If the movies and TV are to be believed, picking a conventional lock is as easy as sticking a tool into a keyhole, thoughtfully moving it around for a few seconds, then pulling the door open with a crafty smile. While there are special high-security locks that are much harder to pick, they also tend to be quite expensive. That's why Canadian inventor Ryan Bowley created the Bowley Lock – it's claimed to be virtually pick-proof, yet affordable to the average home-owner.
In a conventional system, the key enters a pin tumbler as it's inserted into the lock. As it does so, its cuts (the uneven bits along the side) push up on the pins. Once it's fully inserted, all the pins have been pushed up to sit evenly in a line, allowing the lock cylinder to be turned.
The problem with such systems is that a lock pick tool can also easily be inserted, then used to push up the pins. In the Bowley Lock, however, the key doesn't engage the pins upon first entering the keyhole.
"The key must be first inserted and then rotated 180 degrees to the top where the pins live," Bowley explained to us. "At the same time the slot cut in the key allows the key to travel around an internal shield within the lock. Once the key is rotated to the top of the lock it is pushed in a little bit farther. This action is then similar to a normal lock in which the pins now fall into their correct position in the key bitting, and the pins are at the shear line and the cylinder can be rotated."
He also told us that it is highly resistant to "bumping," partly because pre-tension can't be applied by the same tool that's doing the bumping, and partly because the pins in the lock must fall down as opposed to being pushed up.
If you're interested, Ryan is currently seeking production funds for his lock, on Kickstarter. A pledge of CAD$139 (about US$104) will get you a package consisting of one deadbolt assembly and four keys, assuming all goes according to plan.
There's a more detailed explanation of how the system works, in the following video.