Some businesses are content to simply use a pegboard and the honor system to manage keys. Other businesses find using an electronic key management system to be more effective. And then there are businesses that need an additional layer of control to ensure that their physical keys never leave the building.
Whether they’re in a highly regulated industry, or working with high cost, high risk assets, or maybe just need to monitor one critical location at an elevated level, these businesses benefit from using a system to protect against key compromise.
Could a key exit system benefit your business? And how does it work? Let’s find out.
The Components of a Key Exit Alert System
Before we get into why your organization might want a key exit alarm system, let’s go over how they actually work. All systems possess certain core components:
Wireless transmitter tags are attached to key rings. These transmit identification and location data over the air. Different kinds of tags are available on the market, but the most common are low power Bluetooth (BLE) and RFID.
RFID tags have a shorter read range (usually just a few meters), but they use less power and are much less expensive. BLE tags can transmit from much further away (In some venues up to 100 meters) but they have a shorter life cycle and are both bulkier and more expensive.
Discrete wireless receivers are placed at exit points throughout your facility. These set the virtual perimeter within a building within which you restrict keys. Multiple perimeters can be configured as long as the receivers are spaced and configured correctly. When a tagged key ring passes through an exit monitored by a receiver, an alert is triggered.
Key exit systems are only as useful as the information they provide. The collection, analysis, and distribution of that data is managed through a key exit system’s software. This is where you configure when alerts are triggered, what kinds of alerts are sent—such as audible alarms, emails, or SMS notifications—and what kinds of reports need to be generated.
When evaluating key exit alarm systems, make sure to consider how different products integrate with other security systems that you already have or will need to deploy in the future. If your organization requires the level of security that a key exit system provides, it’s likely that there are compatible key and asset control solutions that would also benefit you.
Why Use a Key Exit Alarm System?
For some organizations controlling how keys move through their facilities is incredibly important. So being able to monitor and act on key movement in real time has a lot of value.
Key exit alerts can help:
- Deter Security Breaches: Ensuring keys are always within strict perimeters can be essential in certain sectors, such as corrections and law enforcement. Key control perimeters can be configured to segregate administrative spaces from cell blocks so tagged keys don’t accidentally pass back and forth to put the facility and staff at risk of being breached.
- Prevent Key Theft & Illicit Duplication: Sometimes the keys themselves are the targets of theft. For example, deploying a key exit system in a corporate data center helps ensure that keys to sensitive server racks and other critical IT assets are always accounted for.
Enterprise IT departments often rely on contract workers who need access to those data centers and servers alone or off hours. Without live real-time key controls there’s often no way for the business to know if those contractors, or disgruntled employees, see an opportunity to exploit the business’s trust, take server keys, and duplicate them. Once data center keys are copied, servers holding sensitive data are vulnerable.
- Enforce Regulatory Compliance: Key exit systems can also help automate regulatory compliance. For example, keys usage in the gaming industry is under tight control in many jurisdictions.
Gaming regulations often require a certain level of tracking documentation be kept about how keys are used. Or they may require gaming keys be separated from administrative keys. Having an electronic system that notifies staff and supervisors of any oversights can save some hefty regulatory fines.
What to Look for When Purchasing
There’s a lot of variation in key exit alert systems on the market today. Consider what features are going to be important for your organization.
- Where does it need to integrate with existing network infrastructure?
Consider where the receivers will need to be physically wired into your network. Your physical plant team may have concerns about where the wires are run. And the IT team will want to be involved to understand how the receivers will impact their existing infrastructure.
- Are there wireless conflicts?
RFID and BLE are fairly resilient wireless standards, but some others can potentially cause interference with existing radio or communications systems. Work with your IT team to ensure that your proposed key exit system won’t conflict with other important operations.
- Key tag durability
Consider how the design of different key tags will hold up to work in your facility. Are they sturdy enough? Too bulky? Make sure the design works for how they’re actually going to be handled day-to-day.
- What are your customization requirements?
Make sure the management software of the key exit alarm system can be customized so it fits the way you need to work. Can the right kind of alerts be sent out in the way you need them? Can automated reporting capture all the data you need for your particular compliance standards?
- Does it integrate with other smart key systems?
Make sure the key exit system you’re considering can inter-operate with them. A key exit system combined with a key management can often provide value greater than the sum of their parts.
A key exit system can free human staff from micromanaging how keys are used and where they’re taken in sensitive business environments. In high-risk environments, ensuring that these tasks are carried out consistently might be the last line of defense against costly losses or regulatory violations.
About the Author
Vice President of Marketing
Jay oversees marketing and strategic partnerships at Real Time Networks and has over three decades of experience in leadership roles in the financial services and technology industries.