Wayne Webster discusses the challenge of digital transformation and how upgrades to legacy security systems can improve operational efficiency

Security within the rail industry involves many different aspects and goes far beyond securing doors in railway stations. There are a vast number of trackside applications that need securing, such as power sources, control cabinets, crossings, access gates and signalling boxes. Asset management and protection is crucial to ensure the network operates reliably. Extensive periods of construction and maintenance means staff and contractors require access to a wide range of high-risk areas at all times, day and night.

Ensuring access is only granted to the right people at the right time is vital, and the public must also be prevented from accessing unauthorised areas – both from a health and safety perspective and to prevent malicious vandalism or theft.

Due to these operating requirements, there is a need to combine several security solutions, which could include padlocks and cylinders, but with such systems key control is an operational challenge.

An effective master key system must prevent unauthorised key duplication ensuring secure access, but if a key is lost or stolen it can cost tens of thousands of pounds to regain control of authorised access.

The inflexible nature of traditional mechanical master key systems means they are failing to meet the increasing demands of the rail industry. But what alternative options are available?

Digital transformation
Recent developments in innovative webbased, wireless and wire-free solutions have the ability to transform the legacy systems to create a safer and more secure environment. What’s more, digital
integrated systems can help improve operational efficiency, reduce costs and reduce the risk of lost keys, while offering additional data and functionality to make railway infrastructure truly smart.

Historically, the global railway industry has been ahead of the times when it comes to digitisation, and a recent shift towards big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and an increase in demand for integration has signalled the sector is ready for change.

Although digital transformation offers huge potential to the rail industry, merging the vast number of outdated legacy systems in place across the UK’s current rail infrastructure into the modern digital world poses a significant challenge.

Digital benefits
Older legacy systems based on mechanical technology – such as locks, padlocks, and manual keys – are vastly inferior in operational efficiency, safety and integration compared to the modern digital technology available.

Electro-mechanical systems that utilise web-based technology – such as Abloy’s PROTEC2 CLIQ – offer a flexible and versatile solution. Systems such as these integrate the mechanical master key system with electronics that require no external power source to provide precise and cost-effective control over access permissions.

Keys and cylinders are embedded with data encryption technology, including a unique identification code that cannot be altered or duplicated. Access is managed and controlled using web-based software, meaning access rights can be granted or withdrawn swiftly and easily utilising mobile technology.

This means each person will only need one key, but that key will allow controlled access to all the points they are authorised to enter, and more importantly access can be withdrawn almost immediately.

As well as offering a more convenient solution, electro-mechanical master key systems ensure that there is a high level of security in place, over and above international Patents, which is the current method of preventing unauthorised key duplication.

Ultimately, by installing a new electromechanical master key system, greater control and future-proofing is achieved and tiered access can be implemented across a large number of sites immediately.

Big data potential
Retrofitting a system, such as CIPE Manager and CLIQ® onto the UK’s rail infrastructure is stage one of the transition towards smarter railways. However, when it comes to creating an ecosystem and gaining real insight from the data produced, we have just begun to scratch the surface.

The scope of possibilities that digital system integration could offer beyond access control and audit trails is vast. Cloud and web-based manager platforms allow for centralised and remote access management, meeting the growing demand for large organisations to use cloud-based physical access control systems.

SaaS based solutions offer the simplest way to manage all the software that connects digital technology across the stations, rolling stock and infrastructure, including the convenience of smartphone identification.

But where the real potential lies, is in the data that could be collected throughout the process of a person gaining access to a particular area or asset. When the system allows access to a person with the correct credentials, a number of protocols could be triggered before they can secure and leave the area.

For example, they could be required to record faults and any maintenance work they have carried out, and perform other critical functions such as highlighting remedial works, ordering the required parts and requesting the time in the programme to carry out the works.

This would generate a report to feedback to the central hub, offering a comprehensive overview of not only who has accessed which areas and when, but what happened while they were there and what actions need to be carried out in the future.

An integrated future
Having the convenience of an online control centre that can manage all your access rights remotely from anywhere – including a mobile solution – is the future of railway access control. This is what Abloy brings with its advanced mechanical and electronic security ecosystem, and potential to integrate with external systems and partners. This is a huge benefit compared to legacy systems as new technology can be digitally accessed and managed, often with wire-free installation and Bluetooth technology. Installation can be more cost effective and adding additional keys or access points is easier too.

Digital solutions offer a huge breakthrough, adding more control and security while making the system simpler to manage, install and update. Therefore, this could be the answer to adding operational excellence and future access management to legacy systems.

Wayne Webster is Business Development Manager – Critical Infrastructure Transport at Abloy UK.

Tel: 01902 364 500
Email: info@abloy.co.uk
Visit: www.abloy.com