Interview with TowerXchange: Latest perspective

TowerXchange just released an interview with Sera4, with latest insights on access control in the tower and telecom markets. If you are not a TowerXchange subscriber, get in touch with us and we’ll send you a copy.

Sera4 featured in National Post

Sera4 is featured as an EDC success story in today’s print edition of the National Post. The online version can be found here.

American Tower selects Sera4 for Latin America Perimeter Security

Sera4 has announced that they are equipping American Tower Corporation sites in Latin America with their Teleporte access control solution and AP3 Armoured Padlock for perimeter access control at sites throughout Latin America. The Teleporte solution, together with Sera4 padlocks and controllers, provide a truly keyless access management solution, solving a longstanding operational issue regarding physical keys. Locks can be opened securely through anyone’s modern mobile phone and the identity of the person entering the site is automatically recorded.

Sera4 AP3 padlocks are designed for outdoor use at remote sites. With a 10mm guarded shackle, AP3 provides a formidable level of physical robustness. With a 5-year expected battery life and convenient battery changes, the AP3 padlocks and very low impact on maintenance programs.

“Teleporte helps tower companies streamline their operations as they no longer have to get physical keys or cards to anyone who needs to access sites that can be geographically isolated”, says David Coode, CEO at Sera4.

Product Introduction: Armored Padlock

Today, Sera4 announces AP3,  an armoured padlock for easy deployment of keyless security anywhere. AP3 has features which were designed specifically for telecom towers, such as chain link tether points and an internal battery that typically lasts 5 years before needing replacement.  The AP3 body is designed for the abuses of years of outdoor and remote real-world use. The body is chrome-plated, making it very resistant to saws and drills. The AP3 is water-resistant with an IP66 rating, which is good for all non-submersible applications. The silicone cover adds a final layer of protection.

AP3 is sampling now and shipping in volume in the second quarter of 2018.

Product Introduction: MX5

Today, Sera4 announces MX5, our next generation of telecom cabinet and shelter lock controllers for critical infrastructure protection. MX5 improves on all aspects of the MXv4 controller that it replaces: it is smaller, consumes less power, and can accommodate more lock types. MX5 also comes with independent cable sets to make installation and any future repairs much easier.

MX5 is sampling now and shipping in volume in the first quarter of 2018.

Smart tech is the smart choice so long as it’s well-engineered

A few weeks ago, we learned about Amazon’s ambitious plans for Amazon Key. Amazon Key is a solution that allows Amazon delivery people to leave packages inside the home rather than outside the door. They do this by converting traditional door locks to smartlocks, which can be accessed by Amazon when needed. A camera is included to monitor the drop offs. I expect that Amazon has done their market research; They know that some consumers will prefer the risk of giving Amazon access to their home over the risk that packages could go missing. Additionally, the service avoids the inconvenience of having to wait at home for deliveries  This is the same tradeoff between operational efficiency and security that Sera4 solves for industrial infrastructure.

Smartlock security was put to the test at last year’s DEFCON conference, where hackers try to break security. Twelve out of sixteen tested smartlocks were hacked within 15 minutes using simple digital equipment. I had hoped that this would send a message to our industry to take security more seriously. Unfortunately, Amazon’s newly-released smartlock system has already been hacked. Although the current vulnerabilities don’t show how to unlock someone’s house without authorization, the security holes destroy trust in the video surveillance that is a core component of the Amazon Key system. I don’t feel confident to put this on my front door. I doubt anyone wants a lock on their house that let hackers walk in, no matter how “smart” the feature list appears.

Designing secure smartlocks is not easy. It requires both physical security and logical security. People have been designing for physical security for centuries. We’ve largely figured out how to do that. Designing for secure wireless control is a new area, where many designers are still just learning. It’s not surprising that they overlook things.  Security is Sera4’s specialty. Since we don’t aim to get our products in residential front doors, I hope that someone else brings secure residential smartlocks to market soon. If not, adoption is going to be very slow, or we’re going to have a lot of unexpected burglaries in the near future.

The Eternal Struggle: Security versus Efficiency

It is a struggle we all know well, we need to decide whether we want to be efficient or secure. Of course in an ideal world it won’t be choice between the two, however it often is. Even something as simple as working with a contractor when you aren’t available can be difficult.

There are a few options, none of which are ideal;

  • You make sure someone is always around or available – secure but time consuming and inconvenient
  • You make a key copy to give to them – efficient, less secure, and then you still need to keep track of that extra key. In many cases you can’t make copies of security keys.
  • You leave your key somewhere – efficient but not safe as anyone could find it, and then you need to worry about how to get it back so you can access the site.

This is also if there is only one level of security, looking at more secure sites with multiple layers you get further inefficiencies. People lose their keys and access cards, and forgo security measures all the time. Reissuing key cards is time consuming and having to rekey multiple sites is expensive. On top of that when something takes 30 seconds without security but takes 10 minutes with security measures, you can guess what a lazy or malicious employee will eventually do.

There is also the added issue that unless someone is always around you have no idea who is coming and going. You also have no idea if they secure the site, when they leave, or how long they stayed. As a result you are losing time and money no matter what option you choose. If you make it too easy to access people can hack into the system and remotely open locks. When none of the options are great it can be difficult to justify spending a lot to receive so little peace of mind in return.

At Sera4 our goal is to eliminate this struggle through modern technology, and to do it for remote infrastructures that face harsh or unique environments. Every time the lock is opened or closed it is recorded in an audit log so you can keep track of exactly who has been where and for how long. Users can reset their own passwords if they forget, the app is password-protected in case your phone gets lost or stolen, and you can only see and open locks if you are near the locks. We provide a platform that works with whatever phone you already have, and doesn’t allow remote access. We believe that anyone opening a lock should be physically present at the lock, just like with a traditional key. Our architecture choice to only open locks on short-range wireless connections radically reduces the risk of a hacking threat without affecting the practical use of a Teleporte system.

En Sera4 también hablamos Español

Cómo ingeniero en telecomunicaciones y electrónica, trabajar en un startup de un país diferente al tuyo es un gran reto. Tomando en cuenta que la matriz está en Canadá, se vuelve esencial la adaptación a un idioma y una cultura diferente; pero nada de esto es un obstáculo cuando te encuentras colaborando con personas extraordinarias, en una empresa que ingresa al mercado Mexicano con un producto innovador; donde el trabajo constante se gana la confianza de los clientes para demostrar la efectividad de su tecnología.

Brindando soporte a usuarios me a dado la oportunidad de conocer mejor nuestras soluciones, ya que conozco de primera mano los problemas que se presentan en el día a día. Las solicitudes de los clientes son diversas, y me agrada saber que podemos modificar nuestros productos para cumplir con sus expectativas. Nuestro tiempo de respuesta para resolver los problemas de los usuarios es casi siempre inmediato, lo cual genera una grata experiencia para la persona que usa nuestros productos.

Nuestro servicio técnico del dia a dia resuelve varios tipos de problemas que se puedan presentar; desde el simple olvido de una contraseña, hasta problemas más complejos de hardware en las cerraduras. Nuestro servicio eficiente nos ha dado la oportunidad de mejorar continuamente para que las incidencias más comunes no se vuelvan a presentar.

Mi trabajo va más allá de los tecnico ya que he formado parte de las negociaciones con futuros nuevos cliente para conocer de ellos directamente sus requerimientos. Con estas especificaciones creamos maquetas que llevan a la instalación de demos en campo para que los clientes tengan la oportunidad de utilizar el producto.

Como Mexicano es emocionante colaborar en una empresa con estas características, y poder formar parte un equipo altamente calificado e innovador; y así contribuir al desarrollo de tecnologías de punta de control acceso.

 

Written by: Joel Gonzalez

Being a Co-op at Sera4 – August 2017

As a 2nd year engineering student from the University of Waterloo, there is a lot to be offered when working at a start up like Sera4 as a co-op. To start, specializing in hardware and firmware development allows me to be directly involved in all aspects of the product. With limited industry experience, working alongside tech gurus has been the hallmark of my experience. There is never a dull moment, as the small company size allows us to understand and appreciate everyone in the office. This means that I have exposure to all aspects of running a business. I am invited to participate in business decisions, product specifications, and various other decision-making tasks not normally exposed to co-ops.

On the technical side, my direct involvement in the next-generation MX controller from the start has been an eye opener to the complexity of control systems and it has taught me the essentials of designing circuit boards. Working with a Senior Systems Engineer, “Captain Hardware,” I have had exposure to industry standards, and best practices that a university degree simply can not provide. What makes this experience truly aspiring is that I am not treated as an co-op, rather an engineering employee. My opinion is not optional, but required, a quality that sets aside this co-op position apart from all others.

Worth around $113 billion as of 2015 [1], the security IoT market has become essential to the success of the IoT industry. With a projected $36.95 billion growth by 2021 [2], this industry offers an array of diverse and challenging career opportunities. Sera4 is striving to capture a portion of this market, and is quickly becoming a company on larger cooperation’s radars. Being an engineering co-op at Sera4, I have the opportunity to be part of a dynamic and highly motivated team that drives innovation in access control technology.

With continuous technological advances, consumers and enterprises have increase operation costs with more expensive assets bought each day. This means that there is a need for consumers and enterprises to feel insured and secure about their assets. Having access control to monitor what goes in and out does just that. Creating smarter, more efficient, and innovative solutions to solve the growing problems is exactly the industry to be in.

Written by: Raj Mody

Why Businesses Need to Retire the Master Key

At Sera4, we make physical assets easily accessible to people who need to get to them, while keeping them safeguarded from others. Many of the companies we help are working to solve a problem with theft and vandalism. I was surprised when I learned that in almost all cases, the majority of theft was from people who were entrusted with a key.

The companies we work with want to protect sensitive points in a network or service. To do this, they build physical walls around these sensitive points and put locks on the doors. Access is given out to the people who help maintain, facilitate, and run these points. This could be a large employee base, or a contractor force.

From here, companies have faced a choice. They can either choose to maintain their security by limiting the number of keys that are distributed, which becomes inefficient in having to pass physical keys, or they make multiple copies of a key.  Most companies opt for speed and efficiency over maximum security. They elect to trust the employees and contractors who have signed contracts, and issue them all keys. In extreme cases, all the locks are keyed to the same cylinder or all combination locks are set to the same sequence.  Thus, the Master Key. While it is a simple and easy solution for access control, the employees and contractors are now aware that their colleagues also have the same keys they do.

A desperate contractor or employee finds courage behind the curtain by anonymity. They reason that they can steal with low risk because they know that when the company discovers a problem, they will hide in a sea of others who are all holding the key that opened the door. And usually, they are right. Add to this that putting something behind lock & key adds to perceived value, and maybe there is more theft with the locks on than with no locks at all.

With smartphone-based access control, anonymity is removed. Anyone who opens a lock is reliably identified by their phone.  This removal of anonymity has been proven to dramatically reduce the occurrence of theft. Since the black market value of the things that are stolen is just pennies on the dollar, I think there is an opportunity here for everyone involved to come out ahead.