If you’ve ever lost your only copy of a car key you’ll understand the hassle it is to get a new one. It’s not impossible because licensed locksmiths have access to the identification codes that car companies use for their keys but according to Steve Randall, vice president of Alternative Product Solutions, this is often time-consuming and can sometimes be very difficult to obtain for rare marques. To address this the company has developed the Electronic Key Impressioner (EKI), a portable device that can reproduce practically any car key using a sensor that goes into the lock and sends information back to a computer via USB about the location of the lock's tumblers - a corresponding computer program searches for the code and a key-cutting machine can use it to grind out a key. In some instances it replaces the old manual "trial and error" method of cutting a new key.

Even keys with transponders in them can be copied because most licensed locksmiths already have the tools at their disposal to code one of these types of keys.

The current prototype EKI works only with Fords - Randall, who is the son of a locksmith, says his next move is to program the machine to work with many more manufacturers vehicles.

But, I hear you cry, what if the local ne’er-do-wells in my area get their grubby hands on one of these devices? There goes the neighborhood. Well, there are already tools that exist for “locksmiths only”. This is planned to be another one.

However, should this technology get into the wrong hands, it could more than upset the auto-makers that may have to look at redesigning their locking mechanisms. Randall, and company president Ted Schwarzkopf at Alternative Product Solutions insists it will only be sold to licensed locksmiths.

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