Zachery Shivers and I rushed this project out in the past week for the TI MSP430 Ultra-low Power Challenge. What we’ve achieved so far is a secure wireless door lock that allows you to unlock your door remotely via your RF-enabled TI eZ-430 Chronos watch.


Using the new TI eZ430-Chronos sport development watch, which is based on the CC430, we created an electronic door unlock device. The watch communicates wirelessly to lock and unlock the door after given a secret password (a sequence of taps on the watch’s 3-axis accelerometer). This system demonstrates an ultra-low power consumption wireless system using TI’s MSP430 architecture, achieving estimated battery lifetimes of over 4 years on the watch and over a year on the door.


The eZ430-Chronos wireless development kit is a powerful evaluation kit created by TI. This evaluation kit allowed us to program the watch very quickly with the provided debug and programming via USB dongle. The door hardware was custom built around the CC1111EMK868-915 Evaluation Module Kit, which uses the CC1111F32 wireless System-on-a-Chip.

Power Consumption Estimates

The estimated duty cycle of watch is 10 unlock cycles per day. The estimated duty cycle of the door is 30 unlocks and 30 locks per day. Using the built-in 220mA coin cell battery, the watch that consumes 0.131mAh per day will function without a battery change for approximately 1,679 days or 4.6 years! Using the four 2500mAh, 1.2V batteries in series, the door that consumes 4.03mAh per day will function without a battery change for approximately 620 days or 1.70 years!


In a sense, our wireless door lock solution is even more secure than the traditional method of unlocking doors using keys. To unlock the wireless door lock, the user not only has to have a previously paired watch, but also has to know the secret knock sequence to the particular door. Here, security is achieved by requiring a combination of something you have as well as something you know.

Something You Have – Texas Instrument eZ-430 Chronos Watch

On the watch, we store information about up to 21 paired doors in a simple database. The information includes a unique 16-bit door ID and a 128-bit shared AES key agreed with the door upon pairing. Each watch and door pair has its own designated shared key and unlock sequence. Using the shared key, the door and the watch can communicate securely.

Door ID   Shared 128-bit AES Key
0xFE12    01 6D 2D 83 66 64 0E 25 3B A0 41 0D 2D 83 66 FF
0x11D3    0E 25 3B A0 41 3B A0 41 0D 2D 83 66 FF 66 64 0E

Table 1. Typical watch-side database (up to 21 entries stored in flash)

Watch ID  Shared 128-bit AES Key                            Secret 96-bit Knock Sequence
0x434F    01 6D 2D 83 66 64 0E 25 3B A0 41 0D 2D 83 66 FF   50 FF 8C A0 35 32 80 EF 41 0D 00 00
0x100A    83 66 FF 66 64 0E A0 41 0D 2D 0E 25 3B A0 41 3B   35 32 80 2D 83 66 64 00 00 00 00 00
0x100A    A0 35 32 80 41 0D 2D 3B A0 41 0D 2D 0E 25 3B 03   99 FF 30 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

Table 2. Typical door-side database (up to 68 entries stored in flash)

Upon user’s request, the watch can initiate a key renewing process that would allow a new 64-bit partial key to be generated. This new partial key will be encrypted using the old key and sent to the door. Door will combine this new partial key with part of the old key. Doing this process twice will rotate a completely new 128-bit key between the watch and the door. We recommend the user renew their partial key every month. To prevent repetition attack, we implemented a session token system. When initiating a door unlocking, key renewingor sequence changing process:

  1. The watch will send an unencrypted SYN packet to discover nearby doors
  2. The door will receive the SYN request and looks up the watch in its database and find the shared key
  3. The door will generate a 32-bit pseudo random number known as the session token for the particular watch
  4. The token is encrypted using the shared key and sent to the watch in a SEC packet
  5. The watch then decrypts the SEC packet; verify its validity by looking for a pattern in the decrypted message; and save the token for the remaining of the session
  6. From now on, during the session, the token will always be included in the encrypted part of the packet and both the door and the watch will verify each message using the token
  7. Upon success completion of the operation (e.g. successfully unlocking the door, renewing partial key, or changing the knock sequence), the token will be discarded by both ends and become invalid

If the attacker tries to repeat the door unlock sequence by recording the radio transmission, the attempt will fail due to an invalid token. Neither can an attacker disrupt the session by requesting a session token on the watch’s behalf, because the session token will only change upon success operation or when it expires.

Something You Know – Secret Knock Sequence

If an attacker gets hold of your watch that contains the 128-bit shared key to your door, it is still not the end of the world. A 96-bit unlock knock sequence is required to unlock the door. This sequence can be set uniquely for each watch-door pair. This sequence is collected by measuring the shock on the watch using the integrated 3-axis accelerometer. The user can simply and quietly tap on the watch to input such sequence.The collected sequence is then encrypted using the shared key and sent to the door in the SEQ packet for verification. The door normalizes the sequence and verifies its validity against the data stored in its database. However, normalization allows the user to tap at a different speed each time as long as each tap has consistent relative length.

Suppose we have the following simple sequence: “TAP [… pause …] TAP TAP [… pause …] TAP[… pause …] TAP”. The watch will see shock at each tap. Our algorithm works as the following:

  • Start the accelerometer and look for the first tap.
  • Found first tap, start a timer to time the pause length between the first tap and the next tap.
  • Found second tap, stop the timer, and store the pause length (8-bit, in 6 millisecond resolution) as the first element in an array (of size 12). Start timer again to time the pause length between second tap and the next tap.
  • If timer time out meaning the pause is too long, or the entire array if filled, we then call the sequence finished.

Now the array contains numbers that measures the length of the pauses between each tap. So for the sequence “TAP [… pause …] TAP TAP [… pause …] TAP[… pause …] TAP”, the array content will look like:

0x50 0x10 0x45 0x49 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00

To make sure we can match the same sequence knocked at different speed, we have to normalize the sequence by scaling the longest pause in the sequence to 0xFF like this:

0xFF 0x33 0xDB 0xEB 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00

Now the sequence is normalized and can be compared to a previously normalized sequence for validity. A probability of match is computed based on the normalized sequences. Of course, we cannot tap a sequence perfectly, so some margin of error is allowed.

As you can see, a sequence consists of 5 taps will result in4 pause lengths. We allow up to 12 pause lengths which can be translated into 13 taps totally. The more taps your secret knock sequence consists of, the more secure your door lock will be.

The secret knock sequence is also not permanent and can be changed securely over the air upon user’s request. The door has to be put into a special mode called the “sequence changing mode” to allow nearby watches to reset their secret sequence. This can be done by holding the button on the door for at least 5 seconds. After the user taps in a new sequence (twice for confirmation), it is encrypted using the shared key and sent to the door in the PWD packet. The door will then store the new sequence in its database and exits the “sequence changing mode” automatically. Again, we recommend our user to change their secret knock sequence in a regular basis.

Potential Vulnerability

No security system is perfect. We’ve hypothesized some security vulnerabilities in our system.

The biggest problem is always the initial pairing of watch and door. To pair a watch to a door, the user have to put the door into a special mode called “pairing mode”. This can be done by holding the button on the door for at least 10 seconds. In pairing mode, the door will accept RAW packets which are used to exchange initial keys. The user can initiate a pairing process from the watch. The watch will collect random bits using the accelerometer and construct a 128-bit shared AES key. This key is transmitted unencrypted in the RAW packet over the air to the door. The door will accept the key and store it in its database only if it is in pairing mode. The door then acknowledges the watch about the success completion of the pairing, and exits the dangerous pairing mode automatically. Pairing mode can also be used to reset the 128-bit keys once those keys get out of sync between the door and the watch. This out-of-sync state is a rare state which will happen when an acknowledgement packet is lost during a key renewing process. We try to minimize this risk by always sending multiple ACK packets.

As you can see, the door is considered “naked” when it is put into pairing mode. A potential solution to this problem is to decrease transmission power in pairing mode such that the watch has to be very close to the door. Another potential solution is to run a Diffie-Hellman key exchange process and requires the user to input a pre-shared secret in order to pair with the door. The secret can be in a form of tapping or button press sequence.

Source Code

The source code for the entire project can be found on our repository:

And if you like it, please do vote for us on the competition page:

Update: Hardware Revision 2

Zack has just completed the PCB design for hardware revision 2. In this revision, we got rid of the reed switch to detect door close. We will have two IR sensors, one pointing out from the side of the box for detecting door close, the other pointing into the apartment for detecting approaching person and unlocking the door when the person gets close enough. A buzzer is also included to produce battery low voltage warning and other messages.