Natalie Bourne at Southco, describes how the use of advanced technologies are improving the functionality and physical security of self-service systems.

In the world of kiosks, self-service equipment and ATMs, software is typically a top design priority. Integrating advanced access technology can significantly enhance products and gain the competitive advantage.

New materials and manufacturing techniques have surpassed conventional cylinder locks and transformed latches, hinges, handles and levers from purely functional elements to  actually being able to boost an enclosure’s operation and physical security.

Intelligent electronic access systems, linked to the system’s software, can provide advanced ‘vending’ functionality. Activated by purchase requests, they can manage complex transactions – beyond simple inventory – that require multiple steps for goods of various dimensions, as well as the return of used stock to the machine.

The devices can also control access to enclosures for service and maintenance and provide audit trails of all such activity. With this kind of intelligence, owners can manage their self-service systems more efficiently, and it can be done remotely.

Access hardware should be evaluated by how it can contribute to an enclosure’s functionality and security. The latest generation of electronic access systems (EAS) comprise internal and flush-mounted hardware that can help eliminate pry points and resist damage by vandalism.

Enclosures are most vulnerable during regular replenishment and repairs, and access solutions that can shorten the time an enclosure is open will significantly reduce security risks.

Detent hinges will hold access panels, doors and cover plates securely open or closed and constant-torque position-control hinges will securely hold at any desired position in the hinge’s operational arc. This enables service technicians to work without having to hold panels open.

With advances in technology, the average price-point of kiosk and vending transactions is creeping upwards. This is closing the gap between their traditional lower security needs and the high-level security used on ATMs and causing many vending and kiosk owners to specify the latest ATM-style electronic access technology.

Regardless of the application, having a good understanding of electronic access technology options will help engineers and other system designers, incorporate the right solution into their enclosure design.

The demand for more

The heart of the most robust electronic access system is a reliable, electromechanical lock or latch (EML). Ultimately, the EML design influences system electrical requirements, physical security, installation options and the industrial design of the overall system.

Today’s EMLs are vandal-resistant devices with built-in intelligence and mechanical override options. Incorporating gear motor drives that provide higher load capabilities using less power than previous latches, they reduce a kiosk’s overall energy useage.

The human interface is an important component of access control because it controls the interaction between ­customers and service personnel with the system. A wide variety of devices are available, from simple stand-alone keypads to radio frequency (RF) remote-control systems and sophisticated biometric readers.

A remote monitoring or a networked solution is the final piece to a fully electronic access solution. It provides an added level of security for sensitive and high-value assets.

Each time an EML opens or closes, a signal is sent to a remote monitoring system to confirm and log access, leaving an ‘electronic signature’ and creating an audit trail of the event.

For example, electronic locking rotary latches or swing handles contain sensors and multiple output signals that provide data for both local and remote monitoring. This makes them ideal for ATMs and vending machines with high-value inventory.

Retrofitting is an important issue in the continuing development of EML technology and EMLs offer a full range of retrofit options to update the security and control of existing enclosures, whether they are fitted with mechanical or electrical access solution. Many EMLs are backward compatible with existing EAS infrastructure.

While wireless options are in development, the majority of near-term innovations are focused on minimising wiring and broadening compatibility.

As with any energy-consuming device, efficiency is an area of access control technology for continuous improvement. The goal is to use minimal power while releasing under higher mechanical operating loads and resisting higher mechanically applied loads from vandals.

More efficient electro-mechanics have enabled battery-operated solutions that minimise wiring and reliance on separate power supplies.

By giving careful consideration to hardware that controls and affects access to enclosures, designers of self-service systems can achieve a greater return on their investments through improved control, increased functionality and reduced asset loss.