Physical keys are so 3000BC. That’s the ballpark era when locksmiths came on the scene and began creating novel ways to secure access to doors, boxes, safes, etc. Before then rooms were typically secured by a physical beam placed across the door. While this method got the job done, it carried the unfortunate necessity of leaving a person in the room to “mind the door” — otherwise who could ever get back in the room? But once lock-and-key technology did emerge, the advancements progressed through the ages starting with the early pin locks of the ancient Egyptians, the rotation keys of the Romans, the medieval warded lock, and eventually the American tumbler lock invented during the industrial revolution. As we’re now firmly in the digital age, corporate access control is best provided by electronic means.
Most large organizations employ an access control system that manages entry to corporate facilities using IT-based processes. Instead of a metal key, a plastic card is issued to staff granting access to specific parts of the corporate campus. This low-frequency proximity — or prox — card contains an embedded antenna with the cardholder’s “key” replicating the core function of the traditional key: it opens only the doors it’s supposed to. But due to the infrastructure of a large access control system, prox cards take the concept of a key dramatically further. Combining a management server, networked door locks, and revocable prox cards, the sky’s the limit when it comes to customizing how doors open across a facility.
First off, as the card is programmed and issued by the company, we can rescind access at any time without having to physically revoke the card. A terminated employee can keep it as a souvenir; it won’t open squat once it’s deactivated. Additionally, we can set conditions on which doors open at what time of day. Setting a 7AM to 7PM open policy protects the facility from late-night Post-it Note ransacking. In addition to the reporting that comes with the access control server logging every door open event, if an emergency should arise the access control server can tell first responders exactly who’s left in the building. Old-school keys are clearly bested. Check out HID (hidglobal.com) and Avigilon (avigilon.com) to see some cutting-edge tech for enterprise environments.
But what if you’re a small business and don’t have quite the enterprise budget? New technologies leveraging Bluetooth-enabled smartphones can function the same way as a prox card. And using cloud-based services instead of pricey, premise-based servers, the cost can be dramatically lower. You’ll still need to replace or augment doors with a networked lock, but the fear (and cost) of rogue staff duplicating their traditional key and necessitating a full re-key of your facility can be erased by transitioning to this new access paradigm. For a peek at affordable and consumer-grade digital access solutions, look to UniKey (unikey.com) and Kevo (kwikset.com/kevo) for inspiration.
If you’re not ready to jump on the digital access control bandwagon just yet, don’t stress — it’s a daunting prospect to forgo the comfort of the 5000+ year old key. But whatever you do, just promise you won’t keep a “door minder” on the payroll.