Ann Arbor tech startup reimagines keyless home entry and smart access

No keys? No problem. PassiveBolt’s smart lock changes up how you open your front door

The interior portion of PassiveBolt Inc's Shepherd Lock. (PassiveBolt Inc)

ANN ARBOR, Mich – Although relatively new to Tree Town, technology startup PassiveBolt Inc has already gained traction for its innovative smart access module and its reimagining of keyless home entry.

Founded in 2018, the young Ann Arbor company introduced consumers to the Shepherd Lock, which uses smartphones in place of traditional keys and a cloud-based platform to keep users updated on home security.

One of the first of its kind, the smart lock also freezes a door’s deadbolt when it senses an attempted security breach, like lock picking. The lock won PassiveBolt Inc an innovation award at CES in 2020.

But the startup’s second-generation Shepherd Lock, which won a second CES innovation award in 2021, raises the bar with facial recognition and touch access in addition to the lock’s first-generation security features.

“All you have to do is look at it and it will recognize you. And if your face is authorized, you just touch the lock and it unlocks,” said PassiveBolt CEO Kabir Maiga over Zoom, “which means that you don’t have to carry a phone or a fob or anything with you.”

The idea of the smart access module was inspired by vehicle keyless entry, a now almost standardized feature in the automotive industry.

While working for automotive giant Continental, Maiga kept hearing that same thing: Consumers loved not having to fumble around with keys and wished they could do the same with their front door.

Under Continental, Maiga and his team reimagined the concept as keyless home entry in the hopes of providing a more seamless user experience.

“Of course it’s is a completely different footprint. A completely different package,” Maiga said. “You couldn’t copy-paste the technology. We just had to completely reinvent it.”

After incubating the idea overseas in Germany with his team, Maiga was then asked where he wanted to further develop the Shepherd Lock. He chose Ann Arbor.

“It’s not even a debate. We’ve got the best ecosystem in the state,” Maiga said. “No offense to Lansing, or anybody else, but it’s the best ecosystem in the state—A ton of resources and support.”

A graduate of University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, he also has a personal connection to Tree Town.

Founded in 2018, Ann Arbor's PassiveBolt is introducing consumers to smart access. (PassiveBolt Inc)

Maiga said that PassiveBolt’s first year was spent further developing its Shepherd Lock but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit things slowed down.

Nevertheless, the company has been working hard. Maiga credited his team for the tech startup’s exponential growth over the past few years.

“We have a fantastic team that we’ve put together... Everyone has been working in overdrive mode just to keep the company going,” he said.

“And I’ll also credit the city because if you want this kind of growth and scale, this is the place to do it. I can’t say for sure that if we were in a different part of the state or the country, that this could have happened this fast.”

PassiveBolt started mass producing its Shepherd Lock in the Fall of 2020. Currently, the company is sold out of its inventory but is aiming to produce 10,000 more locks within the next six months.

Maiga said that as the company grows, it plans to stay put in Ann Arbor and to become more engaged with the community, whether through speaking to local students or working with other companies.

It also intends to expand into other areas of keyless entry and smart access as time goes on.

Learn more about PassiveBolt Inc at

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.