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ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions

In The Boardroom With...

Mr. Lee Garver
Business Development Manager-Key Systems
ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions ASSA ABLOY labels itself as the global leader in door opening solutions. With so many technological developments in access control in recent years, where do key systems fit into your company’s product mix and the overall facility security equation?

Lee Garver: A number of ASSA ABLOY Group brands have been around since the 19th century and were early innovators in the field of key systems. In fact, Linus Yale, Jr.—the progenitor of YALE Commercial Locks and Hardware—was the inventor of the pin and tumbler lock that is still the basis of today’s cylinder locks. Of course much has changed in cylinder mechanics and how facilities secure their doors, but key systems are still the backbone of facility security and ASSA ABLOY remains the leader in key system technology.

Our brands are continuously upgrading their key system products to meet new challenges that confront the market. ASSA, ABLOY, ARROW, CORBIN RUSSWIN, MEDECO, SARGENT and YALE are all recognized for the quality of their key systems that are widely used in buildings throughout the world. Explain the basics of how a key system delivers security.

Lee Garver : It all starts with careful planning. The end-user meets with a specialist to devise a key system plan that details the level of access permitted for every door in a facility. In an office building, for example, the end-user may grant access to the main entrance to all employees that are issued keys. This same cylinder/key configuration can then be used on common areas that are also accessible to all key holders.

The next highest level of access is accomplished with slight modifications to the cylinder pinning. This limits entry to a narrower subset of key holders. This process is repeated until there is just one master key that opens all doorways. When mapped out on paper, a key system resembles an organizational chart, with the master key on top and the most widely accessible openings at the bottom.

A key system devised in this manner delivers dependable access control, provided the end-user practices key control. Please elaborate on the importance of key control.

Lee Garver: Key control is basically inventory control; the end-user needs to account for every key that has been issued and is in use. Unfortunately, many facilities become lax in their key control policy and wait too long to reestablish order. When this occurs, the secure, tightly-managed key system that once existed is replaced by a porous line of defense with no accountability and increased exposure to security threats. What causes a breakdown in key control and how can end-users determine the health of their key system?

Lee Garver: Time seems to be the greatest adversary to a key system. Many end-users are in possession of legacy key systems that were set up years ago. Over time, these systems become harder to maintain as the number of keys that are lost, stolen or unaccounted for increase to an unsustainable level.

End-users that are unsure of the status of their key systems can get a good idea of its health by pondering the following questions:

  • Is the key system more than 10 years old? If the answer is yes, then there’s a good chance a number of keys are missing in action.
  • Has the facility security objectives changed recently? If so, was the key system updated to reflect these changes?
  • Has the key system been audited on a yearly basis? If not, then there is no way of knowing if control is maintained.

Many end-users that set out to answer these questions will be shocked when they realize the level of security vulnerabilities that exist within their facility. When this happens, it’s time to call in a professional. How can an end-user determine they are working with qualified key system professional and why is this important?

Lee Garver: A key system professional should have passed a certification program. A certified professional has the tools and expertise to address the needs of end-users in any market.

The certification process requires many hours of studying and testing to ensure proficiency in all aspects of key systems. A certified professional will have knowledge of special requirements that accompany specific facility types. The key system for a healthcare facility, for example, must abide by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, while an airport must be in compliance with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines. A certified professional will know the ins and outs of industry regulations and create a key system in accordance with these and all other laws that a facility must comply with.

In addition to being highly knowledgeable in their field, there’s one desired benefit that makes the services of a certified key systems specialist stand out: accountability. The certified professional that planned and implemented the key system will guarantee the viability of the security it will deliver. Few non-certified individuals will offer this level of assurance. What’s the next step to take after they key system is mapped out?

Lee Garver: Once the key system is planned, the next step is to develop a platform for key distribution management. A record keeping system is needed that keeps track of who possesses each key along with the level of access attached to each key. A certified professional will develop a database that allows facilities to simplify their recordkeeping. If one key is lost or stolen, it will be necessary to look back in the records and determine which locks are accessible with the missing key. The cylinders on those locks would then be replaced and new keys would have to be issued to anyone with access to those doors. This process is known as key control and is critical for maintaining security. What other steps can an end-user take to improve key control?

Lee Garver: End-users must take steps to prevent key duplication. This is easily rectified by selecting a patented high-security key system that offers factory protection of key blanks. With a patented key system, the manufacturer of the key system will not distribute key blanks without written permission from authorized facility personnel. Having a patent on a key system gives the manufacturer exclusive rights to produce and sell the keys. A non-patented key, commonly used in residential settings, can be purchased and duplicated without consent of the key manufacturer. That’s why it is possible for a homeowner to go to a hardware store and duplicate their house key. This same action is impossible with a patented key because the store will not be in possession of the key blanks. A certified professional can recommend a manufacturer that will place strict limits on distribution of key blanks and add features that make duplication more of a challenge.

Limiting key distribution and duplication increases the effectiveness of the key system. This simple and effective precaution reduces the risk of tampering by limiting and tracking the distribution of keys. Please describe some of the recent advancements in key system technology.

Lee Garver: The term convergence is commonly used in the security industry and has now found its way to key systems. End-users have expressed a desire to secure more openings with a single credential leading to the development of “credential convergence” that bridges mechanical and electromechanical technologies. 

An example of credential convergence comes from MEDECO which has developed an electronic cylinder that operates off a credential that incorporates both a mechanical key and an RFID chip, thus enabling the end user to combine a traditional lock and key system with a card access system without having to issue multiple credentials. The MEDECO Hybrid and Logic eCylinders provide an easy low cost retrofit to any existing mechanical lock with much higher levels of security and flexibility.

With eCylinders, end-users have the ability to add audited access control simply by replacing their standard mechanical cylinder.

MEDECO Hybrid Cylinders incorporate the functions of common online access control readers into an offline retrofit cylinder. With this technology, mechanical and electronic access control systems can be easily merged for absolute flexibility, security, and convenience, all while reducing costs for new installations or system expansions.
No additional wiring or hardware is needed with the system. Hybrid cylinders retrofit existing mechanical cylinders and install in minutes.

Since no other hardware is required, total installation costs are a fraction of a typical hardwired electronic access control system. Hybrid cylinders use a Hybrid Key, MEDECO’s dual technology credential that incorporates a mechanical key with a RFID head. The Hybrid key, a MEDECO exclusive, marries a snap-on plastic head containing a 125 kHz PROX or 13.56 mHZ iCLASS RFID credential with a nickel silver key blade. This dual function credential is capable of interfacing with an electronic access control system (EAC) system, Hybrid Cylinder, and a MEDECO mechanical system.

MEDECO Logic goes a step further by offering audit trails, user access schedules, and the ability to quickly add or delete a key electronically. This radically alters key management. When a key is lost in a mechanical system, all the cylinders that operate with that key must be replaced. With Logic, the end-user simply visits each door and reprograms the cylinder so that the lost key no longer functions. With all the new security technologies available today, why do key systems still play such a prominent role in facility security?

Lee Garver: Key systems actually complement electronic access control measures and are not in competition with these technologies. Key systems are hardly dead or obsolete, but their effectiveness can be enhanced by careful planning, professional assistance, and diligent upkeep.

The old fashion system devised 160 years ago is still in place because of one simple reason—it works. The pin tumbler cylinder was designed to prevent unauthorized entry and it does this well. When coupled with new technologies, it delivers even greater reliability. Given its successful track record, the pin tumbler cylinder will likely be in use for generations to come.