Bluetooth Solutions for Wireless Credential Management and Audit Trail

April 2, 2018
Advantages include simplified credential management and audit trail monitoring without having to wire into a network

Settings as diverse as healthcare facilities, construction sites, and remote telecom and data center equipment sites are demanding stricter physical security with the ability to remotely manage and monitor access. These applications require solutions for simplified access control and credential management, beyond the capabilities of traditional lock and key solutions.

In many cases, the cost and complexity of networked, software-based security system installation and IT support are considerable road blocks to implementation. While electronic locking solutions are the ideal choice for site-specific security, the increased wiring, installation and IT support costs when integrating these solutions into networked, software-based access control have led to a demand for more efficient and cost-effective solutions.

Scalable solutions are available that provide complete, remote access control, without a wired network connection or software to purchase, install and manage. Specifically, wireless solutions-based on BLUETOOTH®[1] connected locks and web-based administration provide a more straightforward approach – one that is fully secure – and provide audit trail reporting and remote credential management without the cost and complexity of traditional networked solutions.

Perceived Complexities 

Electronic locking solutions are being installed in an expanding range of equipment level applications. However, there is some resistance to this technology, driven by fears about the cost and complexity of the required hardware, software and IT investment, plus ongoing support. In certain instances, mechanical lock and key access management is relied on as the default, even though it may not provide the level of convenience and security required.

Traditional electronic access control requires investment in multiple systems. An electronic lock is installed on the rack; that lock would connect to some sort of controller inside the rack. That rack would then have to be tied back through a switch, which would connect that controller into a network. Software would then need to be installed locally to find, configure and manage each lock, controller and user credential. This software would then require ongoing maintenance and expense in terms of revisions, upgrades and licensing. This entire process requires considerable effort from both facilities and IT.

Bluetooth-based Wireless Access Control

Wireless systems-based on BLUETOOTH® connectivity between intelligent locks and smartphone credentials, and WiFi or cellular communication back to the cloud, provide a simplified solution. Administration and audit trail reporting can then be handled via a hosted web portal, without having to manage software on the premises.

Southco®, a global leader in engineered access solutions, has developed a comprehensive Electronic Access Solution (EAS) platform that utilizes BLUETOOTH® wireless technology to simplify and speed electronic access implementation for a wide range of operating environments.

An optimum electronic access solution is comprised of these essential elements:

  • The user interface, which accepts the user input or credential, which could be a PIN, biometric, RFID or smartphone.
  • The access controller, which connects to the user interface and validates the user credential, providing a secure output signal to open the electronic lock. In Bluetooth-enabled systems, this access controller can receive the credential wirelessly from the user’s Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.
  • Intelligent electronic locks, which perform the lock/unlock function when the proper credentials are received and validated, and provide and output of its status to external monitoring systems.
  • System administration, the back end system that manages, configures and administers credentials, and monitors access.

Smartphone Access

A Bluetooth-enabled smartphone is a convenient device for functioning as a user interface to provide a credential or “key” to access equipment with electronic locking mechanisms. Individuals who are to be authorized for accessing equipment – service technicians, for example – will have an app on their Bluetooth-enabled smartphones or tablets. Time-based virtual keys can be sent wirelessly to the app via a cloud-based web portal.

To access the secured equipment, the technician approaches the rack and touches the access button on their installed app, which transmits the encrypted BLUETOOTH® signal to the lock controller, unlocking the door and sending a record of the access via the smartphone app to the cloud-based admin system.

The smartphone simply communicates via BLUETOOTH® with the lock controller. The lock controller is wired only to the lock, not to the network. Each time access occurs, a digital audit trail is generated and sent by the smartphone using a wireless network connection to the remote web portal, via the cloud. Rolling code algorithms are synced between the controller and back end server to optimize security of the BLUETOOTH® virtual keys.

Southco’s EA-BT BLUETOOTH® Controller provides full access control and remote monitoring of intelligent locks without having to wire into a network, or install, manage and maintain software. The controller is simply wired to a power source and to the electronic lock — no other discreet components are needed — allowing for remote access without investing in costly, complex wiring connections.

When combined with any of Southco’s intelligent electronic locking solutions, the BLUETOOTH® Controller provides a completely concealed physical security solution using BLUETOOTH® for user access, and a remote web portal for credential management and audit trail monitoring.

This is a highly secure approach: The electronic key loaded to the app will typically have a limited timeframe during which it can be used; if it expires, only the administrator can grant re-authorization. In addition, the BLUETOOTH® signal has 128-bit encryption, protecting it from hacking, and since the lock controller is not tied to a network, it is not a point of vulnerability for hackers.

RFID and smartphone access can also be used together to access the same piece of equipment. In situations where not everyone has a smartphone, the users can access the equipment with an RFID credential.

The remote monitoring and enrollment of credentials can then be managed via the web portal, with any changes being pushed back to a smartphone or tablet via the cloud. The smartphone then exchanges this data wirelessly with the lock controller.

Intelligent Electromechanical Locks

A reliable electromechanical lock or latch (EML) is critical to the effectiveness of any remotely controlled electronic access solution, including those using BLUETOOTH®. The design of an EML influences system electrical requirements, physical security and ease of installation and operation, as well as the industrial design of the end product. Simply put, the electronic lock is the heart of the system.

Southco has a wide range of electromechanical locks, including electronic rotary latches, electronic locking swinghandles and electronic slide bolts. These proven products include a variety of industry leading features:

  • Efficient mechanisms – Over 70 years of engineering expertise in locking and latching mechanism design ensures an efficient, quality locking mechanism.
  • Appropriate electromechanical actuation – Southco matches the electromechanics to the requirements of the latch mechanism to provide the most efficient solution, providing the necessary mechanical function and minimizing the power requirement.
  • Built-in intelligence – Southco's microprocessor-based control provides built-in intelligence for optimum latch control and communication with external systems.

Multiple Applications

Electronic access solutions locks with integrated audit trail can be used to secure and manage access to a wide range of equipment and locations; these include:

  • Automated teller machines: Service technicians need simple, time-based access to this equipment, with secure audit trails.
  • Remote telecommunications equipment: Many telecom networks have remote, stand-alone equipment, such as cellular sites and local switching systems; these need periodic access by technicians for repair and configuration work. Rather than running parallel access systems, use of cloud-based BLUETOOTH® access control systems provide a simpler solution that still satisfies security requirements.
  • Mobile medical carts: Mobile nursing stations equipped with computers and touchscreens are common to healthcare environments, and must be moved from room to room by that nurses and other medical professionals. These stations need to be secured to protect patient privacy, and many healthcare organizations now require audit trails of who accessed and used a given charting station; Bluetooth- or RFID-enabled electronic locking systems provide an efficient solution.

BLUETOOTH® access control systems that have been integrated with intelligent electronic locks provide significant benefits for physical security management, providing simplified credential management and audit trail monitoring without having to wire into a network. By adding Bluetooth-controlled electronic locks to sensitive equipment, managers can control access, protect valuable data and ensure compliance with appropriate regulations.

Steve Spatig is General Manager, Electronic Access Solutions, Southco. For more information about Southco, visit