Buga Makes Passive RFID Lock Cylinders

By Jonathan Collins

The German lock manufacturer launches electronic cylinders to retrofit doors with mechanical locks so they can work with passive RFID access control systems.

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While access control systems using RFID-enabled contactless cards are a common security precaution for many buildings, the technology has far from replaced traditional mechanical locks and keys. Companies tend to deploy contactless systems only for main access points, opting for cheaper mechanical locks on the bulk of their other doors and access points.

According to German lock manufacturer Buga Technologies, operating two separate access control systems means less security and greater management costs. "Companies like RFID for access control, but because of the cost, typically only 10 to 15 percent of doors at a company site are fitted with readers and controllers," says Hubert Ernst, managing director at Buga, in Norderstedt.

Buga’s new BINoXX - DK 4100 Smart RFID Electronic Cylinder.

The disadvantage of mechanical systems is that keys can be lost or stolen and used by unauthorized people, necessitating that the locks be changed. Contactless systems, on the other hand, can be reprogrammed to prevent access to any existing card if there are doubts about its validity.

Buga's new the BINoXX - DK 4100 Smart RFID Electronic Cylinder, however, can be used to replace mechanical locks so that existing contactless RFID-based access control systems can work with doors previously requiring keys. The company launched its first RFID cylinder in 2002, but the latest version supports passive contactless cards, while previous versions support only active RFID key cards.

The e-cylinder is battery-powered and requires no wiring or additional equipment be installed in place of a door's existing mechanical cylinder. The battery, says Buga, should last for around 60,000 activations, or about three to four years. An activation is defined as each time an individual uses the card to unlock the door. The locks have a read range of up to 2 centimeters (¾ inch).

Buga's new e-cylinder competes with similar products from other manufacturers, including Simons Voss, DOM Sicherheitstechnik and Kaba Holding AG.

Buga says it can manufacture cylinders to work with numerous RFID chip designs, allowing the locks to be integrated with many RFID access control systems already deployed. These systems include EM, HID Prox, Hitag and Temic, which operate at 125 kHz, as well as the Legic and MiFare-based systems in 13.56 MHz.

Buga's RFID cylinders are managed by the same centralized software application companies use to manage their existing access control systems. Currently, however, BINoXX - DK 4100 cylinders must be programmed using a laptop or PDA via a line-of-sight infrared link. Before the end of the year, the company says its locks will support a wireless LAN connection to enable remote management.

According to Buga, while card-based RFID access control points can cost around €1,000 per access point, BINoXX - DK 4100 cylinders will be sold at around €400 each to OEM manufacturers for inclusion with their locks, contactless control systems and security system products. No additional hardware is needed to convert a mechanical key lock to an RFID-activated lock. However, access control management software is required to manage the e-cylinders, and that is not sold not by Buga but by its OEM customers. Buga does provide the software required to access and program each lock and integrate it into a site's existing access control management software.

While the BINoXX - DK 4100 is more expensive than a mechanical lock, Ernst claims its e-cylinder provides additional security and requires less maintenance, making it an attractive option. "Obviously, it is more expensive than a mechanical lock, but comprehensive security does not come cheap," says Ernst.

According to the company, the cylinders can be fitted to about 75 to 85 percent of European cylinder locks. Other versions, planned for later this year, will support the remaining specialized locks and European legacy cylinder formats. There are also plans to sell a version to fit United States cylinder formats, starting in the first half of next year.

Although Buga has been part of the Assa Abloy group of companies since 2002, the firm says it does not have the resources to develop and market its products. Therefore, it is relying on lock and access control systems providers to sell its e-cylinders. Buga says it is already working with other Assa Abloy divisions in France and Germany to integrate the technology into those divisions' lock products.