Interview with Akhtar Khalil, CEO of My Smart Remote

29 March 2018
Just as Google’s Chromecast has extended the life of older TVs and brought smart functionality to thousands of households and offices, My Smart Remote – a resident of Innovation Warehouse – seeks to enhance and transform car security for vehicle owners and insurers through a simple-to-use but sophisticated mobile phone-controlled device. Innovation Warehouse sat down with CEO Akhtar Khalil to explore the award-winning start-up’s USP and journey.

What is My Smart Remote’s story? How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

I have a PhD in Information and Communications Technology. A few years back a friend of mine’s car was stolen, which caused him a great deal of trouble. I looked into the problem and was amazed by the figures: over 1.5 million cars are stolen each year in Europe alone, and over 4 million worldwide. That means a car is reported stolen every two seconds.

There have also been reports suggesting that owners of some expensive cars like Range Rovers were denied insurance over the issue of car theft in London. Car theft is also on the increase, because thieves have discovered ways to bypass immobilisers, transponders and other existing vehicle security solutions.

So I decided to find a solution for this problem, which resulted in the development of the system we called My Smart Remote. The product consists of a piece of hardware, which is installed inside the car, and the software, which is installed on a mobile phone. The phone communicates with the hardware wirelessly and the app provides various forms of functionality. We’ve tested it and it works in cars right back to the 80s.

When it’s installed, a car’s security is not compromised by key cloning, signal jamming or cutting the power supply. Even password hacking does not work on our system, because there’s more to the security than a simple password.

Did you look at similar products or potential competitors during the initial R&D stages?

There are other products in the market, but their security concepts are based on the same old algorithms. Some existing solutions also have mobile apps, but in terms of the security concepts there is no real innovation. The innovation in our offering is that our security concept is not vulnerable to traditional threats.

Security is a process, not a product. Nothing is 100% secure – we are always improving security, but all the existing systems and the research in those solutions is focused on how to prevent or detect threats – because the basic concept of these products is that if keys are cloned or signals are jammed then security is bypassed.

Because these products are so old, thieves have learnt how to bypass them. We believe that if we focus on preventing the occurrence of these events – key cloning, signal jamming, power cuts etc. – it will be costly and difficult. So we decided to work on a new concept that guarantees car security, even if these things happen.

We have received awards from Innovate UK and the Seal of Excellence from the European Commission and strong interest from many motorists.

What is your ambition for My Smart Remote?

My ambition is to provide peace of mind to motorists, but My Smart Remote will also be good for the environment because a lot of energy is spent on making new cars – one car takes as much energy as three years’ electricity consumption by the average household. Some manufacturers have also told me that sales of certain cars have been impacted because of thieves targeting particular brands, so our product helps tackle this vulnerability.

What role has Innovation Warehouse played in the development of your company?

I started My Smart Remote from my home, before I joined Innovation Warehouse. One of the major benefits I gained from being at IW, and which is a requirement for any start-up, is you get the community element. When you come to an environment where you find other people like you, with the same type of thinking, it gives you more motivation. Also, a start-up cannot afford experts from each and every field, so often you exchange your expertise with someone and get their expertise in return.

I received mentorship here from my first business coach, Stephen Bloch at the Innovation Warehouse, and was selected via the Growth Accelerator Programme. I also got a chance to discuss my product with other people, especially Innovation Warehouse founder Ami Shpiro, which helped me polish it more.

The motivation I gained was very encouraging. I believe that for any start-up – any researcher – when people who have a good understanding of risks give positive feedback and help overcome potential weaknesses, it provides the ultimate boost.

Click here to learn more about My Smart Remote