Cambridge Innovation Center Goes Wireless With SALTO

Oct. 1, 2010

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.

The bi-directional technology of the SALTO XS4 wireless system combines the advantages of both on-line and off-line solutions. Any number of doors can be wirelessly connected to the system thanks to its IEEE 802.15.4 and 2.4 GHz technology. Gateways and repeaters act as antennas, collecting and sending information from the PC via SALTO SQL software, to the standalone wireless locks (which use AES 128 encryption) and one gateway can manage several repeaters and electronic locks, minimizing infrastructure costs.

With a single click, CIC can configure or make changes to the network in real time. They can monitor the network, download audit trail information from the locks, delete users remotely and securely, collect battery status of the RF locks for maintenance and much more all from a single controlling PC and all in real-time. And thanks to its self-healing capabilities, if an individual lock should lose RF connection at any time it will automatically scan for a new connection to an alternative gateway or repeater, restoring communication and maintaining security.

“So, you may be asking, what does it mean for our clients?” Keenan continues. “Well, apart from seeing new locks on their office doors and getting new key fobs with high-tech encryption, like many of the technical systems at CIC most of the magic happens behind the scenes. Although our eventual aim is to have SALTO wireless locks on all our floors by the end of the year, the new system will appear to clients to be much like the old system, securing the lobbies and office doors while still allowing 24/7 access. One added feature on this front will be electronic access to the stairwells. After the upgrade, CIC clients will be able to move between CIC floors without having to wait for the elevators.”

CIC began the move to SALTO in early June, starting with a review of their system software, then progressed to retrofitting the new wireless locks onto 10 office and closet doors, one Uno office and one shower room on the 11th and 14th floors, replacing a previous mix of hard wired electronic and mechanical keyed doors.

Over the next few months more and more of this conversion process will roll out throughout the center, with expansion onto the 3rd and 4th floors completing on Sept 1st. Installation and set-up is being managed by two SALTO Service Partners (Davco and Floyd).

Ion Murga, Marketing Manager Americas for SALTO Systems Inc says “An effective, robust access control system is a key requirement for any building with multiple tenants. Its objectives should be to control and restrict access to authorized personnel and areas, prevent and prohibit all likely security threats from occurring and reduce the degree of vulnerability of critical assets to theft. The SALTO XS4 wireless access control system achieves all these objectives. With an expanding business and an increasing number staff, clients and visitors on site every day, the number of users and doors the system can manage is unlimited, giving CIC the scalable future-proof solution they need.”

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