Abloy UK recently hosted a roundtable event, gathering together influential figures from the energy sector to discuss the security challenges faced by the industry in protecting critical physical assets. From speaking with key stakeholders, a number of common concerns were raised, as well as shared requirements for any potential future access control upgrades.
Although great emphasis is placed on online security, energy businesses should not overlook physical security measures as controlled access of personnel is vital to protect areas and valuable assets.
Keys still provide practical access to critical assets, not just for areas such as overhead lines, underground cables, gas pipes and transformers, but also to offices housing servers that hold customer data. The danger is that organisations don’t know how many keys they have in circulation, or where they are at any given time.
The continuation of services is a critical issue for energy organisations, as homes and business rely on power being available whenever needed. Suppliers can get fined for lost customer minutes, and downtime can severely damage a brands reputation.
What’s more, suppliers must maintain positive relationships with a range of key stakeholders – not just customers, but investors too. For privately owned companies, attracting potential investors and meeting current investors’ expectations is vital too.
We are living in the age of Big Data, where information can be analysed for insights that lead to better decisions and business strategies. For energy organisations, having a connected access control system that enables the business to operate more efficiently can be hugely beneficial.
Audit trails of who entered a particular location at what time provides an added layer of security, and make staff and contractors accountable for their movements around premises, remote sites and assets.
What’s more, The Energy Data Taskforce, commissioned by the UK Government, Ofgem, and Innovate UK, has recently recommended the Energy System becomes more digitalised. This includes maximising the value and visibility of data, along with coordination of asset registration and visibility of infrastructure and assets, so it’s clear that data is top of the agenda at present.
Energy organisations must protect assets from an operational point of view, but protection must be given from a health and safety perspective too. This means making sure the general public are safe, as well as ensuring the safety of contractors and staff.
Protection against dangers covers a vast array of areas, and could range from making sure access is restricted to areas containing live equipment to having a failsafe in place should there be a gas leak. This means having high security mechanical access control measures in place, regardless of any connectivity or integration.
For staff and contractors, it’s important that access is only given to employees who are trained and competent to work in a particular area or with a certain asset.
For example, access should be restricted for those not qualified to work on high voltages or with particular gas pipes and infrastructure.
There needs to be compliance from a regulatory point of view, so there are no shortcuts taken, and people need to be trained and equipped to ensure zero harm comes to employees and contractors.
One of the biggest concerns when specifying an access control system is reliability, and if the system works effectively. If a contractor arrives to site to find they can’t gain access it can negatively impact the speed in which the issue is resolved, and also add to carbon emissions with repeat trips increasing mileage and costs.
There is greater security to be had from using products manufactured by a large global organisation that has invested heavily in product development and testing, plus offers aftercare support. For example, a product may have a range of digital connectivity benefits, but does the physical lock still perform well in harsh environments?
Evolution of a system is also highly desirable to future proof the technology. Introducing a solution that integrates with other systems such as permit to work, and workflow management systems can add significant value.
We know it’s important to secure assets from physical attack and unauthorised access, and manage health and safety to protect the general public, contractors and staff. But with the same system, through integration organisations can start to bring operational savings and efficiencies that have never been see before.
With the upcoming RIIO-2 encouraging network companies to truly innovate to reduce network costs for consumers, as well as invest efficiently to ensure continued safe and reliable services and deliver a low carbon economy and wider environmental objectives, system integration could hold the key to success in this area.
With all these points in mind, Abloy UK offers proven locking and access control solutions that provide a high level of both physical protection, and data protection using only accredited software and infrastructure providers.
One example of this is PROTEC2 CLIQ, an electronic key system where the minimal power that is needed is retained by the key. This means no wiring is required, whether the system uses door cylinders, cabinet locks or padlocks – a secure access solution for virtually any type of asset.
Users have secure access to the online management application from anywhere in the world and can change key access permissions, profiles, schedules and validity, even revoking their use virtually at the ‘CLIQ’ of a button.
CLIQ keys can be validated every five minutes or hour, to daily, weekly or monthly keeping them continuously secure, and users are required to change their password every three months.
The CLIQ system enables an energy organisation to comprehensively track and audit who has access to which locations and assets, when they had access and how often. Access can be granted only at the exact moment it is required, mitigating the risk associated with lost or stolen keys.
What’s more, Abloy uses accredited software and infrastructure providers that provide enterprise level SaaS solutions, compliant with European and National standards for physically secure key systems.
Abloy also uses the latest techniques to secure its customers’ data behind three factor authentications, standard 256-bit encryption, advanced encryption and industry standard SHA-2 SSL certificates.
CLIQ can help reduce customer lost minutes, allowing businesses to respond quicker get the right contractors to the right place to resolve any issues and get services running again.
Plus, it can be automated with employee Permit to Work registers when the employee attempts to use a smart key or fob to open the lock to a work site, it can check to see if they have the necessary permissions in place, including competencies to carry out the work.
CLIQ has been used for nearly twenty years, and has evolved new features in line with the needs of Abloy customers. Developments such as CLIQ OS mapping, allowing easy visualisation of sites and locking points and the CLIQ Connect App for easy updating and access requests on the move, so the sky really is the limit as CLIQ continues to grow and add value to customers, maintaining high security with improved efficiencies.