Modern Cloud Solutions Make On-Premise Deployments Obsolete

In the old days, computer programs ran on a computer. This makes perfect sense in the era where the computer was a standalone machine. The first server applications are the same: they ran on a specific server – a computer in a server room somewhere that was a single point of failure. If there was a power outage, a network outage, a cyber-attack or a fire where that one server was, it was a major crisis. On-premise deployments follow this outdated paradigm.

Modern cloud services are different. Let’s take Teleporte Cloud as an example. We take advantage of the ubiquity of the Internet. We split all the small computing tasks that build the whole service into what are called microservices

Microservices

Microservices don’t live in just one place. They are distributed and self-healing and adapt to disruptions in network infrastructure. They also exist fairly independent of place: microservices are hosted across the globe and any one of a multitude of identical stateless microservices on the Teleporte network can service a request. It’s not just a routine running on one physical computer anymore. As a Canadian company we serve our clients in Tierra Del Fuego and Malawi with exactly the same high reliability we serve clients in New York. Technically speaking, we operate to a 2N+1 redundancy standard.

Modern network infrastructure also isn’t like it was a decade ago. There isn’t one point of failure or one cable that someone might haphazardly cut with a backhoe. Of course network damage happens from time to time, but with a distributed microservice architecture our users don’t notice as the system adapts around it.

Service Reliability

Proper cloud services design and network monitoring are critical components of a high-reliability solution. At Sera4 we do all the coding and quality assurance for Teleporte Cloud in-house. More importantly, we build our own monitoring tools that ensure network health and service availability. We monitor service availability with this tool, globally and 24/7. 

Sera4's internal network health monitoring tool
Part of Sera4’s internal live network health monitoring dashboard

Of course, a network administrator will need a general connection to the internet to work. Fortunately, these are often redundant with wired, wifi and cellular options to reach the internet. Like any good modern web interface today, we design our admin consoles to work on monitors found in network operations centers and equally on the small screens of our mobile phones. 

Reminder: Teleporte keys work and log activity as usual in case of a network outage.

Perhaps the last major concern is cybersecurity. Modern cloud solutions are definitely more secure (and certainly more carefree) than an on-premise solution. As new threats emerge, our systems update automatically to minimize risk. We keep everything updated to work with new phone models as well.  From DDOS avoidance to load-balancing, we design the solution to be fully resilient.

Of course, we’d love to show off how this can work for you and why you don’t have to worry about racking another server in order to get the best of keyless access control. Request a demo with us to take the next step.

When Subscription Models Make Sense

We encourage anyone buying a product or service to think critically about why it may be sold by subscription. In some cases, the subscription is tied to consumables. In other cases, the subscription is tied to access to content (like streaming services). Sometimes, it’s just a supplier who did the financial calculus and forces it for the shareholder returns.  

subscription screen on tablet - access control

In other cases, such as with our cloud-enabled access control software platform Teleporte, it’s tied to constant updates to keep up with phone models, security updates, and real-time support for your operational peace of mind. We continue to add value over the lifetime of the subscription, and our customers choose us over other solutions because of this added value. 

We believe that our Teleporte subscriptions are valuable for the advanced features that are possible with keyless systems. We also believe that there is far more value for our customers in these systems than the price of the subscription. For customers who agree with this, they will continue with Teleporte Enterprise or Standard.  

For customers who don’t see the value, or customers who simply have budgets cut (like many of our municipal customers did at the start of the pandemic), then we have Teleporte Basic. It’s free, and allows the locks to maintain basic keyless access functionality, but they otherwise behave like mechanical locks, with no reporting and no advanced features. It’s our way of providing assurance that we’re never going to hold you (or your property) hostage. 

We sell new hardware with a minimum one-year Teleporte Enterprise or Standard subscription. We want our customers to have some time with a subscription package to experience the value to their application and organization, and then make an informed decision whether to renew. We also offer packages for customers who prefer to just pay once, up-front.  

Selling a one-time purchase can be easy. Keeping loyal customers, who renew their subscriptions, requires a different level of service, reliability, and product quality. We want our customers to love, value, and renew their Teleporte subscriptions, and we do the work to keep them happy.  

We see good reasons for some offerings to be structured as subscriptions. Ultimately, the decision on whether a subscription is a good value and a smart buy is up to the customer. In our view, it’s really important that the structure and costs of an offering is clearly explained in advance, so that the customer can make an informed decision.  

If you’d like to learn more about Teleporte and our access control hardware solutions, book a demo at https://www.sera4.com/demo/

We sell identity (not just access control)

Security. Reliability. Scalability. These are all things that we’re proud to provide to our customers, and that our customers have come to rely on. One thing we don’t talk about enough is identity. We have a suite of hardware and software solutions to help utilities, telecom, oil & gas, and other industries provide access control to their assets and critical infrastructure. But that’s not really what we’re selling. We’re selling identity intelligence, and we think it’s the most important thing we do.

The basics of identity intelligence are easy to understand: you want to know who’s accessing your assets, and when. That’s why our customers choose Sera4 over other types of access control solutions—in addition to high-quality wireless padlocks that eliminate the inherent challenges of traditional keys, Sera4 provides insights into which individuals are accessing your critical infrastructure, when they’re accessing it, and how long they’re staying.

Hand holding phone showing Sera4 access control app

These types of insights are useful for three reasons. First, and most simply, people behave better when they know they are being identified. We’ve found that vandalism on a telecom site is reduced by 60-80% when a person is tagged on site, and is held accountable for what happens while they’re there. Even when you have no bad actors in your organization or contractor network, that level of accountability helps ensure that individuals clean up and lock up the way they’re expected to.

Second, keyless locks provide automatic, real-time audit trails, eliminating the need for manual logs that are frequently subject to human error. For businesses that require audit trails for their own security or for certifications like ISO 9001, keyless locks provide much easier collection of these activity logs.

And third, and maybe most interestingly, is that once you know who is accessing controlled assets when, and how long they’re staying, you can learn a lot about processes in your organization, and how to optimize them and make them more efficient. This is why we released Work Sessions; using Teleporte, our customers can understand the flow of on site work, and gain insight into how long specific components of a process take.

Screenshot of Sera4 access control dashboard with map and audit log

Regularly analyzing audit trails and entry/exit data allows you to create a baseline for how long specific jobs take, and use that information to make better decisions. For example, these insights can help you define scope of work and billing with contractors. They can help you reconcile invoices for work performed—in fact, one of our customers is considering adding opening and closing the Sera4 lock to the SOP for all contractors, so he can analyze the data and find areas for improvement. The insights from Teleporte can also help you determine the capacity of and forecast changes for your workforce.

Our solutions allow our customers to manage identity across any number of sites, in any location, at scale. Whether you need 10 locks and keys, or 10,000, we provide a complete feature set and predictable, transparent pricing. If you’d like to see our solution in action, or learn more about how our customers are using Sera4 to safeguard their most critical assets, contact us.

Hidden Access Control: Security through Obscurity

Sometimes the best way to protect something is to hide it.

To some people, a keyhole or a padlock or a handle on something will act as a public notice that reads Valuables Inside. Those who are motivated to steal notice these signals. And when they’re identified by those people, they can tell the story about how to break them at a glance.

With keyless access, you can design a more secure system to protect your assets with a fully hidden mechanism. Imagine how the hood of your car opens, and you’ll have a good idea of what we mean. With a Sera4 Lock Controller, you can design a door, a panel or other secure hinged compartment that pops open by the touch of a smartphone. A door like this is more secure because it’s more hidden. It won’t have a handle, a keyhole, a padlock or other signals that it opens. And even when somebody might want to break in, it’s not clear where or how to start an attack.

Vertical Infrastructure: AX5 controlling access on a smart light pole.

5G demands denser networks in urban areas. This means that communications equipment is being installed in places like fake trees, park benches and lamp posts. These are places where people aren’t expecting to find anything valuable, and keeping access points obscure keeps them out of sight and out of mind. The only way to tell that there is an access point is to check with the Teleporte app on your phone.

Reliability

In the unfortunate event of a system failure, a door without a handle can be a difficult thing to open. The most common type of failure is a power failure: dead batteries. This is where our Access Pad can help. It provides a power connector (for a common 9V battery) to conveniently and discreetly power a dead system to get it open. In the rare case of a radio or app incompatibility, the Access Pad enables our Failsafe Unlock feature.

Sera4 Access Pad

With the latest technology, access points can be designed to be more secure and look better at the same time.

Please reach out to us. Each application is a little bit unique. We’d love to discuss how we can help conceal your access points.

How Teleporte achieves Scale, Security & Reliability

Our own Jeff Klink is interviewed by SiliconAngle at Kubecon 2020 and authored an article in InformationAge, sharing how Teleporte Cloud is designed for scale, security and reliability. Both pieces focus on Sera4’s leading transformation into a distributed microservices cloud architecture, with some recommendations for others who want to follow us.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You (Webhooks Are Here)

With every security component added into a critical infrastructure, comes the inherent need for information, automation and control. As the number of critical components in your infrastructure grow, so does complexity and the necessity to stream information as it happens. Integrators and clients are now looking to being on the receiving end of data in real time in order to provide critical dashboard updates. We’ve listened and we’ve delivered.

With Teleporte Cloud server 3.5, we have added a critical component to our API capabilities: the concept of webhooks. In a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” manner, Teleporte Cloud is now capable of calling your secure endpoint with real-time data concerning events that are happening inside your system. Webhooks are to APIs as fuel is to a fire; they can ignite your integrations and get your organization on the receiving end of updates as they happen. Remember, polling APIs is so 1990’s, go real-time by enabling webhooks.

To better understand what the difference between an API and Webhooks are, consider this simple analogy:

APIs are request based. They are useful for pulling data on demand.
Webhooks are event-based. They are useful for receiving critical events when they happen.

API + Webhooks = Complete Automation Capabilities

Teleporte Cloud now supports webhooks that can be configured for updates to important events (such as the creation or deletion of digital keys), access requests to locks and even the creation, deletion or update of system users. As an example, if you’re looking to know that ‘administrator X with email [email protected] created a digital key to lock 21, on site B that is valid from Tuesday at 9am to Tuesday at 5pm’ as it happens, then webhooks are your holy grail! Get on top of and react quicker to events happening in your infrastructure by enabling webhooks.

Feel free to ask us about our Slack integration. Our webhooks support Slack out of the box and can have your team seeing the benefits of webhooks within seconds.

Get more details about webhooks at https://apidocs.sera4.com or contact us to discuss how you can get webhooks working for you.

High-Security Keyless

In protecting your assets, there is always a tradeoff between convenience and security. For example, when you go into your office every day, you want to get in through the main doors without any delay.  But when the asset requires the highest security,  added rigour such as additional security checks are necessary.

The vault application is a good example of how keyless solutions are catching up with old standards for addressing high-security requirements.

  • Vaults often include locks whereby 2 keys are required and placed more than 6 feet apart. Two individuals, each of whom have their own unique key, must open the lock at the same time for the door to open. This approach prevents a single rogue actor from opening a door when they do not have authorized access
  • Another high-security standard opens a door after several minutes of unlock delay. This delay, connected with alarms, is a strong deterrent for criminals. They know that law enforcement will be coming while they are waiting for the door to open.

Bringing these features to Keyless

Sera4 has released Teleporte Cloud server 3.5 and Teleporte Mobile application 5.2. All Teleporte Enterprise customers now have access to high-security protocols to match the use cases above. 

  • The new Multi-Authentication Unlock feature requires two or more users to unlock a lock. Each user has their own key for that one lock and each user must issue the unlock command to the same lock. The lock only opens after all required users try to open the lock on their own account.
  • The new Delayed Open feature can be enabled on a lock-by-lock basis. The administrator can configure the delay. When someone unlocks a Sera4 lock in the Teleporte Mobile application, it will open only after the specified delay.

At Sera4, we envision a fully keyless world. With these innovations, we bring keyless benefits to the highest-security applications, such as vaults. We expect that there will be many applications for these new features that we haven’t even imagined yet.

For more information on the available features on the Teleporte Cloud server, click here. Or simply and contact us to arrange for a demo. We’re excited to show off our latest innovations.

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.

Will Your Employees’ Mobile Devices Work With New Smart Locks?

Will your employees’ phones all work with the new Smart Locks you want to buy?

Designing and supporting a wireless application for the many variants of Android is challenging.  Add to this, a plethora of device manufacturers who use a variety of wireless stacks, and you get:          an interoperability nightmare

Just ask Kevo, they support only specific devices from 5 Android device manufacturers.

In today’s day and age, we are subject to traditional hardware makers trying to “tack on” technology (and worse yet — digital security) to their products.

Have you seen the Whirlpool washing machine with Wi-Fi?

Consider that the leaders of tomorrow are the technology companies that live/breathe/understand a complex, mobile, Internet.

Netflix is the tech pioneer changing the landscape of media content production and distribution.

Tesla is the genius changing the landscape of many industries.

Uber — need I say more?

Sera4 is a tech company focusing on the integration of secure high technology into the physical security packages you already use and trust. Turning your traditional padlock, electric strike, or maglock into “Smart Locks” is what we do.  Our application already interoperates with over 300 different mobile device / operating system pairings. We are pairing our technology expertise with the best in physical security — not just to add a cool feature – but to evolve the market.