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The new experimental Sony launches the Qrio Smart Lock

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From the group that brought you the FES e-paper watch

In the midst of a crisis, Sony has decided to crowdfund a little more security. The Japanese electronics giant has launched a campaign for its Qrio Smart Lock, a device it says is the smallest of its kind, allowing users to open their doors with their smartphones and share encrypted keys with friends via messaging apps like Line and Facebook.

Sony is using crowdfunding and auditions to find new business ideas

Launching the Qrio as a crowdfunding campaign is part of Sony's new initiative to bring back the pioneering spirit that defined the company in previous decades. The Wall Street Journal reported that chief executive Kaz Hirai has backed initiatives to fund new ideas such as Sony Real Estate while smartphone head Hiroki Totoki is currently overseeing the company's Seed Acceleration Program, which copies Silicon Valley startup culture with auditions and funding rounds for new business ideas.

Crowd-funding the Qrio also allows the company to gauge consumer interest, with early adopters able to buy a prototype device for ¥11,250 (about $95). The company previously tried this tactic with their e-paper FES Watch, which launched on the same crowdfunding site without Sony’s name attached in September. It eventually raised 2,780,136 yen (about $22,729) of its 2 million yen target and the WSJ reports that Sony is hoping for at least 1,500 orders of the Qrio.

But while the e-paper Fes Watch struck many as a novel idea, the Qrio is more of a conventional product. A whole range of smart locks with similar features are already available in the US, including the brushed aluminum August ($250) and the Indiegogo-funded Goji ($278). With the Qrio expected to retail for around ¥15,000 ($126) it’s at least cheaper than its foreign rivals and Sony also claims it can be securely installed without any tools at all. However, it's questionable whether or not these features will endear it to the security-conscious especially considering Sony's current woes.