Forget your key combination? This Toronto engineer revolutionized the padlock with one touch

Tapplock, a smart fingerprint padlock, was designed by David Tao and Jayden Li four years ago.

David Tao came up with the idea for Tapplock, a smart fingerprint padlock, in university

Tapplock Corp. co-founder and chief technology officer David Tao developed Tapplock One, a smart fingerprint padlock. The innovation recently won the Toronto engineer an international award. (Tapplock Corp.)

Forget the key or combination padlock — two Toronto engineers have revolutionized the device with one touch. 

Tapplock, a smart fingerprint padlock, was designed by David Tao and Jayden Li four years ago, but the invention is now earning them international attention. 

Last month, Tapplock One, the pair's original design, won the iF Design Award, an prestigious international competition held in Germany that recognizes great designs, in the product category.

"It shows, I think, that our product and our team design ability, procedure and quality assurance is well caused," said Tao.   

He came up with the idea while he was attending Queen's University. 

"I went to the gym on a weekly basis and used those combination padlocks. And I have to say it's really annoying to use them because it's hard to operate and really easy to forget the combination or key. Like once you forget about that, you have to cut the lock," Tao told CBC Toronto. "I think in one semester of university I had to cut three of my padlocks."

It was around that time, said Tao, that Apple released the iPhone 5S that featured touch ID. 

"I thought, this is the perfect solution to all these problems," he said. After graduation, he combined these ideas and made Tapplock One. 

Tapplock One requires the touch of a fingerprint sensor to open the lock. (Taplock Corp. )

The padlock offers three different ways of unlocking — a touch-based fingerprint sensor, wirelessly using Bluetooth technology via a companion app, and Morse code "so it can't be picked," said Tao. 

Morse code is a backup unlocking mechanism that allows the owner to program a series of short or long touches using the fingerprint sensor, like a password.  The partnering app allows for remote mobile-controlled access of the lock and monitors its use. 

Owners touch the fingerprint sensor and the lock opens. It can store up to 500 fingerprints, allowing for multiple users. 

"It unlocks in 0.8 seconds with your fingerprint," Tao said. 

"Lets say you have the bicycle in Toronto and now you're in San Francisco, or anywhere else, and your mom wants to use the bicycle," said Tao.

"Now you can pretty much just ask her to download the Tapplock mobile app and send her one-time access ... That means she will only need to use her phone as the key, connect to the lock and unlock it." 

But despite the design's success, Tao explains it has been a long road to get Tapplock Corp. off the ground. 

In 2016, the pair pitched their design on CBC Television's Dragon's Den, grabbing the attention of judge and Clearbanc co-founder Michele Romanow. She asked for a five per cent royalty and 6.15 per cent cut of Tapplock Corp. 

Before that, Tao and Li launched a crowdfunding effort where they raised more than $425,000 and pre-sold 5,000 units. 

Finally last year, Tapplock Corp. started shipping their products.


Amara McLaughlin

Senior producer, CBC News

Amara McLaughlin is the senior producer of social media for CBC News in Toronto.