This story appeared in the Daily Herald (IL), 12/9/04
By Emily Krone
Daily Herald Business Writer
Copyright 2004, Daily Herald
Of all the buildings in all Batavia, the unlucky burglar chose the one managed by the company that makes the iButton "smart" lock. Around 2 a.m., an employee who worked in the building opened the back door, grabbed some expensive equipment and fled.
When the goods were discovered missing the next morning, the company was able to identify the culprit immediately.
Batavia-based TimePilot Inc. had outfitted the building with its iButton lock, which records who opens the lock and when. The iButton is a small computer chip that fits on an employee's key chain. According to the company, it is nearly indestructible and impossible to duplicate.
Employers can program the iButton lock to permit or deny access to specific employees at specific times. For example, a company might issue maintenance workers iButtons that allow entry only during the hours they are on duty. The iButton also eliminates the need to change the locks every time an employee loses his key or leaves the company. Instead, the employer simply reprograms or disables the iButton.
Large corporations have utilized sophisticated access control systems for years. Most hotel chains, for example, have wired systems with cables running from the front desk to every door in the building.
In contrast, the iButton is wireless, and at $250, a fraction of the price of other access control products. It is battery powered and takes about 15 minutes to install. In addition to doors, it can protect cabinets, lockers and desk drawers.
"It's incredibly unique," said Doug Marsh, TimePilot CEO. "As far as I know there's nothing out there like it. There are products that do everything that this lock does ... but they're very, very expensive systems."
TimePilot is a spin-off of Spectrum Companies International, also based in Batavia. Marsh's father founded the company, which makes products for the fast food industry, such as technology that controls soft drink dispensing for Coca-Cola and McDonald's.
Spectrum engineers created a "virtual" punch clock, software that tracked employees comings and goings and prepared the data for payroll and accounting services.
Marsh formed TimePilot Corp. to market the timeclock to companies outside of the fast food industry.
The iButton was originally sold as part of the TimePilot punch clock to record when employees clocked in and out.
TimePilot developed the iButton lock when companies started asking if it could be used as an access system as well as a time and attendance system.
Marsh said TimePilot sales have grown ever year. To date, the company has sold about 1,000 punch clock systems, "several hundred" iButton locks and "tens of thousands" of individual iButtons, according to Marsh.
Companies in Tahiti and the United Arab Emirates now use the iButton. Locally, the locks are used by the Kane County Regional Office of Education in Geneva and Charlestowne Cabinet and Countertop Distributors in St. Charles.