Monday, 14 March 2016

Move over metal keys

Digital Key(DK) technology and smart locks have been receiving a lot of attention recently – and for good reason. Several major hotel brands including Hilton and Starwood have already begun installing digital key systems that can be unlocked directly from a guest’s mobile phone. 

Digital Keys represents the second major advancement in security in over 2000 years – first came metal keys in the Roman days, and then keycards in the nineteen eighties. Upgrading to Digital Keys does not only provide minor security enhancements. Rather Digital Keys will transform your property management and security experience. Lets explore in more detail some of the things that make Digital keys so special – and why it could be the most important security upgrade you will ever make.

A metal key lock or more commonly known the pin-and-tumbler lock has a series of spring-loaded pins, which are loaded into a series of small cylinders. Upon insertion of the key, the springs will be compressed as the key lifts the pin, pushing the driver into the upper chambers of the cylinder. When the correct key is in the lock, the bottom and top pins align the space between them around and the key will turn. The problem with metal key locks is that they are easy to crack, snap, break, bump, pick or jemmy open. Many years ago, breaking a metal key lock was a rare, taught skill – but in this day an age anyone can learn how easy it is to force entry by simply watching a short YouTube video. Further the right tools to enable a forced entry, such as a bump key, can be easily bought online for a few dollars.
A bump key in action

Digital Keys and smart locks on the other hand, operate by an electrical current. They typically run on batteries, and often use a variety or combination of technologies from Wi-Fi, to Bluetooth, to Near Field Communication, to z-wave or other.

One of the reasons Digital Keys smartlocks so dramatically outperform their traditional metal key counterparts is because of the ability to control and monitor who accesses certain spaces/areas at certain times. These features made keycard access control such as hit in the nineteen eighties and onwards. 

Another popular feature is “the audit”. For example if a watch went missing in a hotel room, and the guest complained to management that it was stolen by say 'housekeeping', hotel management can audit or interrogate the lock to see who opened the door at what time, to determine if a housekeeper had indeed gained access to the room and therefore could have stolen the watch, or perhaps the watch had simply fallen down the back of the sofa. In addition to being able to control users, access times and for monitoring, the keycard systems were also very popular because you never had to replace the locks. If someone lost a metal key for a shop or office or hotel room with traditional locks, then the locks would have to immediately be changed, as whoever found that key could let themselves into the room/space/area at anytime. Keycard systems mean you easily remove access rights too at anytime. 

Digital Keys and smart locks take all the keycard systems features and add three extra layers;
1; Digital Keys can be distributed remotely (by anyone with rights to grant access). Guests can use their own smartphone as the key, which can be downloaded through a smartphone app, or be emailed/texted the digital key, and they don’t need to physically meet with anyone for a physical key handover from someone. 

2. Digital Keys can be distributed remotely by software without the need for human interaction. This is done by interfacing to Online Travel Agencies and website booking systems. The hotel property management software can also update in real time automatically.

3. Digital Keys smart locks often don’t require any other onsite supporting infrastructure.

All these features not only means greater security, but also cost savings, convenience, and more efficient property management.

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