Updating a classic: The padlock | PDD

Updating a classic: The padlock


on May 23 2011

The earliest padlocks are thought to be Roman Era, 500 BC-300 AD, created as a way of securing two items together and a convenient ‘portable’  alternative  to locks. Since then the evolution of the padlock has primarily been focussed on the improvement of its security capabilities. How we interact with the padlock has undergone little change. The key and single or multiple combination dials have really been the only way to open and close a lock. Until now!

Speed Dial combination padlock by Masterlock

Speed Dial is a new format of combination padlock developed by Masterlock that uses movement rather than  numbers  in combination to open the lock. The users can create their own combination of directional movements instead of the traditional rotation of numbers. This interface required much less dexterity, especially if you think that a rotating combination lock requires you to be able to rotate the lock to 39 different angles, making it suitable for all ages and dexterous abilities. In theory, movement is easier for the brain to remember than numbers and therefore you are able to create longer combinations which can still be opened quickly (by you, not the criminals!).

Here is a video of how it works:

Whether it is any more secure than a typical padlock, well I can’t tell you exactly, because when I tried to find out I kept getting a message like this…

However, experts do confirm that it is certainly a secure alternative and people do find it easier to remember their combinations. Masterlock also provide symbol stickers for those who do want a little more guidance, giving consumers complete control and personalisation.

For a product that has had little innovation in recent history, this is a really interesting example of how a company has looked at the consumer side of the product story and developed something that meets people’s needs rather that focus solely on technology improvement. Exploring consumer lives does create market differentiating products.

For more information  check  out this great history of locks website by Raine Borg. Plus, there is good old Wikipedia for more on padlocks.

Culturally speaking…

The padlock symbolises many things; security, safety, strength and commitment. Recently, on a trip to New York, I came across the phenomenon of the ‘Love padlock’. It is a tradition that is thought to have started in China at Mount Huang, where it is customary to ‘lock your soul’ together and then throw the key off the cliff into the valley below. In the case I encountered, padlocks had been customised and engraved with names and  dates  and then locked to the Brooklyn Bridge as a symbol of love and commitment between two people.