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News

Electronic key system for university access control

Salto Systems : 10 May, 2007  (Application Story)
Christ Church college at Oxford is upgrading its mechanical key locking system to electronic fobs for improved access control and visitor management.
When Christ Church Oxford decided to modernise its access control arrangements from an old fashioned mechanical key system, they chose a bespoke electronic solution from Salto Systems.

Christ Church is a unique institution, one of the largest colleges in the University of Oxford and, at the same time, the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Oxford. Situated right in the heart of Oxford but bounded by its Meadow and the Rivers Cherwell and Isis, Christ Church is architecturally stunning. Christopher Wren's Tom Tower is the college's most famous feature and an Oxford landmark.

The dual life of church and college complement each other, forming a unique community in the centre of Oxford, and today Christ Church is a thriving academic community with around 450 undergraduates and 150 Graduates.


Student, staff and visitor management is the key application of access control technology and is crucial for Christ Church. To achieve it a secure solution was needed to control access via entrance gates, staircases and student rooms in the Old Library.

Having already taken the decision to move to the more secure by i-Button technology, they then needed an access control system that was contactless, which could provide them with everything that a hard wired system would deliver but in a mix of on line and off line stand alone wire free formats and at lower cost too!

The Clerk of the Works at Christ Church Oxford, Anthony Morris, says: 'We are currently upgrading from a traditional mechanical key system and have a rolling program to upgrade all of our residential staircases and some other facilities over the next few years. We have approximately 45 staircases with an average of 15 accommodation rooms plus ancillary rooms per staircase, so we have our work cut out to bring everything up to the same levels of access control security.

Our buildings are all listed, and so we like to keep intervention to a minimum. This means we wanted an access control system that allowed the majority of locks to be fitted with very little disturbance to the actual structure of the buildings. Another key requirement was that we wanted something that did not require all the locks to be hard wired for data transfer and power. The solution we found was the Salto Virtual Network.'

Ramesh Gurdev, one of Salto's UK Area Sales Managers comments: 'The actual technology chosen by Christ Church was extremely simple to install and our local Salto business partner BMA Varsity Ltd, Oxfordshire's leading locksmiths, carried out the work along with a local contractor, Monard electrical, who installed the power and data, and the Christ Church in-house maintenance team. Together they installed 14 13.56Mhz RFID contactless wall readers and 26 XS4 electronic handle sets for use with European mortise locks. These are predominantly controlled by i-Button read/write key fobs as well as some Mifare cards. Entrance gates and staircase entry is online and these are then used as 'Hot Spots' in order to update the stand alone locks fitted to the student rooms. This is then controlled via our SVN or Salto Virtual Network system.'


The Salto Virtual Network or SVN system allows the stand-alone locks to read, receive and write information via the i-Button fobs. Since most access related information is kept encrypted on these fobs, the wall readers are able to update and receive information from the fobs at any time while from a user's point of view, the up-dater is just another wall reader. This easy functionality opens up a whole range of possibilities and provides 90% of the benefits of a fully on line access control system at the cost of a stand alone system.

The 'smart' fobs build up audit trails through normal use enabling Christ Church to track security through both the off line and on line parts of the system if required, and a complete access profile of security can be established and updated as necessary at the up date wall readers.

Any fobs that become lost or stolen can be quickly and simply deleted from the system just through visiting the readers with up-dated fobs. The system also greatly reduces the number of visits necessary to off line doors, since user data is simply transferred on fobs by normal usage. This functionality can revolutionise the traditional problems associated with key control, eliminating the need to replace locks when security is breached due to the loss or theft of a key fob.
Another function of SVN, where required, is departmental operation. This allows each faculty at a campus to manage only their own doors and/or users, while certain other doors and users can be simultaneously shared with other faculties, for example main entrance doors etc. This provides for maximum security for each faculty with the convenience and flexibility of shared control of main access points.

The Clerk of the Works, Anthony Morris concludes: 'It is important that our students, staff and visitors have a safe, secure time while at Christ Church. With the installation of our Salto access control system we no longer have the worry or cost of changing lock cylinders, but now have the ability to cancel out fobs and cards from the system when people leave, loose or do not return them. This enables us to maintain high levels of security ensuring Christ Church provides a secure and accessible environment for all its users.'
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