Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Deploys KeyWatcher System

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has deployed the KeyWatcher Key Control System from Morse Watchmans to keep track of hundreds of keys used at its various bus garages, maintenance shops, an operations control center and a money-counting facility in and around Philadelphia.

KeyWatcher cabinets installed in the multiple facilities automatically record the access history of each key, including the user, date and time of checkout or return. The system releases assigned keys only to users with the proper authorization code, and cannot be manipulated or easily tampered with.

“Our reason for having the KeyWatcher system is to minimize our risk and exposure,” said Chris Ruhl, surveillance systems specialist for SEPTA. “We need to know who took what key and when, and the KeyWatcher is a very honest employee. It literally lives up to its name as a key watcher.”

If a key goes missing at SEPTA, it leaves the authority vulnerable to possible theft of the money derived from passenger receipts. Keys are used throughout the SEPTA system of buses, trolleys, trains and special purpose vans that serve approximately a million passengers every weekday in five counties in and around Philadelphia, including one rail line that serves Trenton, N.J.

Before installing the KeyWatcher system, keys were kept loose in desk drawers and issued by management, using multiple copies of paper forms as the only audit trail. One lost key made it necessary to change all the locks and keys, at considerable time and expense. Clearly a better system was needed, and the authority found it in KeyWatcher.

Morse Watchmans provides a complete key control and management solution in KeyWatcher, a modular, scalable system that gives the user total control over who has permission to remove a key, as well as advanced communications capabilities to enable users always to know who removed any key and when it was taken.

Modular KeyWatcher illuminated cabinets accommodate storage of keys, lockers or credit cards, and can be customized in any combination of modules in the various cabinet sizes. The cabinets are secured using a built-in keypad enabling up to 2,000 assignable user codes with PINs with an additional customizable access control point which can be a prox or mag card, fingerprint reader or other solution.

Keys are secured to a Smart Key locking mechanism and identification chip for additional security and functionality. When a Smart Key is inserted into a KeyWatcher key slot, identification chip data is stored and then retrieved after a key is properly accessed. An illuminated screen features two 16-character lines to display messages and user prompts for various functions, including removal and replacement of keys.

SEPTA has customized their modular KeyWatcher system to include locker modules that accommodate their oversized “bullet” keys used to open the fare box cash vaults. The bullet-shaped steel enclosure and key weigh approximately one pound and cannot easily fit into a traditional key tracking cabinet.

Each KeyWatcher unit's rugged steel construction and almost indestructible Smart Key fobs are designed for heavy use 24/7 in industrial environments such as SEPTA. Illuminated key slots make accessing and returning keys easier.

Also keeping track of the keys at SEPTA is Morse Watchmans' KeyPro Performance Software, a user-friendly PC application that delivers real-time polling transactions, status, alarm and reporting capabilities for the KeyWatcher system.

Activity reports can be customized to trace key movements by time, date and user code or biometric access data. The software enables the KeyWatcher system to be accessed and programmed conveniently and remotely via an IP connection. Priority email alerts can be sent to keep management informed of the whereabouts of high-security keys or if they have been accessed at odd hours. Management at SEPTA also uses the software to perform administrative functions such as accessing and programming the KeyWatcher system.

As a government agency, SEPTA's procurements are subject to competitive bidding, and Morse Watchmans submitted the winning bid in 1997 and again in 2008. SEPTA has 15 Key Watcher cabinets installed at its various facilities, including 10 cabinets in bus garages, two in maintenance shops, two in the money-counting facility and one in the operations control center.

Around the clock, every day of the year, the system completes approximately 480 access/return transactions on an average weekday and about 100 over a weekend. About 100 users have access to the keys. The key cabinets range in size from 16-key capacity to 48-key capacity cabinets, and two of them include custom-designed lockers for securing bullet keys.

"KeyWatcher provides SEPTA with excellent value for the price," Ruhl said. "The KeyWatcher product is easy to use, reliable and durable, and requires minimal maintenance."

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