Thursday, 10 July 2014

Throw away your office keycards, and use your ring instead.

Have you taken a drive around the downtown/Central Business District in any large city around the world recently and noticed something consistent about office workers wandering the streets?

You might’ve noticed that many office workers have straps around their necks with plastic cards hanging off them. The cards may be sitting in the men’s shirts top pockets. You may also notice that some office workers have the cards clipped to the outside of their trouser pockets.

So what are these cards? The cards generally serve a couple of purposes; they are the office workers ID, and they are their keys. Sometimes the cards may be used for photocopying or for paying for goods at the office cafeteria.

But let’s focus on the keycard - perhaps you could call these keycards ‘wearable technology’. The office workers are wearing them, and its technology right? Wearable technology is a relatively new term, a bit of a buzzword at the moment, but these keycards have been hanging around the necks of office workers for around the last 10-15 years.

In this blog we’re going to break down the office keycard access control system, and propose a revolutionary new access control system.  

First the basics - why do all these office workers carry their keycards everywhere? Why don’t they carry metal keys? Well put simply, the keycards are programmed to give you access to some areas and rooms but not to others. Your office keycard might give you access to a door behind the reception desk; it may give you access to your own private office; a meeting room here or there, and all the hallways and open offices to get to your office. Your keycard might not give you access to server rooms, your manager’s office, or other ‘high level’ areas. So it’s about security. Your access rights are generally programmed in advance from an onsite PC. It would just be too difficult to get around offices by carrying around lots of different metal keys, and fiddling with the metal keys in 2 or 3 door locks everytime you wanted to say go to the photocopier or the bathroom. In some situations, the keycards may even be programmed to give you access at certain times and not others, but generally they provide ongoing permanent access. When you leave the office, you give your card back.

Ok, so this all sounds fairly elementary so far. But it gets interesting when you go behind the scenes of an office keycard system. So let’s go behind the scenes - have you noticed if it is the lock or the door frame striker plate that is activated when you open your office door? Generally it’s the door frame striker plate right? Why so? Well it’s generally a power thing. Keycard locks and keycard strikers are electronic, and so they need power. Most new office buildings these days have metal door frames, and hollows in the walls to run cords up and down them (e.g for electricity).  It’s generally more difficult to run the wires down the walls, through the frames, and then into the doors. It’s not impossible, and some offices do this, but it just seems unnecessary.  Also it’s a cost and design thing. The mechanics and parts in an electric striker plate are cheaper than say in a door (less moving parts). The strike simply releases a small latch, and you push the door open.

Having the keycard striker actuate instead of the lock also takes design issues off the table. The owners/architects/builders of the buildings are free to choose any ‘non-electrical’ lock to put on the doors which fits in with the design on the buildings – and the ‘non electrical locks’ are cheap too, and there are thousands of different designs.

Now these striker plates are also connected via wiring to a control panel, or a controller box, and then to a central onsite PC. The onsite PC has to check each time someone presents their card if they have access rights to that striker, and if they do, the latch on the striker releases, and you open the door and go in. See diagram below.



So here is where we have learnt so far; there are lots of office workers carrying around keycards in big cities which mean there are lots of keycard access control systems in offices. Keycard systems are important for security and convenience. Most of the time they offer permanent access to approved office workers. Most of the systems rely on electric striker plates, which are connected to onsite power, controller boxes and PCs.  So if there are so many of these keycard systems then there must be big demand for them, and they must be cheap and easy to operate then, and also easy to install right?

WRONG!

The office keycard systems can cost anywhere between $500 to $7000 per door – and generally to operate them you have to go into the onsite PC, and use a complicated piece of software to grant or revoke access rights. And it can takes days to weeks to install – think about all those wires in all the walls joining all the strikes to the computer and controller boxes – e.g see below for all the wiring for just one access control door.



Imagine if you could buy a buy an access control system for less than a couple of hundred dollars per door. Imagine if that access control system had no wiring, no onsite PC’s, no onsite control boxes, or any other infrastructure, and it was battery powered and you could install the strike it in minutes rather than weeks. Now imagine if that access control system not only used keycards, but it also used rings, bracelets, stickers and smartphones to open the door. Imagine if there was no software to operate on a PC to control the access rights for the office workers, and you could control access rights by hitting a couple of buttons on smartphone app from anywhere in the world?  And imagine if you could set the times for the office workers cards, rings, smartphones to work for limited time periods, and you revoke their access rights in a second by hitting a button on an app? Then imagine if you could put one of those strikers in your home, and you could open your doors to your home with your ring or your smartphone too, and you could also make keys for limited time periods and send them to other people’s phones so they can access your house, such as babysitters, contractors, friends visiting from out of town?

The NFC ring will replace your office keycards and your house keys

If millions of the old system has sold in millions of offices around the world, then surely tens of millions of this new system above would sell around the world too right?


Well our company LEAPIN Digital Keys has built this system above. We’re in the final stages of testing it, and we will be announcing its release and trials in the upcoming months – if you are interested in making pre-orders for our product, then visit our websites www.digitalkeys.co or www.digitalkeys.org  

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