A young Barcelona startup has come up with an ingenious solution that lets you unlock your apartment from anywhere in the world with the help of a virtual key. All you need is a smartphone and an apartment with a Wifi connection. We chatted with Jürgen Matthias Lotz, one of the three startup minds behind the Mutuum Airlock, about their one of a kind product and how their IoT (Internet of Things) solution can make all the hassle that comes with apartment sharing go away.
A Barcelona Startup That Opens Doors – Literally
In a highly touristic city like Barcelona where, despite all the government’s efforts to curb it, the sharing economy is booming and privately owned apartments are becoming the most popular form of accommodation, keys change hands every minute of the day. Hosts are often confined to their apartments for hours waiting for their guests who are running late, and there is no way they can rent out their apartments while they’re out of town without asking a friend to let their guests in. But does it really have to be so complicated?
Jürgen came to Barcelona a year and a half ago and moved in with his future business partners. The idea of the Mutuum Airlock was born as he and his co-founders, Wojciech Czyz and Alberto Gómez, started wondering how come that nowadays, when so many people are sharing apartments, there is no technological solution for opening doors remotely. “Isn’t it ridiculous that people are still waiting around to let their guests in, or leaving keys under doormats for them to find? Is there really no company solving this problem?” were the questions they asked themselves. Then, they came up with their own solution, called the Mutuum Airlock.
“To be able to get into an apartment, first you have to get inside the building.”
“Here’s how the Airlock works. The Airlock Smartbox is installed inside the apartment – from the outside, it is completely invisible. The system uses the apartment’s Wifi connection to communicate with your smartphone through the Mutuum app. You can use the app to unlock the door remotely yourself, or, you can give authorization to your guests and they can open the door with their smartphones.”
Up to this point, it seems quite simple. However, there’s a catch.
“To be able to get into an apartment, first you have to get inside the building. Opening the main door without a mechanical key – that’s the hard part,” Jürgen explains.
To solve this problem, the Mutuum team has developed a completely unique solution: they’ve found a way to get the Smartbox to act as an intercom, so that guests can use the app to virtually ring the bell and buzz themselves in. If you prefer not to give them access, you yourself can also let them in remotely from wherever you may be, they just have to let you know that they’re standing in front of the door.
Have Better Control Over Your Apartment
On top of providing a virtual key to your apartment, Mutuum also offers additional features such as noise and smoke detection, motion sensors and temperature control. All of these may come in handy when you’re renting your apartment out to strangers.
“When a group of young people are renting your place, of course they’ll promise not to make any noise. But in the evening, they go to the supermarket, buy a few packs of San Miguel, then go back to the apartment and have a party… And that’s how you get angry neighbors. Whereas with the help of our noise detectors, you’ll get an alert on your phone before the neighbors get a chance to start complaining,” Jürgen explains.
Between Germany and Barcelona
So what does the future hold for this smart little system? For now, the Mutuum team is looking at growing demand among hosts – and not just those who are hosting guests through apartment sharing platforms like Airbnb or Couchsurfing, but also hotels without twenty-four-hour receptions, hostels and rental agencies. They’re collaborating with a bunch of other cool startups, like Tictap (a startup that creates QR codes and NFC stickers, for a virtual check-in experience), Lodgify (a startup we’ve written about in our travel tech companies selection that helps hosts create their own websites and manage their bookings), and Papayapods (a property management and rental platform for medium and long-term rentals). They are also part of the IoT program of Hewlett Packard.
As for just how scalable the new company is: “Right now, our product is available in Barcelona, Lanzarote, Madrid and Mallorca. Someone has to physically be there to install the system. Every lock, every door and every apartment is different. But we’re working on creating a DIY kit, which would mean an absolute breakthrough in terms of scalability,” Jürgen says.
In the meantime, Jürgen is enjoying his time in Barcelona, travelling between the Catalan capital and his native Frankfurt. “Germany and Spain are complementary in many ways. Experiencing the dependability of the German business world as a company, as well as the beauty of living in the South of Europe in one of the best places in terms of quality of life gives me the best of both worlds,” Jürgen says.