Unlocking the truth behind Smart Security and Access Control

Providing a safe and secure environment for staff and visitors is a top priority for facility managers, and while access control and smart security systems are thought to make this simpler and easier, they are often misunderstood. Here, Justin Freeman, technical manager of The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) – the leading trade association for the locksmithing industry – discusses the difference between access control and smart security and the benefits or potential pitfalls of both. To put it simply, the role of an access

control system is to limit access to certain parts of a building to specific individuals. They can range from a very simplistic form of digital code lock (mechanically operated push button locksets) operated by a simple code, right the way through to complex internet controlled systems that enable managers to add or delete users from a central location (‘smart’ security). While people using a facility without the

level of knowledge of facility management will assume any door with a lock on it is secure, access control products are not tested to security or attack standards. They are not primary security products, and are used solely to restrict access (usually internally within a building). However, this isn’t a cause for concern

when access control is used and specified correctly. One important consideration with access control is to ensure it complies with the fire

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Justin Freeman, technical manager of The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA)

safety regulations. In 2006 the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) came into force, stating that a facility’s ‘responsible person’, rather than a fire officer, was in charge of ensuring a facility complies with the Fire Safety Order.’ For most facilities managers, this meant they were responsible for ensuring the facility complies with the Fire Safety Order and operates good practice in all aspects of safety and security. As a facilities manager, you must make sure

a risk assessment is carried out to check access control has the correct fail safe/ fail secure operations in place. A professional, like an approved MLA member, could help specify products that meet the requirements of the risk assessment. It’s also important to have a good

understanding of health and safety requirements including checking escape routes and fire doors, to ensure that in an emergency there are no complications. . Another element which is changing the

face of access control is smart security. The MLA recently exhibited at the Smart Buildings section of UK construction show at the NEC Birmingham and we spoke to lots of facilities managers regarding security, safety and convenience. All of them found the convenience of access control to be vital to the smooth running of their buildings and many were very interested in a smart lock that we had on display. We are seeing new ‘smart’ technology

introduced at a high rate within the UK in the form of smart locks that can be operated by code, tag, swipe card, biometrics and most importantly by smart phone. New security systems on the market can now work with CCTV and alarms, so that facilities managers can see exactly what is going on around their building. However, while the UK has for a long

time had excellent security standards for mechanical security including BS 3621, 8621, 10621, BS EN 1303, BS EN 12209 and PAS 24 for complete windows and doors, at the moment we cannot easily test the security of the ‘electronic key’ (i.e. fob, card, phone etc.) on electronic smart locks. It’s the ‘key’ that has actually become the problem area here as it could be anything from your finger, eye, face, voice, card, tag or phone (and I am sure there will be more) and the device could potentially store security information on a database online. The industry is currently working on

developing standards that smart locks can be tested to, but at the moment we don’t know how secure these products are. Until security standards are in place, the MLA advises that if you are using a smart lock on your door, it must also be supported by a tested mechanical security lock to secure the door properly. For these reasons smart locks are

currently considered as access control and therefore secondary security rather than primary security.

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