Securing electrical boxes and cabinets with 5G IoT smartlocks
Electricity companies are seeking connected electronic access control solutions with smart locks, digital keys and tampering alarms that are versatile enough to fit into various boxes and cabinets, and which don't bring further drains on the electricity grid.
Electricity company technicians typically begin their day by picking up keys and equipment from a central office or depot, and then travel to different locations throughout the day to service electrical equipment in transformer cabinets and meter boxes. At the end of the day, they return any equipment or keys to the central office or depot. The amount of time spent driving to these locations can vary depending on distance, traffic, and road conditions. This process can be costly and wasteful for electrical companies, as technicians may spend hours everyday traveling just to pick up and return keys. The median hourly wage for electrical company technicians was between $40.33 - $68.60 as of May 2020, so the 'metal key' costs to the electrical company can easily add up and unfortunately be passed on to customers in the form of higher rates or fees.
Copper theft is another significant and costly problem for electrical companies. According to a report by the Copper Development Association, copper theft costs the US economy between $1 billion and $4 billion annually, with electrical utilities being one of the industries most affected. Electricity companies face both direct and indirect costs of repairing or replacing stolen copper and damaged equipment, lost productivity, increased security measures, and higher insurance premiums.
In addition to copper theft, electricity companies may face other types of theft that can result in significant financial losses. Equipment such as transformers, wires, breakers, and capacitors are common theft targets and they are expensive to replace and can cause power outages and service disruptions if stolen. Unfortunately, some theft can occur from within the company, such as theft of equipment, fuel, or materials by employees.
In order to safeguard electrical equipment like wires, splicers, fuses, switches, and fiber optic cables, electricity companies must secure a variety of boxes and cabinets located on streets. These cabinets are available in various shapes and sizes, ranging from small boxes mounted on concrete pads at ground level, similar in size to a few pizza boxes, to Fiber Distribution Hub cabinets that can be as big as hatchback cars. Transformer cabinets, junction boxes, switchgear cabinets, and sometimes even cabinets housed inside street light poles are other types of cabinets. Meter boxes installed on the side of homes and businesses that house electric meters, which measure the amount of electricity consumed by the occupants, also require secure locks.
The security of these boxes and cabinets is crucial to ensure the reliability and continuity of the electricity grid. Depending on the number of customers it serves, an electricity company may have tens of thousands or even millions of these boxes and cabinets. Southern California Edison (SCE), for instance, serves more than 15 million people across a 50,000 square mile service area, making it one of the largest electricity companies in the United States with a vast network of millions of cabinets and boxes that are critical for delivering electricity to its customers.
The most commonly used locks for securing electricity company boxes and cabinets are padlocks. They come in various sizes and strengths and can be used with hasps, chains, brackets, u-shaped metal pieces on doors/sides of cabinets, or other locking mechanisms. Cam locks are another type of lock frequently used to secure electricity company boxes and cabinets, and they are simple to install, available in various sizes, and can be used with a key or combination code, or secured from moving with a padlock. Mortise locks with long handles and electronic locks are other types of locks used, although they are not as prevalent as padlocks and cam locks. Sometimes, other security measures such as security cameras, alarms, and physical barriers like fences or gates (secured again with padlocks or other locks) may also be used to secure the boxes and cabinets.
Electricity companies are seeking connected electronic access control solutions with smart locks that are versatile enough to fit into various boxes and cabinets, and which don't bring further drains on the electricity grid. The solutions must enable the creation and easy sharing of digital keys online to authorised users, instead of traditional metal keys, and include tampering alarms. Additionally, the system should integrate with other security features such as CCTV. For instance, if someone tries to break into a cabinet or box, the smart lock can automatically communicate with the backend platform to turn on nearby CCTV systems, even in remote areas where constant electricity usage for CCTV is unnecssary. The backend can then send the CCTV images directly to the local authorities.
Digital Keys is collaborating with electricity companies to introduce their 5G IoT smart padlocks and smart mortise door locks, which are suitable for use on various cabinets and boxes. These smart locks replace existing cam locks with a special cam lock padlock holder, which prevents the camlock from turning open when the padlock is in place.
The smart locks are battery-powered and have a lifespan of up to two years, placing no extra strain on the power grid or local power boxes. Additionally, the smart locks have a sleep mode function that helps to conserve battery power. They only wake up when they receive unlock commands or when data needs to be extracted from the lock, such as who opened it and at what time.
The smart locks are fitted with tampering alarms, and their inbuilt sensors detect any unusual vibrations or movements, instantly sending notifications to managers or local security firms. On certain sites, the tampering alarm sensors of the smart locks are integrated into the backend platform and connected to local CCTV, which are triggered in the event of a potential break-in.
Electricity companies have implemented Digital Keys APIs into their task scheduling/ticketing software, enabling them to add a 'generate and email digital key' button to their job details. Once a technician's job has been scheduled by administration officers, they simply press the button next to the job details, and the technician receives their digital key instantly on their mobile phone. The digital key only works once and provides access to the required boxes and cabinets. If the technician is not comfortable using the digital keys app, they simply ring up the administrator of the digital keys software, who hits the remote unlock button to the padlock, so they can access the box/cabinet.
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Public toilets use case
Hospital storage use case
Patients may also be vulnerable to theft if they are incapacitated or have limited mobility, and storing metal keys for locked cabinets on their person with hospital gowns is difficult.
Shipping containers use case
The logistics industry faces various challenges, including security and tracking issues with shipping containers. 5G IoT smart padlocks aim to address these challenges.