardware partners, and integrating with automation platforms like SmartThings, Wink and iBeacon.
See Prempoint’s Bluetooth demo in the video below.