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Managing access to construction sites with smartlocks 

Construction site managers are looking for a more secure and efficient key management solution to better control access and reduce theft.




To deter unauthorized access to the general public fences and gates are commonly employed around construction sites. Smaller construction sites may use temporary fencing, whereas more extensive sites may require sturdier fencing or even perimeter walls. Construction sites follow strict Occupational Health and Safety guidelines, and access must be restriced to and reduce the likelihood of accidents or injuries, and anyone entering the site must also be registered, adequately trained and equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition to deterring unauthorized access, fences and other security measures can prevent theft, vandalism, and other types of unlawful activities.


Padlocks on gates, and doors are commonly used to control entry and exit points to construction sites and are often considered essential bare minimum security measures to prevent unauthorized access. The level of security of construction sites can be influenced by local regulations and building codes, as well as the requirements of insurance companies and project stakeholders. For example, some insurance policies may require additional security measures in addition to padlocks (or in place of padlocks), such as electronic access control solutions, alarms, surveillance cameras, lighting or regular security patrols.


In addition to contractors and site workers who usually need access to construction sites on a daily basis, there may be several other individuals or groups who need to enter construction sites from time to time and at anytime night or day, depending on the nature of the project and the site itself. Some examples include:

  1. Inspectors: Government officials or private inspectors may need to enter the site to perform safety inspections or ensure compliance with building codes and regulations.

  2. Clients and stakeholders: Clients, investors, or other stakeholders in the construction project may need to visit the site to check on progress, provide feedback, or approve changes.

  3. Suppliers and vendors: Delivery drivers, equipment suppliers, or other vendors may need to enter the site to drop off or pick up materials, tools, or equipment.

  4. Architects and engineers: Design professionals may need to visit the site to ensure that the construction work is being performed according to the plans and specifications.

  5. Consultants and advisors: Safety consultants, environmental consultants, or other experts may need to visit the site to provide advice or guidance on specific aspects of the project.


There may be certain circumstances where 24-7 around-the-clock access to construction sites is necessary or desirable. For example, in some urban areas with heavy traffic congestion, construction work may be restricted to night-time hours to minimize disruptions to commuters and businesses during the day. In other cases, 24-hour access may be necessary to accommodate work that requires continuous operation, such as pouring concrete or operating heavy machinery. In addition delivery trucks may need access to construction sites to drop off building materials at any time day or night.

construction site

Key Management on construction sites


In general, the responsibility for metal key management to construction sites is usually assigned to the construction manager or general contractor overseeing the project. Often they designate a specific person or team to manage keys and access. This may include issuing keys to authorized personnel, maintaining a record of key holders, and changing locks or re-keying locks on a regular basis or as needed to maintain security. In some cases, the property owner or developer may also be involved in key management for a construction project, particularly if the property is not owned by the general contractor or construction manager. This may require additional coordination and communication between the various parties involved to ensure that access to the construction site is properly managed and secured.

It's important for key management to be well-organized and secure, as unauthorized access to a construction site can pose a significant risk to worker safety, equipment and materials, and project timelines. Key management procedures may include measures such as regular key audits, strict access control policies, and ongoing communication with key holders to ensure that keys are not lost or stolen.


Despite all these key management and security practices, unfortunately, theft and vandalism are relatively common problems on construction sites, particularly in urban areas and locations with high levels of crime. Construction sites are often targeted by thieves and vandals because they contain valuable equipment, tools, and materials, and may be relatively easy to access.


According to a report by the National Equipment Register, construction site theft costs the industry an estimated $300 million to $1 billion per year in the United States alone. The most commonly stolen items include small tools, generators, compressors, and other portable equipment, as well as copper wire and piping. Vandalism can also be a significant problem on construction sites, particularly when sites are left unsecured or unmonitored. Vandalism can include damage to buildings, equipment, and vehicles, as well as graffiti and other forms of property damage.


5G IoT smart padlock
5G IoT smart padlock



Metal key padlocks, as well as any other metal key locks, pose a significant challenge to controlling access and preventing theft and vandalism on construction sites. The ease with which metal keys can be copied is a major concern, as anyone can get a copy of the key made for a few dollars at the local hardware store simply by taking a photo of the key with their mobile phone and emailing it to the store. This makes it simple for anyone with a copy of the key to gain unauthorized access to the construction site at any time. Furthermore, there is no way to determine who has accessed the site when metal key padlocks are used. Additionally, most locks can be easily picked with tools available online for a few dollars, or even bumped open with a special bump key also easily purchased online.

The use of metal key padlocks/locks not only proves ineffective in restricting access to construction sites, but it also contributes to the theft problem within storage facilities located inside the construction site. These storage facilities are essential to construction sites, with storage containers, shipping containers, or sheds being the most commonly used types. These storage containers are often made of metal and provide weather-resistant storage for construction site equipment, materials and supplies. Some construction sites also use job site trailers/shipping containers as a combination of office and storage space for equipment, tools, and materials. Larger construction sites may even use off-site warehouses or dedicated storage facilities to store their equipment and materials.

The construction industry can benefit from connected 5G IoT electronic access control systems that use digital keys instead of metal keys on smart padlocks on the front gates and storage units inside. These digital keys can easily be shared online with authorized users only, and their usage can be tracked. They can also be cancelled in an instant remotely in software, and they are fitted with tampering alarms. Construction sites require alarms that can notify site managers if someone attempts to tamper with the padlocks or forces entry. By implementing such new measures with Digital Keys 5G IoT smartlocks, construction sites can significantly reduce the incidence of theft and vandalism, improve security, and ensure that only authorized personnel gain access to the site and its contents.

construction site

Specific scenarios and considerations

Construction sites require secure connected access control solutions that are reliable, easy to use, and do not require a constant source of mains power. While electronic locking solutions such as RFID keycard locks and Wi-Fi connected locks may seem like viable options, they are often not the best choice due to several factors. Firstly, construction sites may not have access to a reliable source of power, particularly in the early stages of the project, making it difficult to operate electronic locks that require onsite power. Additionally, remote construction sites may have unreliable or nonexistent Wi-Fi connectivity, making it difficult to set up and operate Wi-Fi connected locks (ISP accounts must also be setup and paid for).


Furthermore, installing and setting up RFID and Wi-Fi locks can be complex and time-consuming, many requiring cabling and large powered controller boxes for RFID readers or Wi-Fi bridge devices for Wi-Fi locks, and may require ongoing maintenance and updates. This can be challenging on construction sites where time and resources are often limited. Additionally, automated self registration/ access solutions that do not require human interaction on site, such as 24/7 access for truck delivery drivers, should be considered.


Access control solutions should be designed to integrate seamlessly with existing construction management software and manual practices commonly used on construction sites, such as those used for visitor registration. This integration makes it easier for users to manage and use the access control solution. For instance, when a visitor arrives at a construction site, they usually report to a staffed reception area, security checkpoint, or site office, where they provide their name, purpose of visit, photo ID, and sign in a book with their time of arrival and departure. They are then issued an ID badge or pass to wear while on site. It is important that the access control solution does not require users to log in to separate software or wait for manager approvals at the time of entry to get their autorised key. Instead, the access control solution should be supported by a vetting and registration process carried out before anyone arrives on site requiring access, or is automated with a mobile app on site (similar to hotel check-in apps) to ensure that access is granted efficiently and effectively with or without human interaction.



Digital Keys is working with a large US construction company to build a connected access control solution with 5G IoT technology for specific construction sites usage to meet the aforementioned considerations. 5G IoT smart access control solutions are easy to use, require no onsite power or onsite equipment, have long battery life, integrate with existing construction management software and site practices with the Digital Keys API's, and is reliable, and connects 'out of the box'. In addition Digital Keys 5G IoT smart padlock and smart doorlocks connect to the internet, the cloud and other 5G IoT smartlocks over cellular networks or purpose built 5G IoT satellites providing access in remote areas where there is no cellular network coverage.

5G IoT smart padlock on a construction site

Business value


To ensure the safety of workers and prevent unauthorized access, accidents, and theft or vandalism, Occupational Health and Safety guidelines are strictly enforced at construction sites. While metal key padlocks have traditionally been used to control entry and exit points, they have proven to be inadequate for controlling and tracking access, as well as preventing theft and vandalism. In addition metal key management can be time consuming and has many shortcomings. 5G IoT smartlocks offer a more effective solution. By replacing metal key locks with 5G IoT smartlocks construction sites can save time and money spent on key management and increase security by providing connected access control, tracking, and record-keeping, as well as remote monitoring capabilities and integrations with existing construction site management software and practices. Using 5G IoT smartlocks is crucial for restricting and controlling access to construction sites and preventing theft, which costs the industry an estimated $300 million to $1 billion per year in the United States alone.

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