Integrating key control into a networked security system

Access & Identity Management Handbook 2015 Access Control & Identity Management

As part of the requirement for the safety and security of people, assets and facilities, the management of keys is a fundamental tactic in controlling access. In fact, key management is a prerequisite for any access control strategy because of unavoidable vulnerabilities when humans are involved. Lost or missing keys, unauthorised duplicate sets of keys, manual log books that are inaccurate and often illegible or not knowing who might have keys when they should not, all have the potential to undermine even the most sophisticated and well-intentioned security initiatives.

Fernando Pires, VP sales and marketing, Morse Watchmans.
Fernando Pires, VP sales and marketing, Morse Watchmans.

State-of-the-art key management systems can resolve these issues and optimise access control solutions through system integration. Today, the most advanced key management solutions can be integrated with the networked security system. Open protocols enable connectivity to access control and other systems provided by a range of integration partners for multiple levels of security and control.

Integration of multiple locations, with common usage of databases and programming; real-time information; local and remote access; computerised reporting; specialised alert notifications and ease of use take key management and access control to the next level.

Real-time information

When network connected, advanced key management systems can provide real-time information to authorised personnel for monitoring key usage activity. Systems are designed so that every time a key cabinet is accessed to either remove or return a key, the activity is automatically recorded. The time, date and identity of the individual accessing the cabinet are all automatically logged and the data is available with a few key strokes using data management software. Additional information including when a key is scheduled to be returned or the location of a stored key (i.e. which key cabinet in the system) is also available; knowledge which could be critical in an emergency.

For example, if company vehicles must be moved out of an area because of potential flooding or fire, doing so quickly and efficiently can depend on how quickly each of the vehicle keys can be located. Immediate confirmation of where the keys are or identification of who has possession of them can make the difference in saving or losing an organisation’s assets.

Remote access

Today’s workforce no longer sits primarily in a cubicle at a desk. More often than not the office is wherever the individual happens to be. Mobile apps allow users to extend their productivity beyond a physical location or regular work environment.

By integrating mobile devices with key control and asset management systems, security personnel or other authorised users can see a wide range of live information and can interact remotely with the key control system. Management can maintain optimum control of building keys at any time of the day or night or when away from the primary place of business. For example, while off site at a seminar or convention, a manager can remotely release a key to a contractor called in to temporarily replace an employee who has called in sick. Or, they can schedule a report to be generated on their return to the office that shows all activity during their absence.

Critical real-time information such as keys in use, overdue keys, alarms and system status that is easily accessed on a smartphone or mobile device ultimately provides for a safer, more secure environment.


In an information-laden environment it is easy to miss relevant or important signals. Network-integrated key management systems can deliver the right information at the right time to the right people on their choice of devices.

Critical information about key control that is communicated across multiple systems enables additional security actions to be taken. With a turnstile-type access control system networked to the key control system, a user who has taken a specific key can be denied egress from the facility until the key is returned.

With a networked system, selected management can be alerted via email if a high security key has been accessed or not returned on time. In integrated network-enabled key management systems, authorisation codes can be changed remotely to help prevent access being granted to a recently terminated employee. This latter action can be accomplished from a global list and all settings are automatically synchronised across the system.

For added security and efficiency, the integrated key management system can be seamlessly administered by the card access system. Through the card access system, the key management system can be configured for access, storage and tracking.

Comprehensive reports

In addition to monitoring the activity live, networked systems enable data to be collected from the various key cabinets and summary reports generated. Key usage data provides a wide range of business intelligence and programmed reports are the easiest and most effective method of assembling and viewing the information.

Authorised personnel can generate practical management reports which trace key movements by time, date and user code as well as audit reports that track keys in use and overdue keys; inconsistent key usage; and so on. And for easier reading, the reports can be generated in portrait or landscape mode with colour interspaced lines.

Built-in schedulers can be programmed to automatically download all data to a secure PC as required by the user, including online as transactions occur; periodically; daily at a specified time; weekly with specified day and time; or monthly with specified day and time. As well, email delivery of customised or standard reports can be scheduled for any frequency or specific time, or they can be accessed using a smartphone app. With this capability, management can better sort and analyse information to maintain maximum control of access and security issues.

In the event of an incident, management can query the system for specific details such as listing all transactions between certain times and when doing a follow up investigation, request a report for the hour preceding the incident. Or, immediately following an incident, a report can be generated showing which keys are back in the system and which keys are still outstanding and who last accessed them. Together with the audit data from an access control system, a key control system’s reporting system provides a strong evidence trail.


Regardless of the number of key cabinets in the system, their location or configuration type, the procedure for accessing the cabinet is always the same. Keys stored in the cabinet can be accessed only by authorised individuals with an approved user code, an access identification card or a pre-registered biometric fingerprint. If the criteria entered matches the information stored in the system database, the key cabinet will unlock and the necessary key can be removed or returned. The other keys will remain locked into place and the activity is automatically recorded.

Solutions for key security, key control and key management can be tailored to the various needs of the user, including the flexibility to have different levels of security (i.e. dual or triple authentication) in different areas of the premises. Cabinet doors may be solid steel or they may be see-through polycarbonate material. Choices for modules to fill the cabinets may include a selection of mechanical key storage modules, key card modules, lockers of various sizes or simply blank modules to be filled at a later time. The combination of modules is entirely up to the user, offering the ability to customise and also change the system to meet specific needs.

Other system conveniences may include large touchscreens on the front panel with buttons and an easier to use interface with step by step instructions. Keys available for access can be called up on the touchscreen along with information about the location of a specified key, what keys have not been returned and when the key will become overdue. Messages can be created that will pop up when a particular key is requested; for example, a message reminder that sterile suits must be worn when one is entering a research lab.

Added features that help make a system easier and more efficient for everyone to use may include illuminated key slots to locate keys and random return capability (i.e. return to any key slot in the cabinet or in the system). As an added safety measure, alarms can be triggered for certain predetermined circumstances such as the use of force to gain access or remove a key, invalid user codes, a door left open for more than 10 seconds after use, power failure, a key missing or not returned on time or a key returned by the wrong user.

In today’s highly security conscious environment, the networking capability of advanced key control systems adds ­tremendous value to key management systems and allows best-of-breed solutions to be implemented without costly upgrades or overhauls.

For more information contact Morse Watchmans, +1 203 264 4949,,

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