Open-access content 25th October 2010
We used to think of a ‘skeleton key’ as something of a impossible dream in FM. But the eMAKS system from SitexOrbis has opened the door to electronic access systems.
By David Arminas
28 October 2010
We used to think of a ‘skeleton key’ as something of a impossible dream in FM. But the eMAKS system from SitexOrbis has opened the door to electronic access systems
The eMAKS access system from SitexOrbis won the award because it streamlined working methods and made positive changes to FM operations, a true definition of innovation.
Britain is also the first European country to use the eMAKS, thanks to a decision by Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council to roll out the system after a year’s trial.
The two major themes at this year’s BIFM conference were “More for Less” and “Reducing Emissions”. This is exactly what eMAKS does, according to SitexOrbis group chief executive David Walker. “If there is one overriding benefit that sells the system, it’s time saving for the client as well their contractors.”
On the surface, the ‘electronically managed access key system’ looks like a normal key. In fact, eMAKS is “one key for up to 6,000 locks”.
The key is not much larger than the average car key, but has a round connector instead of a conventional toothed metal strip. Keys are electronically encrypted and are programmed to unlock specific doors at specific times, and report back when this has happened.
The system’s locks don’t require direct power and are opened by inserting an authorised key. Authorisation is done through a BS5979 Cat II accredited response centre that operates 24-7.
Authorisation ports transfer authorisation settings from the response centre to the key. This can be done through a USB on laptops and PDAs. Alternatively, keys can be updated through an infra-red link, or even a smart phone such as a Blackberry.
Potential clients include housing associations and boroughs, such as Nuneaton, that manage hundreds of void properties to which employees and maintenance contractors need access, especially just before a tenant moves in.
Also, electricity distribution network operators must manage access to their disbursed buildings – EDF Energy has 66,300 substations across 11 counties.
Up to 6,000 vacant properties can be fitted with simple eMAKS locks on their front doors. These replace conventional door locks and can work without any power source. Property managers have their own eMAKS key and contractors are given temporary keys that access properties only during specific times.
Clients programme the keys by calling the SitexOrbis response centre and then plugging their keys into an authorisation port, which then downloads the latest access settings, and uploads recent activity – for example, what doors were opened and when.
Walker noted that the technology in not necessarily new. What is new is the software development that allows data collection, authoritisation and re-programming of keys.
SitexOrbis acknowledges it saved on development costs by making use of existing technology for use within the key itself, and invested another £20,000 in developing and testing the all-important locks that require no external power or network connections.
SitexOrbis’s main investment was in the support aspect of the system, said Walker. Central to the system is a combination of online technology and 24/7 response centre support which allows customers, their contractors and employees to request and receive access rights within minutes.
SitexOrbis spent £500,000 building a response centre that has highest BS5979 Cat II accreditation for call and data management.
No longer do FMs, maintenance staff and contractors spend hours driving about to collect keys, or wait for someone to show up with a key. Also from a security pint of view, eMAKS locks can’t be picked and the keys cannot be duplicated.
SitexOrbis estimates that for every £1 spent on eMAKS, customers would save about £16 on what would have been travel costs, but also increased their productivity and income. One customer in the housing sector measured a £184,000 savings and £12,000 increase in rental income, from an investment of £12,000 over four years, SitexOrbis said.
The accuracy element of eMAKS, because it capture arrival and departure times, means the system monitors how long they work, and timesheets are not embellished.
An effect of fewer so-called ‘white-van trips’ is a reduction in the client’s carbon footprint, says Walker. A typical client may have four Ford Transit Vans driven by tradesmen on the road. Each van is driven 100 miles a week to drop off and collect keys. Eliminating these trips would avoid emitting 54 kgs of CO2, he estimates.
Money was also saved by getting the work done more quickly and being able to let properties faster. The system also allows us to monitor our in-house workforce and external contractors.”