The Key to Smart Global Access
Tapping on overseas distribution partners is igloocompany’s key to entering new markets.
In its quest to introduce smart locks to the world, igloocompany, or iglooco in short, has ventured from its home base in Singapore into more than 100 countries globally. Today, its key markets are the United States, Central Europe and parts of Southeast Asia.
Mr Anthony Chow, its Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, says, “We believe the way to scale globally is to partner with distribution partners who already have access to these markets. These partners help us bring our products into the local market and undertake customer service, and allowing us to scale much faster and more successfully.”
Its first partner was Airbnb and from then on there was no looking back. Today, iglooco continues to build up robust software platforms for integration with more than 1,000 enterprises, from small hostels to large clients that manage over 100,000 digital keys.
Tracing iglooco’s growth
Mr Chow is of the view that the advent of digital locks was inevitable. He says, “This is especially so with businesses that rely on and operationally involve many keys, such as the Airbnb vacation rental market, property management and the facilities management services.”
He adds that businesses have been trying to find ways to digitalise and reduce their manpower requirements while improving access control to premises, management of keys, and sourcing for better ways to capture access data. Going keyless helps save on operational costs, and at the same time helps to provide transparency in data, especially involving information such as entry and exit records, occupancy details and more.
Mr Chow says that in the late 1990s, with the birth of Internet of Things (IoT) and the popularity of mobile phones, many industries including the lock industry started digitalising. The first market to successfully launch digital locks was South Korea, led by iRevo, which was eventually acquired by Assa Abloy. By 2010, South Korea had over 90% penetration of digital locks and many other countries are catching on.
“Once people started using digital locks and enjoyed its convenience, they were not going to switch back to using traditional keys,” he added.
As with other smart devices, the aim of digital locks is to make life more convenient and premises more accessible. Smart locks without keys are extremely helpful when granting access to helpers, or contractors, or to anyone with a valid reason. Even if you go out to run errands you do not need to bring keys since a digital locking mechanism may merely require a PIN number, fingerprint, or electronic card reader.
For businesses, this translates directly to cost savings by eliminating manpower needed to supervise access and improving operational efficiencies, with over-arching view and control on access.
By users for users
The co-founders of iglooco had a big advantage. They were Airbnb hosts and had a history of managing listings. They have first-hand experience of handling the keys to premises and realised all the inconveniences that come with it. As a result, they decided to put their heads together to devise smart locking systems that were more convenient and easier to use.
Mr Chow remembers, “utilising Wi-Fi was an answer but getting access management connected to Wi-Fi was a challenge as Wi-Fi is usually quite weak in vacation rental properties. So we thought about how we could grant access to people without needing Wi-Fi — quite a counterintuitive approach. From there, the innovative algoPIN™ technology was born.”
The algoPIN™ technology is also facilitating a more seamless sharing economy, and is a sustainable solution for the smart cities of the future. With sustainability in mind, iglooco is now looking at innovative solutions such as working with cellular connectivity like NarrowBand-IoT especially in the US to access remote sites.
On the future of digital locks, Mr Chow believes identity is the key to the innovations around smart access. It is about having the control in granting access, knowing who is given access, and locking others out. He predicts there will be more innovation around validating the identity of the person accessing, either via biometrics, video or some other means.
He added, “Power is another important innovation — currently the power supply of most smart locks can last up to one year, some perhaps slightly more. We want to provide longer lasting solutions, ones that are aligned to our sustainability mandate as well.”
The company’s vision is reflected in the name. Mr Chow said that an igloo is a strong, sturdy and sustainable structure that houses Eskimos and shields them even in the harshest of winters, providing them a safe haven from frequent snow storms. As such, the name, igloo, evokes a sense of security and safety that is also attainable with the iglooco smart access platform.
Right now, the company is planning to expand further into the US as it features a huge rental market in need of smart access. Mr Chow is planning to be in over 2,000 retail stores there by the second half of 2023 and in all the major ecommerce sites like Amazon.com and Homedepot.com. Meanwhile, iglooco will continue working with many of the major platforms locally. Mr Chow is also well aware of staying ahead of the competition and said that iglooco is in the midst of launching several new products with the expansion of its bestselling smart padlock range.