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How to secure care homes and their residents in the 21st century? 

The solution is wireless, user-friendly and already trusted in residences all over Europe

Care homes present many unique security challenges. Above all, a residence needs to feel like an open, welcoming space. It must work for the resident, and provide a pleasant environment to greet family and other visitors. It should be a home, in every sense.

At the same time, managers must ensure security of the site, including its staff, sensitive data, and areas where medicines are kept. If there has been an unauthorised access attempt, staff need to know as soon as possible. When residents have dementia or other complex conditions, it is crucial that care workers can find out where they are at any time. 

That’s why advanced access control — that’s easy for everyone to operate — can have major benefits in a care home. A system that can feed back to site managers in real time, for example, can directly impact quality of care, enabling staff to quickly locate residents, to respond to incidents or problems as soon as they arise, and to organize staff workflows more efficiently, resulting in less staff time wasted handling keys.

The solution is wireless access control

In 2017, old-fashioned mechanical security is not the answer. Managing all those keys puts a huge, unnecessary admin burden on care staff, and finding the right key in a hurry can cause critical delays. In any case, a physical master-key system does not offer the standard of security now required in a modern care home. Mechanical keys cannot enable real-time monitoring or detailed audit trails, so there may be no easy way to trace a resident in an emergency.

Additionally, spending every night under lock-and-key can carry negative associations for elderly residents. But if care home managers introduce new technology, they must also be certain it is easy to operate. Electronic access control must be intelligent, of course. It must also offer a user-friendly and affordable step up from traditional keys. 

Unfortunately, wired access control and magnetic locks are disruptive and expensive to install, and expensive to run in comparison to wireless solutions. In contrast, SMARTair™ battery-powered wireless locks offer modern, easy, cost-effective installation, alongside features designed to put care home managers in more control of their premises.

SMARTair™ intelligent wireless devices provide the easiest upgrade and replacement for mechanical locks — and are just as easy to retrofit to existing premises as to install from scratch on a new-build care home. Simply swapping existing locks for wireless cylinders or escutcheons with integrated card readers links a door to the central admin software, freeing care managers from key hassles, making staff workflows more efficient, and instantly upgrading resident security.

With SMARTair™, lost keys no longer cause a security risk. It takes a few seconds to issue or revoke a keycard, using a computer or a smartphone. There’s no longer any need to change locks when a key goes missing. Reprogram a card and you have a new “key” — instantly — saving the time and money usually wasted on replacing compromised locks. It’s easy to use, and offers audit trails and real-time monitoring as standard. It’s also easy to expand at a later date, so an installation can start small, with a limited security budget, then grow later and adapt to changing security needs.

Unboxing SMARTair™

SMARTair™ wireless access control is available with different management options for administration. With “Offline” or “Update on Card” administration, users’ access rights are updated via wall or programming devices. SMARTair™ Wireless Online administration can give security managers a real-time overview of sensitive areas, including the pharmacy and storage rooms. It’s straightforward to combine Update on Card and Wireless Online functions within the same installation, giving managers the flexible control they need. So, pharmacies can be monitored in real time, while less sensitive storage areas use offline access management.

SMARTair™ has devices to fit any opening, including wireless electronic escutcheons, cylinders and locks that can be installed at any exterior or interior door. Component designs are slim and modern, to blend unobtrusively with any decor. SMARTair™ cabinet and locker locks (e.g. for medicine cabinets), as well as safes, are also tailored for the care home environment. Devices fit all types of access point, with battery-powered escutcheons — plus optional PIN code for an extra layer of security — and cylinders for wood, glass, emergency exit and fire resistant doors, barriers, elevators, and more. SMARTair™ wall readers can monitor resident access to lifts and allow contractors to pass conveniently through car-park barriers, for example.

Users can open SMARTair™-equipped doors with multiple credential types, including tags, bracelets and cards, as well as a mobile app. This makes it easy even for elderly residents with limited dexterity to open their doors or room safes. For extra convenience, this same personalised credential can also be used at vending machines, payment points and other services provided at the home.

Going wireless also saves money. Installation is quick and affordable: no wiring and no cabling means there's no electrician required and no need for decorators to tidy up after contractors. SMARTair™ locks are powered by standard batteries, with easy installation and maintenance. These battery-powered locks maximise energy efficiency, delivering low-energy consumption that saves money and contributes to the sustainability of any premises.

SMARTair™ in action: Pamplona, Spain

SMARTair™ is already deployed in residential care settings across Europe. To assist in the care of over 500 residents, Pamplona’s Casa de la Misericordia demanded a new access system that offered real-time control over the premises. The choice was SMARTair™ Wireless Online.

“In a residence like ours it is critical to have real-time management that allows us to interact with a door at any time,” explains Ernesto Serra, Facility Manager at Casa de la Misericordia.

The system had to be expandable, so it could be installed in 2 phases, starting with a new-build before moving on to a 1930s building. Advanced wireless technology suited to retrofitting an old building was a must-have: the older building has walls up to 1m thick.

“A wireless solution that allows us to install access control without wiring up the buildings is a big advantage,” adds Ernesto Serra.

The new system needed to be scalable, so staff could manage access to the 2 buildings from the same control point, amend access rights instantly, and tailor access privileges to the diverse profiles of staff, residents, volunteers, visitors and emergency workers. The 2-stage project is now complete, and includes 650 additional SMARTair™-enabled doors in the old building.

SMARTair™ in action: Geneva, Switzerland

Les Résidences Notre-Dame is a well-known provider of retirement accommodation in Geneva — and yet another care home that’s switched to SMARTair™. Because the system supports complex, individually tailored authorizations, every site user has access only to appropriate areas. While trained medical staff can enter all rooms, as well as areas where medical supplies are kept, for example, a resident’s credential will only open the door to their own room and the common areas. 

Access rights can be programmed, amended or deleted remotely and immediately, a function that’s helpful when smart cards or other credentials are lost. Instant reprogramming also enables care staff to address urgent needs and to resolve incidents right away.

Staff and residents also appreciated the ease with which SMARTair™ was installed. Residents experienced minimal disruption to their daily routines. No special wiring around the door is required, as new escutcheons were mounted directly onto the existing mechanical locks. 

And because SMARTair™ puts ease of operation at the heart of its design, even completely non-technical users at Notre-Dame can work the new system without difficulty.

There is no access control trade-off between simplicity and security. With SMARTair™ wireless locks, care homes can have both, by installing a system that saves staff time, eliminates key management hassles, and makes residents safer and more secure.

ASSA ABLOY offers SMARTair™ worldwide under several brands, including TESA, Mul-T-Lock, JPM, KESO, FAB, ASSA, RUKO, TRIOVING and LIPS. 


For more information on how SMARTair™ access control is helping to protect the care homes of the future, visit www.tesa.es/smartair-residentialcare.


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