Former Apple employees create Level Lock smart lock, backed by Walmart

Cupertino, October 15, 2019

John Martin and Ken Goto, founders of Level Home

Home level

John Martin had just gone through a snowstorm with his entire family to get to a vacation home on Lake Tahoe when he realized that he had forgotten his keys.

After waiting 45 minutes for the locksmith, Martin, who was a manager at Nokia and Apple, had an idea for a better lock that he could control with his phone. Martin called it a "moment of the founders" in an interview with CNBC.

Three years and a $ 71 million financing later, this lock is now available for purchase from Level Home, a 50-person company founded by Martin and Ken Goto, who had also worked at Apple.

Level Lock is a $ 250 deadbolt enabled with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It's basically a computerized lock that users can control via an associated app. For example, users can unlock their doors via Bluetooth with their phone or send an SMS with a pass to a guest if they have to enter their home.

Level Lock can send a pass to a whole group of people, a feature called "Party Pass" by Martin or send reassuring SMS when a child or a roommate arrives home late at night. It can also be used to monitor the flow inside a house, such as when some people leave or arrive.

The lock becomes more useful when it is associated with automation software such as Apple's HomeKit, Martin said. With HomeKit, or possibly other smart hubs, users can create automation scripts, which would allow them to move in and out of their homes without worrying about whether their home was locked because it was automated.

The idea is to create a high-quality smart lock that removes much of the conventional thinking about residential locks or to create a new product based on fundamentals, similar to how Apple approaches the design of 39 a new product by thinking first to the experience.

"The majority of the business belongs to Apple at some point in its career," Martin said.

Level Lock has raised $ 71 million in two rounds, Martin said. The final round, which closed in July 2019, was led by Walmart, the retailer, and Lennar Homes, a major home builder, who announced plans to sell homes equipped with Amazonian or Apple HomeKit-equipped mountain devices. . Martin declined to report Level Home's assessment after the last round.

Several tech companies have tried to solve the problem of a better smart lock. Latch, a New York-based manufacturer of smart locks for homeowners, raised $ 126 million earlier this year, valuing the company at about $ 500 million. A consumer-centric company, Otto, which sold a $ 700 smart lock, ceased operations in 2018 and its founder went to work at Apple.

Users can reserve a locking level now, but "availability for the general public" starts in January 2020. The company plans to extend support to other platforms, including Alexa, and is considering more important features, such as providing secure access to service providers, such as parcel deliveries, which would directly compete with products like Amazon Key.

WATCH: Amazon Key aims to deliver to the inside of the door

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