Innovations: New ‘smart’ locks provide convenience

Editor’s note: To view a video interview with Mike Long, and a demonstration of the plate locking technology inside the lock, check out BizTimes Manufacturing Weekly e-mail bulletin on Monday, Nov. 2. The bulletin also is posted at

Many of us have purchased a padlock to lock up valuable belongings, only to later lose the key or forget the combination.

Glendale-based Strattec Security Corp. has developed a series of “Breakthrough One-key Locking Technology (BOLT)” locks that can “learn” an individual’s vehicle key and eliminate the need for people to have multiple padlock keys or remember multiple combinations.

“We did some research and it showed that nearly half of adult car owners use a padlock for something in their life,” said Mike Long, director of new market development for Strattec. “That really motivated us to come up with a lock that would make the lives of our consumers more convenient.”

According to Long, Strattec’s BOLT series of locks “learn” the vehicle key on first insertion, and then is permanently programmed to open with that key. Any number of BOLT locks, can be set to open with the same vehicle key, eliminating the need for excess padlock keys or combinations, he said.

Inside the cylinder of the lock, there are six plate tumblers, Long said. Those plates move up and down to match the indentations and topography in the vehicle key.

“Once the key is fully turned, those plates lock in place, and the lock is permanently set to your vehicle key,” Long said.

Conventional locks are equipped with a standard 4-plate tumbler system. BOLT locks’ six plate cylinder makes it nearly impossible to pick or bump, Long said.

Strattec is a leading manufacturer of automotive locks for Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler vehicles, but decided that launching the five-piece BOLT series of locks independently would cut costs in the long run.

“The components of the BOLT series of locks are all made here in Milwaukee,” Long said.

Strattec holds the patent on the automotive-grade cylinder, and the mechanical technology associated with the one key locking technology, Long said.

The BOLT lock series also features a soft casing to prevent scratching and an automotive like shutter built into the lock to keep out moisture.

“We are going for automotive grade convenience with this series,” Long said. “We have already gotten a lot of positive feedback from consumers who would be interested in purchasing the product once it is released.”

Strattec will officially debut the BOLT series of locks at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) 2009 show in Las Vegas, in early November. The automotive specialty products trade show will showcase the locks and their capabilities, but will also put the product in front of the right people, Long said.

Representatives from consumer stores around the country like Home Depot and Wal-Mart will be there, in addition to numerous automotive companies looking for lock technology to use with their access controlled products. 

“Ideally, we’d like to get our patented technology on the shelves for consumers to buy,” Long said.

The five-piece BOLT lock series includes the padlock, the 5/8-inch and ½-inch receiver locks, cable lock, the spare tire lock, and the motorcycle wheel lock.

Strattec’s automotive grade padlock would retail for around $20, Long said. 


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