Medeco's Next Generation of Access Control

Jan. 5, 2011
NEXGEN XT allows facilities that utilize SFIC cylinders to retrofit those cylinders to add user scheduling, audit logs of entry, and key expiration without any wiring, hardware changes or door and frame modifications.

Medeco began providing electronic locking systems in 1992 when the company introduced the first high security electronic lock into the payphone industry.  Nearly 1 million electronic locks were installed in payphones throughout North America. Medeco now offers a variety of electronic cylinders to an already full line of mechanical high security products.  In this article (part one of a two-part series), we will discuss the history of electronic products at Medeco as well as current and future products.

In 1992 Medeco introduced an electromechanical lock.  The VLS technology platform incorporated PC software with a handheld computer connected to an electronic key via a RS232 data connection.  The key then communicated with an electro-mechanical lock using encrypted communications.  The system was designed to meet the demands of route management applications such as payphone, parking and vending.  Some of the primary concerns of this application were, key control and management, route management, access control and accountability all of which were satisfied by the VLS system.  But the large form factor limited the possible applications of the product.  VLS sales continue today but market demands required that Medeco continue to develop and innovate.

The NEXGEN technology platform project required system management software, an electronic key and an electronic-only cylinder.  The key housed all of the electronics and communicated with the lock using new advance encrypted communications.  One of the technical objectives was speed to market, which was accomplished by using low risk, proven technology such as standard microprocessor and motor technology and traditional circuit design & fabrication.  The software was designed from an operational perspective and Medeco relied on its customers for input.  The hardware needed to retrofit existing mechanical locking systems so they needed to have the same form factor as their mechanical equivalent.  The key needed to be ergonomically sized so that it could be used as a tool for opening cylinders on parking meters and vending machines.  Also NEXGEN needed to be plug & play with no wiring required

In 2002, Medeco introduced the next generation electronic locking and route management platform for industrial applications.  The NEXGEN system provides a wide array of solutions and security for virtually any application.  NEXGEN hardware is designed to safeguard against mechanical and electronic attack and built to meet the strongest physical and electronic security standards.  If a key is ever lost, electronic master keying means that you will never have the expense of mechanically re-keying your system.

NEXGEN keys operate on a schedule defined by management which allows you to secure your customers’ assets by only allowing access during specific time periods.  Keys can be activated for several months, or just one hour, giving you flexibility in the control of your system.  The line of locks range from vending machine “T handle” locks, gaming locks, parking meter locks to padlocks.

The NEXGEN system provides high levels of physical and electronic security.  Nexgen locks are tested for performance in extreme environments such as temperatures of -20C to 70C and 96 Hour Salt Spray Exposure.  Locks are designed to provide an extremely long life cycle.  The NEXGEN system is also designed to provide maximum deterrent levels against mechanical attacks.  The NEXGEN lock incorporates a steel housing, bolt and hardened steel plug face to resist pulling, punching and drilling. A resettable fuse is provided for electronic attacks.  The breakaway face design resists forced entry attacks. 

NEXGEN keys are programmed to open only specified locks, during specified times, for a specified period.  Keys will not work outside of their schedule, so exposure due to lost or stolen keys is limited.  A NEXGEN lock cannot be operated by a fraudulent key at anytime. 

Unlike a mechanical lock having a mechanical code, the NEXGEN lock uses an electronic code that changes on every opening.  Also the locks are powered by the key eliminating the need for local power at the opening. This allows for installations in even the most remote sites or demanding installation conditions. 

Every time a NEXGEN key is inserted into a lock, the date, time, and serial number is recorded in both the lock and key memory.  This audit information is uploaded from the key into the host. Printable reports identify the date and time that each lock was accessed, or an attempt was made.  The software immediately gives notice of any exceptions, including unauthorized attempts, out of schedule attempts and re-opened locks.  The lock can store thousands of audit events after which the events are stored in a first-in, first -out format.  A NEXGEN key can store access for over 10,000 locks and thousands of audits. 

If a key is lost or stolen, that key will simply expire at the end of its schedule or can be immediately disabled by modifying the system security level.  The NEXGEN Software monitors key battery levels and indicates when batteries are becoming low prior to keys going to the field.  There are two battery options - key field replaceable battery or rechargeable battery.


The new Nexgen XT platform was developed to incorporate the features of the NEXGEN products in a small form factor.  The Medeco Product Development Team was given the task of miniaturizing the NEXGEN key to a point where it could fit on a standard key ring and fit comfortable in someone’s pocket.  Also the electronics of the lock were to be reduced to a size where they could fit into a Small Format Interchangeable Core (SFIC) cylinder shell.  While initial cylinder offering is only available in SFIC, many other cylinder types will follow in the coming months.

Like NEXGEN the Nexgen XT cylinder is an electronic only cylinder which was designed for use in the harshest environmental conditions.  Following in NEXGEN’s footsteps Nexgen XT cylinders are powered by the key which allows you to install the cylinders with no door modification, and no local power is required. 

The cylinder and the key both maintain an electronic record of each time a key opens or attempts to open a cylinder.  The cylinder will hold up to 2000 audit events.  When the maximum number of audit events is reached the cylinder will record events on a “First In First Out” basis.  If a key is missing from the system, the electronic identity of the key can be placed on the cylinder’s “Black List.” The “Black List” is maintained at the cylinder and if a key on the list attempts to open the cylinder it will be denied access.  If the key is later found it can easily be taken off of the list and placed back in service. 

The Small Format Interchangeable Core cylinder will install in any SFIC or “Best” style housing.  The deadlatch control sleeve can be actuated by any key programmed as a “Control Key.”. This allows the user to quickly install or remove cylinders and makes system adjustments simple without the need for a dedicated “Control Key.” 

The Nexgen XT key has a small ergonomic design, about the size of a memory stick, which easily fits on a standard key ring.  The key is weather resistant for use in damp conditions and the housing is made of stainless steel for extreme durability.  The key houses a rechargeable lithium polymer ion battery which powers both the key and the cylinder.  The use of lithium polymer ion technology allows the key to open 500 to 800 cylinders before needing to be recharged.  The key can be recharged using the desktop cradle or the portable charging station.  The power source for either charger can be a 120 VAC outlet, a 12 volt car accessory port, or a computer USB port.  The key will let you know when it is needs to be recharged with an indication from the two onboard LED indicators. 

The key memory will allow for storage of up to 5000 audit events.  An audit event will be stored in the key each time the key accesses or attempts to access a cylinder.  The key will hold access right for up to 5000 cylinders and is programmed using the Nexgen Security Manager Software and the Desktop Programming Station. 


The NEXGEN and Nexgen XT Security Manager Software are both based on the same platform with minor changes to add additional XT features such as Control Key functionality.  The Security Manager Software’s large, easy-to-use graphical interface allows you to define your facility and then assign when and who can have access different locations.  The software is also extremely flexible and supports a wide range of business operations.  Work assignments can be quickly changed and updated to move with the constantly changing needs of the company.  You can create new schedules and upload to a key with the click of a mouse.  Activity reports display all accesses, system events and unauthorized events allowing you to know exactly what is occurring in your system.  Unauthorized events create immediate alarm conditions in the software eliminating day to day review of extensive data.  And customizable printed reports show only the information you select. 

The system can operate in a standalone configuration or in a client server configuration.  Client Server systems can communicate to remote key programming devices via a VPN or LAN/WAN connection, allowing you to update access for remote employees. 

The system also allows for unattended programming of keys using the Communications manager.  The Communications Manager will automatically scan remote programming stations for the presence of a key.  When a key is detected, the software will look into the database and determine if there are any programming changes and if those changes are allowed to be uploaded to the key.  If allowed the program will upload the new schedule to the key.  All of this occurs with the user simply inserting their key into the programming device so minimal training is required.  Future versions will allow for remote programming via cellular telephone connection.

Medeco’s NEXGEN XT is an excellent fit for remote applications with the ability to reprogram keys remotely. Keys are the power source for the lock and are programmed with a list of locks they can access.