No Strings Attached

Wireless technology yields added benefit of remote programming

While wireless locks have been around for a number of years, wireless locks that store information in the lock itself are brand new. Each stand-alone wireless lock is a panel that contains all information about the lock. Once programmed, the wireless lock continues processing independent of a server or computer.

Wireless locks can be programmed remotely, thus eliminating special trips to doors for programming needs, which saves time and money for the end user.

Another distinct advantage is that there are no wires, a desirable feature in applications where running wire is costly or impossible. Without the need for wiring, the wireless locking systems are less expensive to install and easy to retrofit to existing access control systems.

The Education Opportunity
The education market—particularly student dormitories, with the large number of doors and people—is especially well suited for wireless locking systems. The industry has been using offline locks for years, but offline locks require updates to the database and do not support remote programming.

With the introduction of stand-alone wireless locks, education represents a sizable retrofit opportunity. The growing emphasis on school safety programs and the ability to quickly lock down a facility in an emergency also promise to accelerate adoption of stand-alone wireless locks in schools and universities.

Rice Goes Wireless
Martel College was established by a $15 million gift to Rice University in 1998. The money was donated by the Marian and Speros Martel Foundation, a long-standing Rice benefactor. Earmarked to implement the “Rice: The Next Century” initiative, part of the donation by the foundation’s founders, the late Houston businessman Speros Martel and his wife Marian, was set aside to build a new residential college in their name, which opened in 2001.

Rice University has been a Stanley client for more than eight years, serving as a beta site for nearly every electronic access control product the company has developed during that time. Over the years, Stanley has worked closely with the university, installing separate access control software systems for the Rice campus police— responsible for controlling all classroom and stadium doors—as well as the Rice University Student Housing Department, which manages access to student dormitories on and off campus, including Martel College.

In spring 2008, Rice student housing agreed to take part in the largest end-user beta testing of the new Stanley Security Solutions Wi-Q wireless technology access control system. Wi-Q integrates patented wireless access management software with a wireless access controller, using gateways and multiple reader formats to provide quality wireless intelligence that enables all decision making at the door.

The Martel College dormitory is eight years old. When new dormitories open at Rice, the university adds a set of new codes to the student housing master key systems. There are a limited number of codes available for any specific campus building, so once that number is exceeded, student housing needs to adjust the master key codes to accommodate the new dormitory. The main objective was to eliminate the need to re-key the complete suite and to allow immediate access when a student ID card is lost.

The Martel College Wi-Q installation involved 60 student suites, seven commons areas, 232 Martel students and 68 stand-alone wireless locks. The building featured locking suite doors, each leading to two- to six-individual student rooms, some with double occupancy.

Student housing had been issuing students individual metal room keys that worked for both suite and individual room doors. Every time an access card was lost, a student had to get a replacement ID card from the university badging office, and then go to student housing to have it encoded for his or her room. New keys were cut for each student room, and suite door and the door locks had to be re-cored. As many as 18 replacement keys needed to be produced, including extra keys for the lockboxes.

Impressive Functionality
Wi-Q installation access management software allows wireless remote management of Martel College’s access control applications, while the wireless integrated portal gateway enables two-way communication between wireless readers and the host computer. The 14 portal gateways were mounted inside the suite doors, with the end result resembling a smoke detector, sitting on a metal access panel door with a keyed lock—with the portal gateway behind.

Electronic access on the door enables blocking of lost access cards immediately with no intervention from a locksmith, while reducing the need for cutting new door keys. Previously, changes to the student database required a visit from a programmer. Now, working from a PC, student housing can make the change instantaneously.

Another key objective for the university was to use the Rice student ID card, issued by the badging office with Track 2 magnetic stripe encoding, for access control. This eliminates the need to re-encode access cards, enabling a student resident to get a temporary replacement for a lost card created on the spot.

Each student card has an issue code on it, and the wireless locks can be set up with a “look-ahead” function. Once a new issue code is assigned, the old code is dropped from the system, enabling quick activation of the new card, requiring fewer evening callouts for student lockouts and eliminating the need to re-key and recore the wireless locks.

The Martel College dormitory now enjoys a number of other benefits from the installation of the standalone wireless locking system, including the ability to perform rapid facility lockdowns and responses for student and personnel protection in emergency situation. The card access technology even works during network and power failures, and triple-redundant storage of transactional data at the reader, gateway and host, and wireless communication is secured through redundant path 128-bit AES encryption.

In the end, Rice University can now make the most of its existing lock hardware and move up to an online, wireless access control solution that is both flexible and cost-effective.

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Security Today.

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