NexKey takes a fresh look at access control

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

SAN MATEO, Calif.—Sometimes taking a fresh look at an age-old necessity inspires creativity, resulting in a whole new company offering never-before-seen solutions to the market. 

At the end of 2017, Eric Trabold was introduced to a team of six engineers, collectively known as NexKey, who found it interesting to change something people do day in and day out — accessing spaces. 

“It hasn’t changed for hundreds of years,” Soon-to-become NexKey CEO, Trabold, told Security Systems News. “We [referring to society] started long ago using metal keys, putting them into a key hole and turning the key [to gain or restrict access]. And, key cards and fobs haven’t really made it much better; you still have an ‘object’ that you hold towards a reader, so it’s still the same basic motion as using a metal key.”

The team of NexKey engineers thought there must be a better way to gain and restrict access to spaces using a device that people carry around with them all day … the smartphone. Researching existing solutions that already enabled access control credentials using smartphones, the team learned of a huge differentiator their solutions could give to the market. 

“More traditional solutions are difficult to install because they have three to four hardware components — the reader on the outside, electronic door hardware in the frame, a door controller, a panel — all of which needs to get wired up,” Trabold said. “At the end, it costs a lot of money. All the hardware together can cost approximately $1,200 and the install itself $600 to $800, totally two-grand per door.”

The engineers asked themselves, ‘is there a way we can leverage mechanical locks out there, since every door has a mechanical lock, and turn it into a smart lock?’ And, of course, the resounding answer was ‘yes.’

It was at this time Trabold actually met the team who needed a CEO to bring their products to market. 

“I have an engineering background and I started my career as a sales engineer because I always found it more interesting to get people excited about technology than building it,” Trabold said, mentioning that he has worn many hats building up to his NexKey career including sales manager, sales director, VP of sales and even dipping his toe into the start-up world with his very own consumer hardware startup. “When I met the NexKey team, I realized that I have good experience with go-to-market and hardware install experience, and I can really build something here.” 

The first product the team brought to the market was the NexKey Core, a smart cylinder that can be added into any type of mechanical lock that can be installed in two to five minutes. “Then, two minutes later, the lock is mobile credentialed,” Trabold added. 

Once the Core went out to customers to try, positive feedback included that installation was easy and the cost was very effective in comparison to similar products. However, customers asked the NexKey team for more. They wanted a solution for a door that already had a card reader and an electric strike that could be controlled within the NexKey app. Hence, the NexKey Controller, a door controller and panel, all in one, was invented.

“Just plug it [NexKey Controller] into a regular power outlet near the door and connect two wires to the electric door hard ware and you’ve got control with the NexKey app,” explained Trabold. 

Toward the end of 2018, early 2019, NexKey began selling their Core and Controller.

“Within six months, we had 5,000 users on the NexKey app and several hundred customers,” Trabold happily reminisced. “At that point, we raised more funding and announced this in June 2019.” 

As more and more people started using the platform, Trabold said that the team recognized that approximately 40 percent of the time, end users connected the NexKey Controller to an electric strike. Digging deeper into market share of different electronic door hardware, the team leaned that electric strikes are approximately 25 percent of the overall market in the United States. This prompted NexKey to work on their next product, which was introduced to the market yesterday.

“NexKey Solo is the world’s first wireless, battery powered door strike,” Trabold said, noting that it connects to NexKey’s cloud service through a user’s mobile device. “The only thing an installer has to do is make a cut-out in the door, no wires needed, put the Solo into the cut-out, creating the same experience end users have with an electronic door strike. In fact, integrators will need more time to find a parking space and unload their truck that it will to install our products!” 

At a price point of $499 plus $9/door to access NexKey’s cloud service and professional installation from $120 to $200, total cost per door equals about one-third that of a traditional access system, according to NexKey’s announcement.

With such an affordable price point and easy installation, Trabold said that installers have been purchasing a few to keep in their trucks. When a customer asks for a solution, the installer doesn’t have to write a quote or come back next week. He or she simply walks out to their truck, gets the NexKey product and completes the install then and there. 

When creating products, NexKey always has two things on their minds, which is reflected in the fact that they are a team of engineers and not seasoned security professionals.  

“Because we really don’t have a security industry background, per se, we always think about the user experience and the experience installers have with products so we took a fresh look being ‘outsiders,’” Trabold explained. “Users spend a lot of money on solutions and sometimes they don’t have a good experience, and installers spend a lot of time deploying product and only installing for a single door. That is the background for all our products.” 

Trabold gave an example of a customer, a security installer, who installed/outfitted 33 private office doors using NexKey products in one day. The installer reported back to NexKey that before, he could only do four to six doors in one day and now, he just did 33 in one day. He told them, “this is awesome,” which Trabold told SSN — “that’s what makes us happy.”