Monday, June 17, 2013

Electronic Key Management Systems: Common Misconceptions — Part 1

When it comes to security and crime prevention, key control is essential. Every key and every lock must be accounted for. Most businesses realize this fact, but often don’t place enough importance on the method of key control they use.

During our 25-plus years in the industry, we’ve seen that electronic key management systems pose fewer liability concerns than key control methods such as pegboards and lockboxes. But many businesses still have objections to using automated key control systems.

In this four-part blog series, we’ll talk about why some of the most common objections people have about electronic key management systems are actually misconceptions.

Misconception #1: Transactions Take Too Long

Because the pegboard/lockbox method is so straightforward in theory, the prospect of using an electronic key management system is daunting for some. Doesn’t it take a long time to log into the system, navigate to the screen you need and then physically remove the key?

The answer is no. The idea that it takes too long to check keys in and out of an electronic key control systems is a myth.

Let’s compare the pegboard/lockbox method to automated key control systems, using a KeyTrak system with a fingerprint reader as a reference.

To Check Keys Out

Pegboard/Lockbox: 30 seconds-5 minutes
Time accounts for locating key and manually updating log sheet.

KeyTrak: 15-60 seconds
Time accounts for logging in with fingerprint reader, searching for key and removing lighted key tag.

To Return Keys

Pegboard: 10-90 seconds
Time accounts for re-hanging key and updating log sheet.

KeyTrak: 5-10 seconds
Time accounts for logging in with fingerprint reader and returning key tag to any open slot in the drawer.

The Verdict

Despite the misconception that electronic key control systems make key control transactions more time-consuming, the systems hold their own when going up against pegboards and lockboxes. In most instances, carrying out transactions on the electronic key control system is actually faster than returning keys to a lockbox or pegboard and updating a log.

When checking out keys, the time it takes to retrieve a key from an electronic key control system is comparable to the time it takes to remove a key and update the log. When returning keys, the key system comes out ahead by a few seconds, even at the top end of the range.

In fact, these estimates for checking a key in or out from a pegboard or lockbox don’t even account for time spent looking for misplaced keys.

Let’s say someone checks a key out, forgets to update the log and then fails to return the key on time. If someone else needs to use the key and finds it missing from the pegboard or lockbox and there’s insufficient information in the log, they’ll have to do some detective work to find the person who last used the key. The advantage of electronic key control systems is that it automatically records user details for every transaction, so it’s easy to determine who last checked out a key.

Still, some might object that despite the faster transaction times and accountability of electronic key control systems, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of hanging a key on a hook and updating an honor-based log. Navigating an electronic key control system is too complicated and requires too much training, they say, but is that really the case?

Check out Part 2 of our series, where we counter the “too complicated” objection as well!

How to Set Up Text Alerts on the KeyTrak System

We understand our customers are on the go and that they need instant updates about key activity when they are away from the office. To help you work more efficiently, we want to inform you of a way to receive up-to-the-minute text alerts from your KeyTrak system.

You can be immediately notified of any issues, from unauthorized access to invalid log-on attempts to overdue keys. Anyone can convert their emails into texts through their cellphone provider by following these three steps:

1. Create an email address using your phone number.

You can convert an email address into a text message using your 10-digit mobile number followed by your cellphone provider’s appendage. For example, if your phone number is 123456789 and your provider is AT&T (whose appendage is, then your email address would be

Most cellphone providers offer their phone appendage information online.

Click here for a list of carrier appendages.

2. Add your email address to the KeyTrak system.

In the System Configuration section, select the Alarm Options tab. Enter the converted email address into the 'Email Recipients' field and click "Add".

3. Customize alerts.

There are many alarm options to choose from, including but not limited to unauthorized access, overdue keys, missed reservations and invalid log-on attempts. (Please note that alarm notifications are not available for standard, custom or security reports due to the large amount of data that they contain.)

When you receive the text*, what you will see is that it is from "KeyTrak Alarm" and the subject will be the type of alarm.

Enjoy the convenient and efficient use of text message alerts to stay up-to-date with your system while you are away from your office!

*Because KeyTrak doesn't directly offer this service, we don't provide service for cellphone-related issues. Instead, you can contact your cellphone provider if you have any text messaging problems.

Apartment Complex's Lack of Key Security Leads to Brutal Attack of Resident

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, apartments are 85 percent more likely to be broken into than single-family homes. This means that apartment complexes should take necessary precautions to prevent these break-ins, including having a system set up to protect keys.

Most multifamily property owners and managers are aware that they must have security measures in place to protect their tenants from harm and to protect themselves from liability. Unfortunately, not all complexes practice secure key control methods.

But as a recent article by The News Tribune reports, there are serious consequences for failing to implement adequate key security measures.

The article highlights an incident in December 2009, in which Dana Widrig, an apartment dweller from Richland, WA was brutally attacked, raped and practically left for dead in her own home. Her attacker, Cody Kloepper, did not enter the unit by breaking a window or kicking in the door but by simply  unlocking her door with a spare key from the apartment complex's office.

Image courtesy of
The landlord had kept the keys in a lockbox (shown in the image to the right), but the key to the lockbox was merely placed in a mug on top of the lockbox. This made all the spare keys accessible to all employees, including Kloepper, who was the apartment's maintenance man.

Kloepper was convicted, and Widrig filed and settled a lawsuit against her apartment complex for negligence. Sadly, said Widrig's attorney, Kloepper could have been prevented from stealing the key if the complex had required him to identify himself with an electronic trail.

Widrig has made it clear that she won’t be satisfied until there is real change in the way that keys are secured. There is currently no state law in Washington requiring landlords to secure their spare keys, but Widrig's story captured the attention of a local state representative, Gael Tarleton, who has plans to introduce a bill requiring landlords to safeguard spare and master keys.

If we can learn one thing from Dana Widrig’s horrific experience, it's that having a protected system to guard your keys is vital. The costs of failing to do so could be detrimental to your customers and your business.