Cambridge Innovation Center Goes Wireless With SALTO

When you’re located just steps away from the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the most prestigious technical schools in the world, building security and access control is a subject that has to be taken seriously...


When you’re located just steps away from the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the most prestigious technical schools in the world, building security and access control is a subject that has to be taken seriously.

Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) provides space for growing technology and life sciences companies, professional service firms and venture capitalists looking to locate in the MIT/Harvard technology cluster of the Greater Boston area. With offices on eight floors, its services are tailored towards small start-up companies employing 1-5 people. These include flexible office configurations on a monthly rental basis, a secure facility featuring computerized access control and video surveillance for protection of intellectual property, advanced telephone and voicemail services, high tech video conferencing systems, high speed (100Mb) LAN connections and more.

For the past 10 months CIC has been exhaustively reviewing its door access control options. Since their inception they have used a traditional card-access system. But as the business has grown, they have taken new space on additional floors that was only equipped with traditional mechanical key locks on the office doors. Because these doors were not hard -wired, it would have been prohibitively expensive to upgrade the doors with the same electronic access control product fitted onto other doors within the building.

The limitations this imposes have been problematic. For example, if a client needs access to two offices, he needs two separate keys, and if an employee leaves and takes a key with him, they have to make the call on whether or not to change the locks.

With the upcoming expansion onto the 3rd and 4th floors at One Broadway, they knew they would be adding about 200 new doors to CIC, and this prompted them to accelerate their search for an alternative electronic system to control access.

In January they discovered SALTO Systems, with door control based on a data on card system, reversing the more usual role of credential and controller. The big advantage of this is that you do not have to hard wire every door, or install cumbersome and expensive controllers in a closet somewhere. This makes this system much faster to install and less expensive. This wireless system would allow them to put electronic access control on every door.

Sean Keenan, Senior Systems Administrator at CIC says, “When we first started looking at the system, as a tech guy, I immediately frowned, however, on the idea that I would be carrying my credentials around on my key ring - what if it gets lost, stolen, decrypted or copied?

You have to remember, we are just steps away from MIT where world-class hackers just wait looking for a challenge! After getting more familiar with SALTO, doing a lot of research and testing with our existing wireless technology and SALTO’s wireless locks (think Zigbee™) to ensure compatibility, and exploring its layers of security features, we began warming to it. We also learned that it is in use at Heathrow Airport and at some US military bases - places that take security seriously.

So now we faced the moment of truth. Would we stay with the old, tried and true system we have run for the past decade, accepting its limitations, or go with a whole new system, despite its unfamiliarity, and redo the entire center’s access control from scratch, including all our existing doors? “

In the end CIC decided to rebuild the entire system. While this means a great deal of work upgrading every door both electronic and keyed throughout the whole center (although retrofitting a standard hard-keyed door is a mere 15-minute operation), CIC officials say it’s worth the effort.

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