In the world of security there are a number of areas that need to be in sync with each other. One of those areas is physical security devices and the key system of a facility. Since 9-11 we have seen an increase in onsite security. This type of security is in the form of guard force personnel...
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Patent Protection: Patent protection offers the ultimate in key duplication restrictions. Patented keys are guarded and protected by the manufacturer that holds the patent. These manufacturers license locksmith dealers, distributors, and end-user facilities to store and cut their own keys. It is not unusual to require a contract to be signed by all users of their patented system. This would be the same as a licensing agreement granting a manufacturer the right to fabricate patented products.
When we say patented key system, we do not necessarily mean expensive key system. If you compare a standard cylinder to a patented high security cylinder, the list price is usually double but the difference is astronomical in benefits. Most high security cylinders will retrofit existing hardware. This expense is then limited to the key cylinder. Manufacturer’s contracts provide the option to phase in the cylinders over three to five years so that normal maintenance budgets can absorb the conversion and sensitive areas are protected immediately.
Key Control: Another area of concern should be the key itself. Is the key unique to a given facility? Who else has access to the key blanks? The truth is when contracting with high security cylinder manufacturers that offer patented key control, they can guarantee where the key is used. Because all high security patented keys are different in some uniquely patented way, there are different restrictions on their use by the licensees’. Some manufacturers can guarantee that a facility key can be controlled for a geographic area, like the state you’re located in. There are also restricted keys for each country. A North American company may want a North American Exclusive key for their use. The Department of Defense with Worldwide bases may want to be assured that their key could not be duplicated in another country. Therefore they would want a worldwide exclusive key for their use. Manufacturers can do this because of the patented features built into their cylinders and/or keys. Most of the high security key manufacturers hold World Patents on their products to protect their customers.
Durability: There is nothing worse than to have keys bend, twist, and even break during normal use. High security keys are inherently thicker, larger, and are more durable than their counterpart standard keys. Some of the leaders of these high security keys guarantee their keys for the life of the key system against key breakage.
Asking when the patent expires on the key system is important, but also ask how the company handled their old patented system when it expired. Was the transition to the new system costly? Did it require additional labor to upgrade?
Most importantly, find out exactly what is patented. Is the key patented, the cylinder, or both? This is very important to maintaining key control. If the cylinder is patented but not the key, nothing stops someone from fabricating the key and gaining access to a facility.
Usability: Does the existing building key system meet all of the demands of security and maintenance? When reviewing a current or a potentially new system, look for these questions to be answered. Is future expansion built into the keying system? A good rule of thumb would be a minimum of 25 percent of the current system. Is there the correct level of master keying for the customers’ needs?
Is there cross keying in the system that could cause a liability problem? Cross keying should always be kept at an absolute minimum. Cross keying should be eliminated due to excessive wear on the cylinder and keys that are not part of the cross keying erroneously operating the lock cylinder (big liability problem). When the factory keying department adds cross keying to a master key system, they remove all key combinations that would unknowingly operate that cross-keyed cylinder. This in turn reduces the number of usable keys in the master key system.
Master key systems are mathematical formulas that are built on the characteristics of the manufactures keying specifications. All manufactures are not equal in keying capacity of their systems. A good rule of thumb is to ask how many usable keys are available under a single master key section. Here are some common answers, 200,000; 150,000; 90,000; and 3,000. The latter is what standard keys systems can give you. If a facility has 15,000 keyed door, then the 3,000 number is too small.
Convenience only becomes a part of a master key system when interchangeable or removable core cylinders are used. Interchangeable Core (IC) means that the core will go into different manufacturers lock sets that are set-up for IC. Removable Core (RC) means that this type of core only goes into the lockset of the core manufacturer. There are two types of IC/RC - Large Format IC/RC and Small Format IC/RC. The main difference is the size of the key that will enter the core.
Why are these type of cylinders used in facilities? The only answer is convenience of maintenance to remove the core cylinder at the door and insert a new core cylinder. You might ask yourself, does this type of cylinder offer more or less security? The only secure IC or RC cylinder is a high security IC or RC cylinder. The non-high security IC and RC cylinders are too easily compromised.