Thursday, 12 February 2015

How to put smartlocks into homes - start with offices and heritage listed buildings

These days many modern office buildings have smart-card-based electronic locking systems, where users wave their cards over an RFID sensor panel that checks the IDs on the cards against a central database. 

But this security layer usually stops at the front entrance. Installing the wiring for the access-control panels needed to make individual offices secure can cost up to $10,000 per door, so most companies just don’t do it—meaning that once someone is inside a building, they can usually roam unchallenged.

Keycard locking systems are not cheap.
In 2013, for example, we worked inside a shared office space of the Ohio State University for an accelerator program. The building owners had just paid $20,000 to put RFID locks on 3 doors. And yes, $20,000 is a lot of money to pay for a few locks. 

Inside the building were a number of shared meeting rooms that did not have lockable locks on them. That's because it was too difficult to lock up these meeting rooms, and distribute metal keys to all the users (and of course too expensive to install the RFID keycard systems). The meeting rooms were used daily by all the different workers from all the different companies in the building. In the evenings the meeting rooms were often used for networking events. 

So as the meeting rooms were unlockable, technical equipment such as projectors/TV's, laptops (useful of course for presentations for events) could not be safely stored in the rooms. This meant that the users of the meeting rooms had to bring their own devices, book in advance (and hope the equipment was available, and wasn't be used by someone else in other rooms at the same time) or go without equipment. Some of our meetings were not very professional without the supporting technical equipment being available. 

Further, the meeting rooms had to be booked in a folder with a lined notepad at the front reception desk. This made it difficult to book meeting rooms remotely - that is when we were off site - and especially after hours when there was no at the reception desk. If a potential client/potential investor phoned us or emailed us after hours requesting a meeting, we couldn't respond immediately because we didn't know when the meeting was available. This was unprofessional. 

The worst part of the keycard system on the University building was that the building owners were restricted by the company that installed the locks, to how many keycards they could distribute. Only two keycards were made available to teams in the accelerator program, even though some teams were three and four. This made for complicated arrangements on a daily basis to arrange entry to the building (especially after hours when many IT developers liked to work).

Our company LEAPIN Digital Keys has been developing an alternative to RFID locks, and metal keys, and antiquated meeting room booking systems. Our alternative could also reduce the cost of locks from $6000-$10,000 to around $200-$300 per door, making it easier to imagine deploying electronic locks on internal doors. 

The LEAPIN Digital Keys smartstriker - all electronics are hidden inside the door frame.
Our system works by replacing hard wired sensor panels with stand-alone battery powered locks and electronic strikes, and turning them into remotely managed systems on smartphone apps. So instead of opening doors with your keycards, you can now open doors with your smartphone. And with LEAPIN's Digital Keys systems, the tenants of the building (rather than the company that owns the keycards (and the software to program the keycards) are the ones in control of who can access the property and at what time. And the tenants are not limited to the number of digital keys that can be distributed at any one time.

Mr Dunn, Managing Director of LEAPIN Digital Keys says there is even another advantage to their systems, especially with their battery powered strike. All the electronics are hidden inside the door frame, so you don't see anything. Its two screws out and two screws in. Mr Dunn said,  "alot of the Universities buildings are Heritage listed, and you can't run a wire through them, or even change a lock on a door, or screw a reader panel on the wall, without getting all these permissions from appropriate authorities". With the new LEAPIN Digital Keys systems, you don't even need any software to set, send, receive and revoke new digital keys for users. All you have to do is hit a couple of buttons on a smartphone app. "Since people carry around their smartphone everywhere these days, it a great solution" says Mr Dunn. 

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