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Beta Come Now Q: Our company has installed several mechanical digital combination locks on college frat houses. The property manager was already using them, and was hesitant to switch to electronic locks. They offer a "keyless" solution for these...


Beta Come Now
Q:
Our company has installed several mechanical digital combination locks on college frat houses. The property manager was already using them, and was hesitant to switch to electronic locks. They offer a "keyless" solution for these facilities but only provide one universal code for all users.

We are getting repeated callbacks on these units. In a few frats, only that the combination on the unit is changed (usually shortened to one digit) and also the outside lever is very loose. We are losing money on the callbacks and credibility with the client. Also a concern is the liability associated with these instances. What do you suggest?

A: Many of the new mechanical digital locks are robust units which provide the dealer with opportunities to generate quick sales. You can also up sell existing customers with older versions of these locks which require they be disassembled in order to reprogram the code. The new unit you refer to offers an additional selling point over older versions in that it may be reprogrammed without it being necessary to use a key or otherwise remove the unit from the wall.

This means that changing the code involves knowing the existing code which operates the unit and then performing a few simple steps. However, if the operating code is unknown, it becomes necessary to remove the unit from the wall and disassemble it down to component level in order to reprogram the access code.

Additionally, although the product is not totally immune to mechanical failures in an internal component referred to as the code box. This is the mechanism which remembers the entry code, interprets the pushbutton entries made by individuals attempting to enter the area protected by the system, and actuates the outside lever thereby permitting access. If this component fails, the code programmed into the unit will not be retained, and it is necessary to disassemble it to troubleshoot it. After you've performed this task once or twice, it's relatively straightforward and quick to complete. The other problem with the unit is that one of its best features is also its biggest weakness. That is the ability to reprogram the unit equipped with little more than knowledge of the current code, a paper clip, and knowing the programming steps.

For property managers, not knowing the entry code into a frat house is a problem. And, if one mischievous frat member reprograms the unit, then does not tell the others, a lockout condition is created which will lead to decreased security and other problems. Without knowledge of the code, property managers or other personnel are prevented from entering the premises. If the code is unknown to most of the students because of the prank performed by one of them, they'll call in a complaint and may block the door open until the problem is resolved, which creates a lapse in security and a liability issue. Or, if the door is left closed, students might damage the door attempting to force it open when the lock does not respond to the usual code.

The instruction manual for the unit in question is published on the Web, and available for anyone to view. These two Achilles' heels are almost incomprehensible to most electronic security professional. The unit is not password protected, nor is the website.

In many applications such as a frat house, it's desirable to restrict the ability to program the unit to the property manager. Your problem illustrates why. A solution is to modify the unit to be able to prevent the casual reprogramming in such a way that, in order to even attempt to it, a special tool is required, and a security seal will need to be broken. Therefore, evidence will remain.

On units like this, the hole which allows insertion of the programming "tool" is in the black painted curved area of the faceplate above the #1 Button. Tap the existing access hole where the "tool" is inserted using a 3/16-24 tap, then install a ? inch long (approx) allen set screw into the faceplate. Finish the installation by putting black RTV compound on the area where the set screw is. The unit will operate normally with the new plug installed.

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