Lost keys, unauthorized duplicate sets of keys and manual tracking of keys are just some of the challenges faced by management using conventional key/lock systems. But given the tremendous range of conventional applications for key/lock systems and the cost-effectiveness of these devices, the need for physical keys will continue to play a significant role in an organization’s overall security strategy. That said, today’s key management systems provide cutting-edge solutions that incorporate compelling form and functions to provide increased value and flexibility to key management security. 

A Key Management Definition

Key management or key control can be defined as the storage, use and tracking of a physical key or keys. A key management system includes a key storage device, locking rings complete with identification chips and auditing software. The ideal integrated key control and management solution is modular, scalable and designed for interoperability with access control and other security and business systems. This combination of hardware and software enables the user to move beyond key control to a more sophisticated and integrated access control solution, complete with accountability.
The driving force behind the evolution of key management systems has clearly been the development of advanced application software. This allows systems to be virtually hardware agnostic in terms of their actual configuration of access technologies, and their integration with access control and security systems control systems themselves. The software also provides a remotely accessible data trail for every key management system and each of the keys within those systems.

 For example, with some systems, users can only access keys for which they have an authorized user code, while keys can be retuned to any location in the box. Priority email alerts can be sent to security managers to advise them if specific keys have not been returned, or of other identified situations. Alarms can also be triggered under a range of conditions such as the use of force to gain access or remove a key, three consecutive 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.

Digital Technology Drives Integration

Although the basic premise and purpose for key management systems remains quite fundamental – to secure keys – the technology inside these boxes is quite sophisticated. Digital technology and system integration has made key management a higher level management tool rather than just a way to control keys. To start, the systems themselves are scalable – multiple cabinets can form a single fully integrated system to hold hundreds of keys and other items in multiple locations across an enterprise. And they can be tailored to suit a variety of access control needs, including a built-in keypad, biometrics such as fingerprint readers, and a magnetic or proximity card reader.

 This capability provides users with tremendous versatility that can be further enhanced with the use of auditing software. By integrating management software, users can control the system and maximize its reporting and programmable access capabilities. For example, system managers can establish permission levels for each user code and monitor data from any desktop connected to the network.

Building on the Solution

With the success and popularity of key control systems, solutions have been expanded to include other items to which access needs to be controlled and configurable locker systems provide the ideal solution.

For example, some police precincts and other enforcement agencies have established policies where firearms must be locked and controlled. Other devices such as radios, cell phones, hand-held computers, etc., that are used by different personnel through the course of any given day are also expensive and represent potential security breaches if stolen or misplaced.

Additionally, as access control systems continue to proliferate, the access devices themselves, such as magnetic cards or proximity devices need to be secured in the same way as do physical keys.

Finally, when products are engineered for interactivity with other security systems, best of breed solutions can be implemented without costly upgrades or overhauls.