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School admissions

Access-control systems are not just the stuff of spy films - the technology has even trickled down to a Cardiff comprehensive

We tend to associate major advances in access control with big banks or Fort Knox; the kind of thing you see in James Bond films where super-spies peel off false fingerprints and take out contact lenses which allow them past iris scanners. This technology may still be cutting edge but there is a trickle-down that is gradually allowing the rest of us to benefit from very sophisticated and integrated advances in electronic systems.

A good example of how new technologies are affecting access control in the wider world can be seen at Willows High School in central Cardiff, a big urban 1960s comprehensive. With 830 students, the building is subject to heavy use and, occasionally, abuse.

When Kaba (UK) came in to the school to review security on a number of doors, there was already a cashless vending system in place, which dispensed with the need for students to carry cash (to reduce bullying and dinner-money theft), without revealing intimate details, such as who was on free school dinners. Students carried fobs or cards with their details on a chip that they used at canteen counter tills or in vending machines. Kaba was able to integrate its access-control system with the vending system. This allowed students to gain access through doors with their existing cards/fobs.

The system, Kaba Exos Sky, was developed for small and medium-sized projects as an easily installed access control system that is maintained online and does not require the installation of any software. Access is controlled via a Legic proximity reader to which the students present their cards/fobs.

At the school it is surface-mounted, but it can also be concealed within the wall material. The system allows changes to be made instantaneously on site if students lose their cards or when new students or staff are logged into the system.

Its flexibility allows doors to be added later as the security system is expanded but also, potentially, to add in other functions.

These could include library and sports equipment borrowing and attendance records. Each card/fob can have information tailored specifically to the individual so that older students, for example, are allowed access to common rooms.

This kind of highly flexible technology constitutes a real step forward. The fact it is available to institutions, public and even private buildings could represent the beginnings of a radical change in the way we open doors.

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