RFID Adds Intelligence to Cabinet Locking Solution

Accuride's Senseon Plus, designed for use by pharmacies, hospitals, veterinarians and retailers, allows companies to automate the locking and unlocking of cabinets, as well as control who accesses them and when.
Published: August 21, 2019

Movement solutions company Accuride has expanded its Senseon-branded intelligent cabinet access-control offering from a locked cabinet system to full access management, employing passive HF RFID technology. The Senseon Plus solution provides what the firm calls “audit trail” functionality to capture data about each cabinet-access event, as well as “dual authentication” requiring two individuals to tap in to access a cabinet, and “discrete access” to limit the number of cabinets that can be opened by specific individuals.

The solution is the result of the company’s efforts to expand its offerings from simple locking and unlocking automation to full access control and management, according to Evan Hicks, Accuride’s Senseon marketing coordinator. The system was designed to meet the needs of the multiple industries the company serves, including retail, health care, pharmaceuticals, financial services and residential.

Accuride’s Senseon Plus system

Senseon was released in 2016 to help businesses control who accesses high-value or sensitive items stored in locked cabinets (see Accuride Bring RFID-enabled Access Control to Drawers). “The original system was designed to provide users with a seamless electronic locking alternative to traditional lock and key setups,” says Hicks. The cabinet systems came with locks managed by a 125 kHz LF RFID reader that captured the unique ID numbers of employees’ access cards, determined whether each ID was authorized, and then prompted the unlocking mechanism accordingly.

Since that release, Hicks says, the company’s research and design team has been evaluating customers’ needs, including in the health-care, retail, residential and financial services sectors. “We’ve taken the time to really dive into the needs of these industries to create a system that’s tailored to their needs,” he states. In June of this year, the company released its new product, Senseon Plus. “By staying abreast of industry trends, we’ve created a system which meets the needs of several different industries.”

Health-care companies, drug stores and veterinary offices are challenged with managing who can access addictive or dangerous medications. While opioids are a concern due to the opioid crisis across the United States, veterinary offices are faced with the presence of euthanasia medication that some veterinarians and their staff use to commit suicide.

According to several studies (see Notes from the Field: Prevalence of Risk Factors for Suicide Among Veterinarians—United States, 2014 and Study: 1 in 6 veterinarians have considered suicide), suicide rates are higher for veterinarians than for dentists and doctors, and four to six times higher than among the general population. Ready access to lethal drugs is considered to be a factor.

Jewelers and other retailers face very different concerns. Jewelry or other high-value items may end up missing, without a record of who accessed them and when this occurred, and it can be difficult to identify how that loss happened and then resolve the problem. Similarly, banks and other financial services companies must manage access to lock boxes that could contain high-value property or cash.

Senseon Plus offers an audit trail intended to help customers identify and analyze data regarding who has accessed high-value or sensitive items, and when they have done so. Each cabinet or bank of cabinets comes with a built-in 13.56 MHz HF RFID reader, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, that was designed and built by Accuride. That reader can control access to up to 10 different openings, all built together at a customer’s site.

The system is available as a standalone model, with no need for a wired or wireless connection to a server. Users can simply plug the cabinet into a power source, then program any cards that have access to that cabinet by tapping each card against the reader and using the touch screen to link its ID number to a particular employee, as well as provide specific access or restrictions.

Once the system is in operation, users can simply tap their card against the reader as they access the cabinet. The system’s built-in reader stores all tag IDs that are used to access the cabinet, along with data related to whether they were authorized and whether the cabinet was then opened. At the end of the day or week, management can use a handheld programmer (which connects directly to the cabinet and also stores cabinet access information) to upload the read data, and then plug it into a PC or laptop to access, store or share that information. In that way, they can not only view who accessed the cabinet and when, but also carry out analytics.

For instance, the system would enable a jewelry store to understand how often a specific cabinet was opened or not opened, as well as make decisions about where an item should be displayed, or whether something else should be displayed at a given location. “That can be used as a sales tool,” Hicks says. For health-care or veterinary users, the system would identify who was accessing opioid or lethal medications, and how often, as well as who attempted to access them, even if they were denied access. “So if someone were trying to open without the proper credentials, that information can be stored.”

The Senseon Plus solution also comes with a dual authentication feature, with which a company could require two individual card reads before granting access to a cabinet’s contents. In that way, a system could be put in place so that individuals would not be able to remove an item surreptitiously, since a witness to that event would be required.

The discrete access feature enables a company to set up different access authority for specific parties. For instance, a manager could tap his or her card against the reader to unlock all cabinet doors. When one door was then opened, the others would automatically lock, but it could be unlocked again with another tap of the card. The system can also be set for delayed response, so that a user could request access and the lock would release only after that individual had time to walk from the reader to that specific cabinet door, thereby providing another level of security.

With Senseon Plus, Hicks says, the programming process has been designed to be faster, with the use of the handheld programmer. The user employs the touch screen to add other users, delete users or change other access rules, including the timing for auto-relock. The audit data could then be referenced against a company’s surveillance video to identify what happened if an item were discovered to be missing.

The new solution was released in June 2019, and the first customers using the solution to date are retailers in the jewelry sector, as well as pharmacies. Another potential market for the technology is the cannabis industry, in which product is high in value and prone to theft. Several cannabis stores are now in discussions with the company to begin employing the Senseon Plus solution.

The original Senseon LF solution is still available for those wishing for a lower-cost locking-control system. The technology can be built directly into a user’s existing cabinets, Hicks says, or companies can purchase the full cabinet and locking system from Accuride. This summer, Senseon won GlobalShop’s ASID Design Impact Award at RetailX, held in Chicago.