A traditional padlock with a technology twist.
I remember getting my first padlock and installing on a locker at school. It was a combination lock and in those days if you forgot the combination, you better just go buy a new lock. Today, there are new styles of lock that incorporate technology into their infrastructure. One of them is BenjiLock.
BenjiLock by Hampton is the world’s first padlock that features both fingerprint technology and a traditional key lock. BenjiLock can store up to 10 fingerprints and is stable enough for multiple users. The lock has a built-in LED indicator that helps the user understand when the correct fingerprint is registered by the scanner and while a fingerprint is being programmed. The lock is made of die-cast zinc with a chrome-plated hardened steel shackle. The lock is fully rechargeable and has a built-in lithium-ion battery that can last up to 6 months on a single charge (depending on its use). The lock weighs 8.8 ounces and measures 4.1 x 2.7 x 2.2 inches in size. It is available in matte black, dark navy, white, and matte grey color finishes.
BenjiLock has a very interesting history. In 2017, BenjiLock debuted its first prototype lock at CES. I know because I was there. MacSources writer, Jon Walters, actually had the chance to get his hands on a very early model of the device described here:
I was able to meet members of the team and to discuss the lock. Unfortunately, the company did not have a working device. They brought a prototype to CES, one that was not operational. The device was resting inside of a pedestal/glass display box. I had asked the team to feel and hold the device. The white base of the padlock is very eye-catching and the logo is appealing. I gripped the metal of the lock and pulled upwards and accidentally separated the two halves. This is where they told me that this was a prototype/nonfunctional device. I apologized and then they noted that it was okay, it was glued in place.
Little did Jon know that the same broken prototype that he had the chance to look at up close and personal would later be in front of the producers of ABC’s Shark Tank during their annual open casting call for the hit show. If you aren’t familiar with the show, product inventors have the opportunity to approach investors with their company/idea pitch in the hopes that they will walk away with funding to support their product. As it happens, BenjiLock was chosen as a featured product, which was aired on an episode late in 2017. BenjiLock was awarded $200,000 in exchange for 15% equity in his company to Shark Kevin O’Leary. After the feature on Shark Tank, the CEO of Hampton Products International sought out the investor O’Leary and the pair brokered a deal and the patent rights were sold to Hampton.
Ever since Jon’s initial introduction to the BenjiLock more than three years ago, we’ve been dying to get our hands on the real product. The company has made quite a name for itself and carved out a niche in the safety and security market. There are other padlocks that feature fingerprint technology, but none of them are paired with a traditional key option and all of the ones we’ve tested (Master Lock, Noke, Dog & Bone Locksmart, and Tapplock) have required a companion app, which the BenjiLock does not.
Now that I’ve had the chance to use a ‘real’ BenjiLock, I can say that it’s a solid product. It weighs a little more than a 1/2 pound and is made from really tough elements. It has some interesting retail packaging — a clear plastic cylinder. The clear package makes it easy to see the entire product and the details that included give just enough information to make the product intriguing to potential buyers. There is a Shark Tank stamp on the package, too.
The BenjiLock comes partially charged, but it’s recommended that users plug it in before they start using it. The lock comes with a short Micro USB cable. This is one improvement that BenjiLock could make with their next production run — incorporate USB-C instead of Micro USB. To charge the lock you either plug the USB cable into a USB port on a computer or power strip, or into a wall adapter (not included). The LED indicator will glow red until it’s done charging. The user manual states that it will take around 3 hours for a full depleted BenjiLock to recharge.
Once you have a charged lock, it’s time to program the Master User. The Master User fingerprint is the first one to be programmed into the lock. This fingerprint will be needed to add/remove other users. The process is similar to the way you program a fingerprint into a phone. You wake the fingerprint reader by tapping a finger on it. The lights around the fingerprint reader flash, you turn the key counterclockwise until the lights around the sensor are solid blue, and then you press a button on the bottom of the lock. This action seems to let the lock know that you are trying to program a fingerprint. This next part of the process was a little confusing and it took me a couple of tries to get the sequence right. You hold the finger you want to have saved over the sensor until the LED indicator turns on BLUE and then shuts off. Then you do the same step 4-5 times until the LED indicator quickly flashes blue indicating that the fingerprint has been saved. At this point, you can remove the key from the lock.
Even though the process is a little cumbersome it’s nice to not have to use an app to manage the lock. Once a fingerprint is saved, the operation of the lock is really, really simple. You simply hold your finger over the sensor for 2-3 seconds. The LED indicator will glow blue if it’s accepted and red if it isn’t. If the fingerprint is accepted, the shackle will pop open. Users also have the option of just using one of the two keys that are provided to unlock the padlock. I like that the lock is so hefty and how it feels in the hand. Its body does seem a little smaller than standard padlocks, but it’s very well-built. The only concern I would have safety-wise is that with there being a standard key hole included, there is always the chance that someone could still pick the lock.
BenjiLock has certainly come a long way from where it first started a few years ago. The product and the company have seemingly moved mountains to bring this product to market and to make sure the right people are involved. Since its debut at CES in 2017, BenjiLock has expanded its product portfolio to include the TSA padlock as well as the 43mm standard padlock.