Mister Beacon Episode #84

Bluetooth Locking System

December 20, 2018

This week on Mr. Beacon we talk to Justin Zastrow, CEO, and Ira Hayes, CTO, of Smart Armor. Smart Armor builds controlled access points, in other words Bluetooth locking systems. The company was born out of creating a solution for locking medicine cabinets and measuring adherence to medication. Now they are finding many different applications where securing drawers and cabinets, and using your phone as the “key” using the Smart Armor Smart Cube is very useful. You can find their cube in Best Buy today, and soon it Home Depot and Costco!


  • Steve Statler 0:07

    The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Wiliot. Scaling IoT with battery free Bluetooth. Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This week, we're talking to the founders of Smart Armor. Justin Zastrow, who's the CEO, and Ira Hayes is the CTO. Gentlemen. Thanks so much for joining the podcast.

    Ira Hayes 0:31

    Absolutely, Mr. Beacon.

    Justin Zastrow 0:33

    Thanks for having us.

    Steve Statler 0:35

    Well, so did you have to come far for this?

    Ira Hayes 0:38

    Not far at all, like up the road from North Pacific Beach for me, which is San Diego.

    Steve Statler 0:44

    Yeah. And so when neighbors, aren't we, which is pretty cool. And I, when I heard about what you guys are doing, I was very excited, because I think there's some interesting synergies with what you're doing and what really, it's doing. But before we talk about that, let's just talk about your core business. What is it that smart armor does?

    Ira Hayes 1:05

    Okay, well, Smart Armor builds controlled access points, we kind of looked at this IoT world a few years ago, no five and all reality, and we're trying to come up with solutions for locking medicine, cabinets, and medication management. And it's what I was kind of doing my PhD on. And so we kind of came up with, there's all this software out there. And now there needs to be some hardware interactions. And so we started down the road of controlled access points. And these controlled access points being a Bluetooth basically locking system. And so that's where it all started from. And it started in a very medical centric kind of way to kind of keep people out of your medicine cabinet and allow software to allow them to like know it, notify you if you did, or did not take it, or at least have that physical interaction between software and something that you actually have to do. And so that's where it started out of. And then, as we went down the line with Justin and a bunch of the other people, we found that there's other secondary control points that people really gravitate towards being it's either poisons under the sink for keeping toddlers out of it, or alcohol and cabinets is another one, that we've got a response for anything you want to keep private and your secondary environment. Because as you're aware of in this world of IoT, a lot of this stuff is for Ingress, egress, like access of, of your dwelling. And we're that secondary access control point without video surveillance right now. So it works. It works great for that. And so there's, there's been a lot of awesome things, as everyone predicted this IoT boom for the last five years, and we've been doing, you know, 2020s, the epicenter of 50 billion connected devices and how it gets to really meshing all this together. And so that's where we fit in with that group. And it's really coming to fruition right now through all these interactions through wireless communication that are able to be cloud supported.

    Steve Statler 3:09

    So just you have two sides of the business, right, this kind of this consumer side and the commercial side, we've got one of your products that you want to do just a very quick show and tell on that and Telstra. Yeah,

    Justin Zastrow 3:21

    definitely. So this is called the Smart cube, kind of goes back to what I was saying, when we when we started the business back in 2013. He came to me with this, this little metal, you know, little pill box that if you didn't take your pills, it would shoot a message to your caretaker that Hey, Dad didn't take his heart medication, or whatever. So

    Steve Statler 3:38

    So adherence is kind of the technical term. Are you taking your meds? Yeah, yeah, keep you out of your meds. It was just trying to figure out if

    Justin Zastrow 3:46

    You say, Hey, did you adhere to the protocol? Right? And so yeah, so we kind of did that and tires point, we decided to go down the line of credit and all these different, you know, smart locking devices, and we're like, oh, man, we can be the Intel inside of smart locks and just sell our chips, right? Or the chipsets and provide the software, which is really the full audit trail, knowing who accesses you know, anyone who's liked, where they access when they access all that and then we extrapolate that data for everyday use cases and reporting and so on. And kind of through that process, we realized that people had to understand who smart AMR was. And we're like, well, kind of come full circle with it. We're like Well, let's go back and lock these medicine cabinets inside the homes and keep you know, teenagers out of the oxycottons and babies of the bleach and you know, your roommates out here, your bedside drawers, and you know, all that stuff. So

    Steve Statler 4:42

    The key is the phone right? Yeah, open that with your phone. It's the key.

    Justin Zastrow 4:45

    It is definitely the key. Yeah, so you know, the cube is is a product that we commercialize you know, we're selling in BestBuy just to start and it really is just, you know, a way for us to show that, you know, we're some big boys and we're In the market, and we provide cool tech for the likes of yourself.

    Ira Hayes 5:03

    And it's, it's super simple, it might seem a it's a retrofittable locking system that can basically be mounted anywhere in any door or drawer. And how it works is it comes with a base plate much like a GoPro mount for all you action sports guys and know how GoPro mounts work, it's got the strongest 3am tape just like GoPro does on the bottom of them. So this VHB Tape actually, is how you mount your base plate has some screw holes, you can add screws into it. But then what you do is once you find your mounting location, you snap the cube into place, your base plate, and this, this is our basically it works like a zip tie. It's a pin system that goes on the door drawer. And once it locks into the cube, it basically performs a overlocking position. And now you can gain access to the proximity of your phone through biometrics or through key code. And so basically you're controlling secondary spots within an environment. And so that's where we're really trying to grow the control points of the IoT world passage, just a sensor, because this is actually physical accountability as well, which we think is important, like retroactive accountability is awesome to know that your toddler opened the bleach cabinet, but you're still calling poison control to prevent them and allow access but still have that sensory notifications of when it was activated, who activated the nanny can share the key. That is where it starts to build into the IoT side.

    Steve Statler 6:40

    So those of us in the beacon well, they used to these stickers used for attaching the beacons onto the wall. And sometimes you can pull them off pretty easily. Isn't that a problem with this,

    Ira Hayes 6:50

    It's not if you give this about 24 hours to cure and some falsification process that this tape is what's holding together a lot of the airplanes you're flying in. And all the windows in like the new skyscrapers are held in with VHB tape. And the great thing about it is it's not like epoxy so you can actually take it off and a tip for you. If you ever have something stuck on with VHB Tape like GoPro mounts, you can use a piece of dental floss to put underneath it and just pull it off. Oh,

    Steve Statler 7:19

    It's gone. Pull it off,

    Ira Hayes 7:20

    Pull it off. You can like slide it off because it starts to release. It's kind of like get go to see in a simplistic or pottery. Yeah, it's a it's a it's very interesting. And they're very proud of it. It's quite expensive. Yeah, so like it's a, it's a it's a and so that's what and then we have holes if you want to you can we provide screws in the packaging. And you can over melted. But what's great about this product that we found, as far as productization is a it's retrofittable. But be you can install it on glass and metal which wouldn't be able to on a lot of things it just requires require required screws, right and so for locking like server cabinets and things like that, it allows you to basically plug and play these and it's removable from the base. So the only thing that has to be mounted is the base. The rest of it snaps

    Justin Zastrow 8:09

    Basically, we take any cabinet cupboard drawer, and we make it smart lot.

    Steve Statler 8:15

    It's fantastic. And so how's that going? How's business

    Justin Zastrow 8:17

    It's awesome yeah growing every day so

    Steve Statler 8:19

    You're at BestBuy that's that's pretty cool.

    Justin Zastrow 8:23

    BestBuy was a start, you know about to launch and Home Depot and Costco and you know, all the other ones. With the retail product, we've got some really exciting developments on the b2b side, which is really kind of where the business you know, is that with the likes of you know, yourself and I'm doing some things in collaboration for a lot of the bigger brands out there, offering them the technology, we just got a patent on it, which is really cool. August 28, something that we filed back in 2013. So it was it was quite small, you know, it's it's any wireless community, it's a it's a remote. Basically any electronic lock or electromagnetic lock, that's controlled via remote controller through wireless communication of any of any of any sorts. So whether it's Bluetooth or Wi Fi, or Zigbee, or voice or touch or sensor, I mean that stuff really, you know, gets driven down to the patent. So at an overarching level, smart locks controlled by, you know, wireless communication. There's a cooler patent in there claim that we got regarding some drone stuff. So any drone delivery, you know, wireless,

    Steve Statler 9:31

    So how do you how to drones come into this, how could a smart lock in a drone play together?

    Ira Hayes 9:37

    So I'm an aeronautical engineer was my background. I don't use it too much. But um, so what we really focused on in most of the IPS written round is container or which is like a cupboard or drawers a container of sorts. So it's the control of that, that environment that inside environment so how it applies to draw Drones is in the delivery system, because as you see this on the horizon of drone delivery, it still has to be secured once it's delivered, or once a package is given. So this isit works Amazon still works twofold for that. One is for part of the release mechanism of the package. And the second is for controlling the package that's there to know that the actual user through their basically UD ID, and passcode is the one that's accessing it, then it provides that forensic data trail back to whoever got it.

    Steve Statler 10:37

    So that audit trail is pretty cool. That's whether you're a parent or a business.

    Ira Hayes 10:41

    And that's where the real IoT part of it starts to come together, which is now it's cloud backed. And so basically, we have that forever audit trail. And we wrote quite a bit in it, because we knew these were portable, unlike maybe a fixed door lock. So it does the same thing as Title beacon. And basically the track will be consulted, knows where and who opened it. Right. So basically, it's gathering location, kind of hijacking your phone's GPS.

    Steve Statler 11:11

    So what's the enterprise play? And where does that sort of fit in your in your business plan without showing us the spreadsheet? But so where is the future? Is the future in me going to Best Buy to protect my drinks cabinet? Or is it in the enterprise space,

    Justin Zastrow 11:27

    You know, I think enterprise space, if you look at like, self contained, right, or if you look at medicine containers, or 18 wheelers that are you know, transferring food all around, you know, eliminating a lot of that, you know, a lot of the inefficiency of that stuff. And the in the transport, I think is, is a huge sector for us. So if staying on the focus of logistics, or even things like smart lockers inside a gym, or, you know, high schools or colleges or, you know, really any one of these access points, anything, regarding a container smaller, you know, the size of China's is really kind of where we fit in.

    Steve Statler 12:01

    Okay. And so, those, there's basically just a lot more of them. And, and I'm guessing if you're an enterprise, you value the data, even more than someone who's just casually trying to see if their kids have been trying. Absolutely.

    Ira Hayes 12:15

    And that's what we've been building as the enterprise platform level of this where you're controlling a hive of bees.

    Justin Zastrow 12:22

    A little different than the front door lock, right? Yeah,

    Ira Hayes 12:24

    A little different than that. It's kind of the one use or five use. And so we've got a good response from like Airbnb and people that rent out properties in order to control things that when they leave their dwelling, they don't want you opening their their basically all their doors and drawers, because I don't know how many Airbnbs you've been in. But I've always been able to find alcohol. I've always been in some sketchy little area, video surveillance in there, like in a lot of those places. So are you not supposed to? So you're kind of like limited to how do I protect itself? So that's one of the consumer users. But yeah, as we see this going, and we've, we're rolling out some trials at the hospital system level just to basically maintain equipment. So you can't go pilfering it, it prevents pilfering really well, and allows this audit trail for expensive equipment as well.

    Justin Zastrow 13:16

    And we provide tamper alerts to we know when people are trying to access these lock compartments, so you get notifications to your phone, hey,

    Steve Statler 13:24

    What's triggering the door?

    Ira Hayes 13:25

    There's an accelerometer in it.

    Steve Statler 13:28

    I'm gonna get this.

    Justin Zastrow 13:29

    So we're like, hey Tammy tell me why you're trying to get into into the goods. We got. Yeah, we got it. Yeah.

    Steve Statler 13:36

    So um, you know, this is supposed to be about beacons. This is about Bluetooth, which is super interesting. And the thing I love about these conversations, you take something simple, like a smart lock. And suddenly you realize the multi dimensional aspect of this and what it means when you integrate it with IoT. But so we're not going to announce any formal partnership or certainly not talking about any joint customers, but give us a sense for how, you know, a self powering battery free Bluetooth tag my interface with something like a smartwatch. What's the

    Ira Hayes 14:11

    Absolutely and that's a great, a great application for this. And that's where we see the synergy, really exciting. So how how it could work is we'll just use the locker example where you have a locker. Amazon lockers are really expensive. Packages, any kind of shipment needs to be tracked and monitored throughout the process. And so where we see some kind of this synergy going is that if you have one of the smart cubes in say a two by three locker, and you have one of the tags on a package, anything that this tag is on it's it's the UD ID for that package. It's taking that information on the device like number so it knows that that numbers correlate In the database, so the security number, this is, this is tracking that. And then when a system like this can recognize that that's close, and begin to power it, because you're eliminating the battery and everything else out of this, which is huge. And it's readable by all the devices we have around us. It's amazing. And so you're eliminating a big portion of the cost and this stuff, which is batteries and circuitry to do this. And so when this is recognized by this, it can help to basically power this piece. And then it goes, Hey, I know I'm supposed to open for you, for you package, not necessarily going to phone. So I'm going to open for you. And I'm gonna register that you're next to me, right. And so now I know that this package has been moved to this, this point and this access control point, can then basically upload the database, like, refresh the database, and now it's, now it's known that this part is complete. And so that's where we're really excited about building out the base, the bigger picture, which is the platform side of the access control points, where these access control points are empowered by the proliferation of these tags, we work almost as a hub, right? Yeah, if we work as a gateway, or a hub for something like this, or other companies work as a gateway or a hub, because it's the same as having your battery operated Bluetooth key fob, which we can activate these with, but it's just taking that whole complexity out of it and making it totally like a very good user experience. And so that's where we see a lot of this, this going is that this can maintain some of the power within it, and broadcast a longer range. And it can then take all the information this is gathered, and basically upload that back to the internet. And so we're, we love that concept of it. So now you know, your, your medication didn't get hot, which and so that's what my background like, because it's a big problem if things are, you know, out of balance. And so it knows it's there. It knows it got to you, it knows that, you know, it was controlled throughout the lifecycle of that delivery

    Steve Statler 17:06

    Chain of custody. Thanks for bringing that to life. Yeah, well we're making is super simple little Lego brick, metaphorically speaking. And, but it becomes interesting when you got to snap it onto these other solutions. And suddenly you have all this functionality the thought of before. So let's just wrap up with tell us a little bit about the story of how you guys got together and created this story. You kind of touched on it a little bit. But how did you create the business and what inspired you? Because you're an aeronautical engineer? What are you doing doing this?

    Ira Hayes 17:44

    Like, so it really, I got into the startup world because I lost a bet to a buddy that went to the Air Force Academy with me. And so we stastusrted a medical education company with like six of us and the house like the way you always works, a pool and a monster truck just happened to be located in Scottsdale, Arizona, which good buddies of mine, and they were good friends of Justin. And so I was doing my PhD at that time. And I was really interested in compliance because I had a friend almost die from Miss taking medication. And so it was like, almost died. And so I'm like, you know, there's all this software that we work with all the time I put software on his phone, just like remind him to take his medication, basically, any kind of stuff, remind him and take him. He went to the hospital again, because he was not taking his medication that was like, Well, why he was like, well, it was just annoying me. So I just turned it off. And so I was like, Well, this is stupid. There's no physical accountability, go along with it. And so

    Justin Zastrow 18:42

    Eric, Eric called me up. I had a software company at the time. He's like, Did this guy didn't take his meds? Again, he's back in the hospital, can you build an app that will, you know, do this thing, you know, and we can communicate through Bluetooth and so on so forth.

    Ira Hayes 18:55

    Because I was like, that's what I was trying to figure out that the hardware tie in, which was do you make containers, and now now they've come so far with it, where they actually swallowing RFID and cryptid pills, that you wear this patch on you. So that's the real like, that is That's ultimate

    Steve Statler 19:11

    This is terms of adherence. And so

    Ira Hayes 19:15

    And so I was very engaged with how do you like make compliance, like easy. And so there's got to be something physical with it. And so that's where that's where it started from, and we kind of like, we will not have we went down that road, we've built out the concept, the proof of concept was this, this smart cube and 20 others. But this one and this one, we're like, Well, this one's actually sellable. We're manufacturing through Arrow Electronics. And so we have big, big people have helped us do this. And we're still in our rollout phase. And we're trying to see in 2019 2020 How many access control points that up?

    Steve Statler 19:56

    We'll just touch on that because I know we said we're going to wrap up The Arrow aspects of your business model is super interesting. What? What's the relationship with arrow and who are arrow for those?

    Ira Hayes 20:07

    Okay? Biggest company you've never heard of?

    Justin Zastrow 20:10

    Yeah, arrow I think did 26 billion last year now world's largest, you know, or biggest electronic components supplier. And so, you know, we met arrow couple years ago to a random show in Del Mar and I ran up to him, I said, Hey, you guys are distributors, you know, we'll let you distribute our stuff, if you know, you can bring us to your clients, and then they're like, Oh, we can have a different idea. And so they sat us down, they were doing this portfolio program, which enabled them to kind of scale up and grow their business and, and, you know, provide contract manufacturing and financing and other services for new companies, which inevitably gave them you know, new clients and, you know, another outlet instead of kind of going by the wayside by the likes of potential Amazon, right. So, awesome business move by Arrow, we got scooped up, I went through a pretty rigorous six month of due diligence, and, you know, all this stuff, and, and now they finance all their stuff, they manage the entire operation, Bond, all their electronic components for us, provide the supply chain, really, you know, enable us as a smaller company to act bag and be large and not have to, you know, have 100 employees that actually manage these, you know, these processes, they do it for us. So, we kind of lucked out, if you will, and yeah, you know, that's awesome.

    Steve Statler 21:25

    Yeah. So Justin, Ira, thanks so much for coming on the show. It's been a real pleasure outside of the show, and on the show,

    Ira Hayes 21:33

    Sir, thank you for bringing like thank you for everything that you are doing to like, push this forward, because you don't have lead times on capacitors and everything in here. Like, the scooters and automotive industry, it's hard to build electronic products now. That's why we again, is is good, because they they set aside so many parts for us. And but yeah, like awesome, like, awesome stuff is

    Steve Statler 21:57

    Basically one pop and one heart.

    Ira Hayes 22:01

    Yeah, that's, that's amazing.

    Steve Statler 22:03

    It's amazing stuff. Very good. Well, I'm really looking forward to formalizing this and getting a working product out with you guys. And I think people will be fascinated by the story. Thanks again.

    Ira Hayes 22:13


    Justin Zastrow 22:14

    Thank you Steve appreciate it.

    Steve Statler 22:21

    So we have this tradition on the show where I asked you about something that's got nothing to do with technology, which is your tastes and music and the songs that you would take if you're going on a trip to Mars, just bizarre premise. But, Justin, what would you what what are the three songs you'd take to Mars?

    Justin Zastrow 22:41

    Three songs I would say. Simple man By Skinner, I would say Behind Blue Eyes, by the WHO?

    Steve Statler 22:53

    Okay, why did you choose that?

    Justin Zastrow 22:56

    You know, it's kind of a my third one would be sealed kiss for morose. Okay. All right. So the three of them. I think behind blue eyes is more of, you know, kind of when you feel alone, you feel just out there on an island. It's one of those things that kind of just gets me going from deep and, and kind of just, you know, revs it up a little bit. I think I guess Monroe's kind of brings up my more gentle side, my loving side, you know, kind of brings me back to the emotional aspect of just people and humanity. And I think simple man. Funny question. I actually asked my girlfriend this morning, I'm like, Would it be a song that you would think of me and she said, she said, simple, man. I said, why? She's like, well, you're very kind and very gentle man. You're very, you know, just easy about life. So I think those would be probably the three ones from loved ones from Dr. And ones from everyday life.

    Steve Statler 23:53

    I love it beautifully choreographed, balanced. Ira, you strike me as someone who is pretty balanced in their life. You do this like weird, high tech thing. And then you jump off cliffs and fly around.

    Ira Hayes 24:06

    Yeah, fly and surf and flying is a amazing outlet for it. So

    Steve Statler 24:12

    What would I do the music you would take, I assume you don't listen to music whilst you're flying that we do

    Ira Hayes 24:16

    is very common, especially with all the Bluetooth speakers out there right now. So you're usually most people are bumping some beats while they're flying around. So there's a very eclectic mix that goes in with that. And so I guess if it was to go to Mars, little longer journey, so probably some longer songs, but no, I would definitely say either the original or one of those Somewhere over the rainbow is always a good one. To have a few remixes of that song that are very, like they kind of get you in that peaceful zen place. And a lot of this stuff reverts back to that moment of clarity, I think and so however, you can find that. And then it's funny. I was gonna say simple man as well. That's one of my favorite songs. I'm still getting I think, yeah, I think it's our, our age and demographic. And I actually gave that CD the band Shinedown came out with a second version of it. That's really good. I gave that CD to my mom for her birthday and she loved it because she listened to the original one and so it's kind of like our song together. That's awesome. Yeah, that was kind of a and so every time I hear it, I makes me think of my family life and stuff like that. So that's it's a, it's a cool one. And then

    Justin Zastrow 25:27

    I really definitely brought the shine down in addition to my life, which is actually my favorite. Thank you for that appreciate they

    Ira Hayes 25:35

    they do pretty good. And then I don't know just to keep it fun. I would have to go with Ice Ice Baby buy Vanilla Ice. Like just just to throw it throw it in the mix because I'm originally from Florida and it's kind of a hilarious song and the guy's a hoot. So those three would mix it up and you know if you have B roll somebody some nice classical like pianist growing up so

    Steve Statler 26:02

    I spoke to Scott Queen as well

    Ira Hayes 26:07

    And listen to that guy Robin will explain the difference between his beat and their feet was hilarious, didn't didn't didn't didn't Denny's like no, we had didn't didn't didn't did it didn't didn't put a symbol in there and it differentiated between

    Steve Statler 26:24

    Already Yes, well, I excellent music choices.