Jack Ryan has always been curious. As a kid, he had dual passions: fast cars and lock picking. While this could have been the makings of a life of crime, instead it led to an innovation that may change the way large facilities handle onsite access and security.
The Minnesota native was drawn to enroll in the University of Wisconsin, in part, because of the Wisconsin Racing program. The program allows engineering students to design, build and compete with third-scale formula style racecars. His work with electric cars piqued the future electrical engineer’s interest in regenerative energy and led to his specialty, designing ultra-low energy electronic hardware.
His childhood hobby, lock-picking, also followed him to college. The interest was inspired by hours spent watching MacGyver and other swashbuckling characters who save the day by using a combination of technical know-how and daring. Using his locksmith toolkit, he discovered that every mechanical lock is pickable with the right tools and skill. He didn’t know it then, but it was a lesson that would lead to the creation of his smart lock company, Last Lock, founded in 2019.
Last Lock aims to be just that, the last lock their customers will ever buy. Combining Ryan’s knowledge of mechanical locks, and regenerative energy systems, he created a user-friendly smart lock that he hopes will replace traditional door locks.
Since the product is shaped like a traditional lock cylinder, it is simple to install and provides their customers the option to unlock their doors with traditional keys, fobs, or smartphones. Unlike other electric smart locks, battery life is not an issue for Last Lock; the batteries inside of the device are recharged by the motion of unlocking the device and may be manually turned to generate the energy needed to unlock the door, in the unlikely event the internal battery has lost its charge. Making the lock self-powering and easier to install has opened up entirely new markets for Last Lock who aim to bring their locks and access control dashboard to large commercial and institutional customers that manage peoples’ access to hundreds or even thousands of doors.
The product, conceived in-part at the UW Makerspace, is deeply rooted in Wisconsin. “The locks are currently being designed, manufactured, and tested all across Wisconsin,” Ryan said. . We have our headquarters in Milwaukee, engineering in Madison, and manufacturing with a number of machine shops throughout the state!’’ Ryan continues, “Wisconsin was actually a very good place to create a smart lock company because of its deep history with lock manufactures such as Master Lock and building automation companies like Johnson Controls so you have a lot of infrastructure in Wisconsin that specializes in locks, lock devices and smart locks, which is an extremely fortunate coincidence.” When asked if Last Lock will remain in Wisconsin as it grows, Ryan responds, “That’s the goal. Because of our growing customer base and their strict security requirements, we want to keep our lock development and manufacturing secure and within U.S., and ideally Wisconsin, borders.”
With their successful completion of both the gener8tor and CDL programs, this company is on the move. Now in their seed round stage, Last Lock is piloting their smart locks with Wisconsin companies and on University of Wisconsin campuses. You can follow Last Lock through their next funding round and the expansion of their pilot program by connecting with them on their website.