Arizona Patent of the Month – April 2023

Electronic locks have become increasingly popular due to their security features and ease of use. However, a common drawback of electronic locks is the need for a power supply to function properly. Sometimes the most annoying problems have the simplest solutions.

Why place the power in the immobile lock? Knox Associates Inc. identified the flaw in this common design, and has reinvented the solution by placing a battery in the key instead of the lock. This arrangement allows the lock to remain locked even in the absence of a power supply and makes the battery easier to charge as keys are generally more portable than locks.

To transfer power and data from the key to the lock, electrical contacts are typically employed. However, electrical contacts are susceptible to corrosion and can lead to failure of either the key or the lock. Knox’s design uses an innovative method for detecting a lock state of an electronic lock. A partial capacitor is held within the key and forms a connection with a capacitive metal plate on the lock. A processor transfers data signals between lock and key through this capacitive connection.

The method for detecting a lock state of an electronic lock includes mating the electronic key with the electronic lock, transmitting an unlock signal from the electronic key to the electronic lock, and receiving a confirmation signal from the electronic lock indicating that the electronic lock has unlocked. The keys send out heartbeat signals and, based on a response to these signals, determine if the lock is still locked, now unlocked, or relocked. 

Knox Associates Inc.’s innovative method for detecting a lock state of an electronic lock provides an efficient and effective solution to the problem of battery power in electronic locks. This new technology ensures the lock remains locked even in the absence of a power supply, making it a more secure option for all. Additionally, by placing the battery in the key, the need for constant replacement or recharging of the battery is eliminated, and the battery can be charged easily.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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