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Kick-starting computer security

What if you had a key fob that automatically locked your computer when you walked away and unlocked it when you got back?

An electronics design company born at the University of Maryland, College Park, is seeking crowd-funding to develop one. It already has 145 backers who have pledged a total of $5,506, but it won’t get a cent unless it reaches its goal of $12,000 by March 20.

GateKeeperThe company, CoolCAD Electronics LLC, launched its campaign on Kickstarter. Its product, dubbed the “Gatekeeper Chain,” works via Bluetooth wireless technology and eliminates the need to enter a password when leaving and returning to one’s computer. The fob uses an encrypted password and a sensor to create a unique key that allows it to sign in.

CoolCAD Electronics was founded by UMCP professors and alumni and participates in a business incubation program within the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), which is part of the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering.

The company has already created a fully functional prototype (using a 3D printer) of the Gatekeeper Chain, and a patent is pending. The team hopes to use the Kickstarter funds to launch a pilot production run with 200 units of the small, colorful key fob. The pilot run would help the company obtain certification from the Federal Communications Commission and conduct various product tests.

Full production would start in June, and the company expects to be able to distribute 4,000 devices by July.

A member of Mtech’s Technology Advancement Program incubator, CoolCAD’s headquarters are at Mtech’s Technology Ventures building, located just off campus near the College Park Metro station. The company was co-founded by Neil Goldsman — the firm’s president and a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UMCP — and Vice President and UMD alumnus Akin Akturk, who earned his doctorate in that department in 2006.

Over the past five years, CoolCAD has won subcontracts and undertaken research and development projects worth more than $4 million combined.