First they came for the locksmiths…

I got locked out of my apartment this last weekend, and I must say it’s been a long long time since I’ve had a customer experience so terrible.  When you are calling a locksmith, it’s generally after the shit has pretty much already hit the fan – you’re desperate, you are probably without cash, and you are totally captive.  Especially if it is an inconvenient time, and isn’t it always, your ability to comparison-shop is extremely limited.  And you have exactly no choice in the matter.

This is exactly the type of customer experience that “disruptors” love to talk about, but it’s not at all clear what the easiest way to do this is.  It’s a problem that relies on individual skilled labor by the locksmith in situ, at any time at any location.  While the second part of that is something that is a pretty solvable problem, “in situ individual physical skilled labor” is pretty much the definition of something that is terribly-suited to be solved with software or hardware.  You know, the opposite of scalable.  Which is why locksmithing isn’t a big business despite the extortionary 3-digit price I was charged.

Here’s my suggestion – you’re not actually paying for the service here, you’re paying for a key that will fit the lock.  Unfortunately, the best way that we’ve had of creating that key up until today was in situ individual physical skilled labor.  But this is exactly the type of problem that I would suggest is solvable with 3D printing – the right shape at the right time. Once we can figure out the right hardware, software and operational infrastructure to put around the technology, the locksmith is a dead profession and we’ll all be better off.

Other than locksmiths, of course – but in case you can’t tell I don’t think too highly of their line of work.

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