Every product seems to have ‘smart’ slapped on the front of its name lately. It may not come as a surprise that many of them aren’t smart at all. But believe it or not, there is an actual definition for a ‘smart’ technology. And they’re very effective at what they do.
Let’s look at what smart technology actually is, how it works, and examples of what a smart key system or a smart locker system can do for your business.
What is Smart Technology?
The ‘smart’ in smart technology is an acronym for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, coined by IBM for a computer failure monitoring tool they developed a few decades ago.
IBM added the S.M.A.R.T. tool to hard drives—the computer part where all the data is stored—so it could monitor for impending failures. If the S.M.A.R.T. tool detected any warning signs for mechanical failure it could notify the user or IT administrator to have the computer checked out before data was lost.
The tool was so successful that it spawned a wave of development in self-monitoring technology in other sectors. So today a ‘smart’ system has a slightly broader definition. A smart system monitors itself, or its components, and collects data on how the system is being used. It also self-analyzes that data and makes decisions to change how it’s operating. The ‘smartness’ of a technology can be thought of as how automated its decision-making is.
How Do Smart Systems Work?
Smart security systems require a few different components:
- Sensors: By definition, a smart system needs some kind of sensing or self-monitoring component to collect data about itself. In security systems this is often handled by a wireless communication system, like RFID. This is a short-range, efficient wireless system most often used for computer-to-computer communication.
One great thing about RFID is that it lets each device it tags have a unique identity in the smart system, so each asset can be tracked from ‘cradle to grave.’
- Command and Control (C&C): Something needs to do the automated decision making. Information collected from the sensor network of a smart system feeds back to a computer that analyzes and makes decisions about events according to your initial instructions.
- Actuators: This is an engineering term. It just means the parts of the smart system that take action in response to the C&C’s decisions. In a smart security system this could be the compartments in an asset management system that lock down if a user has let a certification expire (An example of that is further below). Or it could be the locking slot in a key cabinet that won’t release if a user has tried to sign out the same vehicle over and over every shift, instead of rotating usage.
What About IoT?
Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) and wondered what that was. Once you understand smart systems it’s actually quite simple. The IoT is all the smart systems and smart objects in the world that are networked and able to communicate with each other. Using RFID and other wireless technology, smart objects can acquire and share information about their use with other connected systems. Like where objects are retrieved, where they’re going, and what other smart objects are traveling with them.
What Can Smart Security Systems Do for You?
Self-Manage Sensitive Equipment
Many electronic devices now ship with wireless sensors built right in, like smartphones and laptops obviously, but also other handheld electronics and radios. They’re smart right out of the box. But RFID sensors are small and durable enough that they can be attached or even embedded in other equipment so they too can become part of the smart system and be managed.
For example, we worked with an airline that needed to conduct food prep with large knives inside a secured airport facility. To comply with Federal regulations, they needed to ensure those knives never left that facility, especially to be smuggled onto an airplane. We helped them embed RFID tags inside knife handles so one of our smart asset management systems could confirm that the knives were all returned after use. Thanks to the embedded sensors staff couldn’t just log a return with the system and not actually put a knife back. The system itself verified the knife was secured.
Automatically Collect Information in the Field
Fleet management has benefited from the advent of smart vehicle, key, and asset technology. We helped one corporate telecom network its vehicles to a central C&C fleet management system. They were able to get data on vehicle usage live from the trucks in the field and from drivers logging mileage, fault codes, and other maintenance notes when they returned keys.
The fleet management system was able to automatically rotate key sign-outs for different trucks based on this maintenance and usage data. And their mechanics had all the fault codes centrally logged and right at hand when the system flagged a truck in need of repair.
Self-Regulate User Access
Because a security system connects people, assets, and entire facilities together, using a smart security system can help connect entire businesses. One way to do this is by using a smart key system that can self-regulate staff access to keys.
For example, we helped one customer configure their smart key management system to self-regulate driver certifications for forklifts in their warehouse. The system was customized to record the expiration dates for every driver’s certification. They received email reminders when expiration dates were approaching, and if a driver let their certification lapse the system automatically locked them out from accessing keys.
The forklifts themselves may not have been smart assets, but the key system could still provide smart management for them.
Smart systems are more than just a fad, and much, much more than just a marketing buzzword. They have the power to improve all aspects of business.
About the Author
Shannon Arnold is the VP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Real Time Networks.