Securing potentially hazardous sites, which contain gas or oil storage facilities, is becoming increasingly important to UK industry. While other businesses are investing in enhanced access control solutions, such as electronic key-centric access management, many sites containing hazardous materials are left stuck in the dark ages, with basic and impractical mechanical locking systems. This is due to the potential risks associated with using an electronic device, which could cause a spark, in close proximity to hazardous materials.

Reliable access control technology

New technology is helping to pave the way for the future of access control and enhanced security solutions. Magnetic induction combines the reliability of a traditional mechanical locking system with the flexibility of electronic technology, to provide an advanced access control solution.

There are two notable advantages of this latest technology; firstly, the opening process is the same as a mechanical cylinder with the exchange of information between the key and cylinder occurring in less than 60 milliseconds; and secondly, communication between the key and cylinder is able to take place without the two components coming into contact. This means there is no risk of oxidation, wear or dust, affecting the cylinder. This level of reliability and sustainability is unrivalled against any other solution currently on the access control market.

Mechatronic keys for explosive atmospheres

This strength makes mechatronic keys the ideal solution for the control of doors and gates and for the management of common areas and entrances at potentially hazardous sites. For many years our customers, particularly those within the gas and oil sector, and also businesses required to store hazardous materials, have been asking for a 21st-century solution to their access control system. Whilst the electronic key-centric solution is ideal for the water sector, transport and telecoms industries, it is unsafe and unviable for any business premises deemed to have a potentially explosive atmosphere.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines explosive atmospheres, as those that can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts. If there is enough of the substance, mixed with air, then all it needs is a source of ignition to cause an explosion. This poses a significant risk to the business and its staff. Risk management is closely scrutinised, not only internally at each organisation, but also by external bodies, which place duties on employers to eliminate or control the risk from explosive atmospheres in the workplace.

 

Communication and energy transfer between the key and cylinder is based on tight inductive coupling
Thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity, the mechatronic key communicates seamlessly with smartphone technology

One of these directives is known as ATEX, which ensures the health and safety of workers and the law concerning equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. The mechatronic access control solution is certified by ATEX, therefore confirming its safe use at potentially hazardous sites and enabling us to at last provide a robust and future-proof solution to our customers in all industries.

Real time access control communication

Thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity, the mechatronic key communicates seamlessly with smartphone technology, enabling the user to receive up-to-the-minute information about all events relating to access.

The innovative technology allows local users and central administrators to communicate in real time. This enables instant assignment of access rights, direct transmission of access reports and the coordination of activities at different locations, an enhanced security solution usually reserved for online access control.

The mechatronic solution’s cable-free configuration with power supply integrated into the key, not only provides a uniquely secure system, but significantly reduces installation costs compared to other similar products. The running costs are further lowered by optimised access control management, meaning no maintenance, fewer keys, and no fuss when a key is lost. The solution also provides increased flexibility, with its purely mechanical component enabling users to not only open doors fitted with this new solution, but also those with conventional cylinders, allowing the old and new access management systems to coexist on the same site.

With an increasing focus on high-level security, legislation requirements and the ability to easily access full data trails, the mechatronic solution looks set to revolutionise the future of access control.

Energy and data transfer is only possible when the key is inserted into the cylinder
The metal parts of the key and the cylinder are designed in order to close the magnetic circuit to avoid any magnetic flux leakage

How does mechatronic technology work?

1. Principle of operation

Communication and energy transfer between the key and cylinder is based on tight inductive coupling. An alternating magnetic field, which is generated by the key, transfers energy to the cylinder, following the principle of a transformer. Data is transferred by modulation of the magnetic field.

2. System architecture

The system is made by two coils. One coil (primary winding) which generates the alternating magnetic field is located inside the key, the second coil (secondary winding) in which the magnetic field is induced resides inside the cylinder. The metal parts of the key and the cylinder are designed in order to close the magnetic circuit to avoid any magnetic flux leakage.

3. Activation

In order to permit good alignment of the two coils a mechanism that activates the magnetic field generation in the primary coil is implemented. A Hall Effect sensor, mounted close to the primary coils, senses a permanent magnet inside the cylinder and the magnetic field generation is activated only when perfect alignment of the two coils is achieved. Energy and data transfer is only possible when the key is inserted into the cylinder and the horizontal alignment of primary and secondary coil is within few hundredths of a milimetre.


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