KeyMaster: a network-based key turnover solution
Any large enterprise, ranging from an operating company and a taxi company to an airport, inevitably faces the issue of upgrading the safety of its own facilities. An important part of the security concept is the key management. The so-called key houses were created to automate this area of activity. Their functionality is constantly expanding: simple devices for storing and issuing keys have transformed into network solutions, becoming elements of the Internet of Things, an important tool for occupational and industrial safety. STEP LOGIC develops a solution for automated key turnover with network functionality. It was created based on the technologies of the domestic developer KeyGuard and was named KeyMaster. We will talk with Oleg Ovsyankin, a leading expert on the development of innovative solutions at STEP LOGIC, about expanding the functions of key houses, their economic efficiency and market trends.
- Oleg, why use a key storage and turnover system if you can install it at an ACS facility?
- In the security industry, access issues will never be reduced to access control only. After all, if only a few people have access to the premises, the installation of the ACS cannot be economically feasible. Connection of the ACS requires certain financial costs for power supply, communication lines, acquisition of controllers, etc. At the same time, in Russia, ACS systems traditionally use electromagnetic locks, which are quite easily vulnerable to power outages. Even if we introduce the cheapest access control and management system, in any case, a mechanical lock will, on the one hand, be more profitable financially, but on the other, paradoxically, more reliable.
- Is it possible to estimate the expenses of organisations for the key storage and turnover?
- Usually, in organisations with an extensive structure, the issue of key turnover is not a separate area, which budget can be easily calculated. As a rule, these costs are divided between payroll controllers, security guards, as well as the costs of maintaining the premises.
Suppose you are an operating company that serves a whole neighbourhood. You are in charge of 30 residential districts, each of which has its own housing office with a place for storing keys, i.e. you have 30 places for issuing keys. These premises operate on a 24-hour basis, accommodating people who are responsible for the keys. Annually, about 1 million roubles can be spent on the maintenance of one such premises, taking into account taxes and personnel costs. Thus, you spend 30 million roubles per year on the key turnover.
- The key houses market is quite saturated; there are many both domestic and foreign developments. Why did you decide to develop your own product, and what is the competitive advantage of KeyMaster?
- Business always seeks to minimise costs, and this is true. A direct way to reduce costs is the automation of any area of activity. In this case, it is the process of key storage and turnover.
As for the commercially available solutions, the Russian systems have a more interesting price, but they do not have network functionality, as a rule, these are “things in themselves”. The foreign products are inherently more expensive, including due to the difference in exchange rates and the fact that this equipment is usually assembled in England or Germany. The KeyMaster developed by STEP LOGIC is cheaper than foreign analogues and has network functionality. Our product implements the concept of a network of IoT devices.
- Please, tell us more about your solution.
- The KeyMaster solution was created based on the development of the domestic manufacturer KeyGuard and is intended for network-based key turnover: organisation of their safe storage and a fully automated process of receiving and issuing. The intellectual basis for the solution is the specialised software developed by STEP LOGIC experts to integrate the system with the security system of the target facility (for example ACS, fire alarm systems, etc.), as well as to synchronise data with HR management systems. The system notifies users and system administrators, in accordance with their rights, about the receipt and issuance of key trinkets, about the expiration of the key being outside the system, as well as when an alarm is triggered, which allows for a prompt response to abnormal situations and preventing incidents. The key may be transferred to other authorised users through a special application for smartphones. Thus, organisations with a developed branch network, state structures, and management companies have the opportunity to work in a single information security environment.
- Why does a key house require the network-based functionality?
- We are all accustomed to the fact that the key turnover is made as it was in a large Soviet institution. The building has a watch standing, where a building-service supervisor sits, recording all the “movements” of the keys in a key book. Such an approach can be effective only if your business is located in the same building. However, if a business is geographically distributed, as is the case with operating companies, it is more profitable to use network-based key houses. This device does not need premises, in contrast to a person who is responsible for the keys. In this case, if you had the opportunity to place the key turnover solution closer to the door, then you would save the time of your staff. The use of network-based key houses provides this opportunity.
Another advantage of a network-based key house is flexibility in cooperation with contractors: telecom operators, internet providers, companies serving the engineering systems of the building, etc. Our solution has the ability to issue keys both in the presence of a card (and the card turnover also implies financial costs) and other identifiers: PIN code, certificate sent to mobile phone, QR code.
It is also possible to organise the key turnover, bypassing the key house. If a team of contractor A is working somewhere on the roof, and a contractor B needs access to this roof, it is strange to force the workers to run through the entire quarter to transfer the keys through an iron box. It is more logical to contact the cloud service and re-tie this key to other people.
Moreover, it is possible to configure the system so that for a certain period an employee with conditional access to the roofs of ten entrances could receive only one key. This is an additional measure to reduce the likelihood of confusion or loss of keys.
- What are the advantages of KeyMaster from the point of view of ensuring the security of an object as compared to the “paper” system?
- Let's consider a real-world example: a company has a fleet of vehicles, and secretaries give the keys to the cars. After some time, everyone whom the secretaries know by sight can receive the keys. With such an approach in the case of an emergency—accidents, damage, theft—it is almost impossible to determine responsible persons. When working with the paper system, eventually everyone faces the human factor with all the ensuing consequences. Perhaps someone asked the secretary/dispatcher/security guard to give the key without a record. Maybe someone entered incorrect information in the key book or forgot to add it at all. The electronic system prevents it. At each time point, you know for sure whether the key is in a cell or whether it is issued to a specific user.
Moreover, when using the key house it is impossible to get the key without the corresponding identifier, which is also important. There remains the only possibility of abuse—the creation of a duplicate key. This problem can be solved by using keys that cannot be duplicated on existing equipment.
- What are other functions of KeyMaster?
- Over the decade of development, the key houses acquired, at first glance, unobvious functions that are difficult to think of, just sitting in a warm, cosy programmer's chair. These functions came from the real needs of the business. For example, the key house allows sending messages. Imagine using KeyMaster to account for the keys of your company's cars. When you receive the key, the device display shows a message that it is time to switch to a winter washer or winter tire. This function does not require additional costs, it is just written in software.
- How, in your opinion, will the market of automated key storage and turnover develop?
- Devices are becoming smaller and cheaper, therefore, they will increasingly be located closer to the doors: from the centralised key house for a group of buildings to the key house to each building and each floor.
Attempts are being made to search for new cases in areas where traditionally such solutions have not been used. For example, in a warehouse. The practice has shown that key houses might exclude the probability of the loader falling when loading. How does it happen? The driver arrives at the warehouse and puts the car for loading. To start this process, it is necessary to insert a car key into the key house. It is impossible to drive off from a working loader until the completion of the loading process in the warehouse management system. The loader is quite expensive, and the life of a person is priceless. Thus, the key house becomes a labour safety element. At the same time, there are approaches both to storing keys in key houses during the loading process and to storing tags for running the same loaders.
The key houses may be used to carry out the storage and circulation of material and technical means, expensive equipment (multimeters, perforators, tool kits, etc.). Using the key house as an extension to the storage system and equipping devices with RFID tags, you will always know that a staff member handed over the equipment at the end of the working day, or understand who exactly took it.
- Thank you for the interview!