Key-Printing Kiosks Automate RFID Card Copying

By Claire Swedberg

KeyMe has retrofitted 111 of its kiosks with RFID functionality so that users with LF access cards and key fobs can print copies, while all future kiosks will come with the RFID technology built in.

Self-service key-copy technology company KeyMe has implemented RFID card duplicating capability at 111 of its kiosk, mostly in urban areas across the United States. The kiosks enable users with low-frequency (LF) 125 kHZ RFID keys—such as access cards for offices, parking lots or apartment buildings—to create copies of their RFID cards. Once a card is read at the kiosk, KeyMe will separately create a duplicate using the collected card data. The duplicate will then be shipped to the individual's home within two or three business days.

"KeyMe is changing the way people make and manage their keys," says Greg Marsh, the kiosk company's CEO. In that effort, he adds, "We believe there's a massive demand to copy RFID cards," primarily for access in the residential market. The company was launched five years ago to provide a convenient technology for copying spare keys, and now has at least one key-copying kiosk throughout 40 states, for a total of 1,500 kiosks deployed around the country.

A customer can first download the KeyMe app that is used to save key information. For very basic keys, he or she can simply insert the key into a slot in the front of the kiosk, which will capture details regarding the key's shape, store that information digitally so it can be copied again if necessary, and then create a duplicate within approximately 30 seconds. The duplicate is provided to that customer on the spot.

The user can then create a "digital key chain" in the app with any of his or her keys, which is stored on the cloud-based server in case a key is ever lost and needs to be printed, or if that person ends up in a lock-out scenario. The key data is stored along with a fingerprint for security purposes.

More sophisticated keys, such as automotive keys with transponder data, can be copied, but this would take a few more days. Once such a key is inserted into the kiosk, the transponder data is captured and stored along with the key's shape, and the duplicate is then shipped to the key holder's address. In the meantime, Marsh says, "Our customers are aggressively asking for more opportunities," including RFID key printing. "We think dense, urban areas will have the earliest demand."

According to Marsh, the company has retrofitted 111 kiosks throughout urban areas (the majority of which are in New York City) with an RFID reader and antennas built from a combination of off-the-shelf and customized reader components. When someone with an RFID card arrives at a kiosk, he or she can touch the screen on the front of the machine to select copying for an RFID ley. The customer is then prompted to place the RFID-enabled card or key fob within contact of the RFID reader sensor. The built-in reader then captures the tag's ID number.

The system offers the alternative of making a card, sticker or key fob. A user would provide a shipping address, and the RFID key would be mailed to that individual within two to three business days. The cards are duplicated at a cost of $14.99 or higher, depending on the kiosk location. Of the 111 RFID-enabled kiosks, 34 are located in Manhattan, in stores such as 7-Eleven, Bed Bath & Beyond and Rite Aid. The rest can be found in other cities around the United States, at grocery stores and retail chains.

The key-printing technology is aimed at the residential and automotive markets. However, RFID or traditional keys could also be copied to enable AirBNBs and CouchSurfing users to share keys with field representatives, as well as for maid services.

While KeyMe has retrofitted RFID functionality into some of its kiosks, it will now manufacture all new kiosks (its Gen 4 version) with such capability built in. Since the company began offering RFID in retrofits, Marsh says, "We're seeing really strong customer reception. We anticipate this being a core part of our business."