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WO2011156689A1 - An electronic locking system with lock mechanism, key handle, and identification element - Google Patents

An electronic locking system with lock mechanism, key handle, and identification element

Info

Publication number
WO2011156689A1
WO2011156689A1 PCT/US2011/039948 US2011039948W WO2011156689A1 WO 2011156689 A1 WO2011156689 A1 WO 2011156689A1 US 2011039948 W US2011039948 W US 2011039948W WO 2011156689 A1 WO2011156689 A1 WO 2011156689A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
key
handle
lock
id
element
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2011/039948
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Matt Slaughter
Douglas C. Moore
Steven J. Street
Original Assignee
D&R Technology, Llc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C9/00Individual entry or exit registers
    • G07C9/00007Access-control involving the use of a pass
    • G07C9/00103Access-control involving the use of a pass with central registration and control, e.g. for swimming pools or hotel-rooms, generally in combination with a pass-dispensing system
    • EFIXED CONSTRUCTIONS
    • E05LOCKS; KEYS; WINDOW OR DOOR FITTINGS; SAFES
    • E05BLOCKS; ACCESSORIES THEREFOR; HANDCUFFS
    • E05B47/00Operating or controlling locks or other fastening devices by electric or magnetic means
    • E05B47/06Controlling mechanically-operated bolts by electro-magnetically-operated detents
    • E05B47/0611Cylinder locks with electromagnetic control
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C2209/00Indexing scheme relating to groups G07C9/00 - G07C9/02
    • G07C2209/02Access control comprising means for the enrolment of users
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C9/00Individual entry or exit registers
    • G07C9/00174Electronically operated locks; Circuits therefor; Nonmechanical keys therefor, e.g. passive or active electrical keys or other data carriers without mechanical keys
    • G07C9/00896Electronically operated locks; Circuits therefor; Nonmechanical keys therefor, e.g. passive or active electrical keys or other data carriers without mechanical keys specially adapted for particular uses

Abstract

Disclosed are a system and a method for unlocking an individual lock having a lock ID and a lock mechanism and being part of an electronic locking system with a plurality of locks, at least one key handle, and at least one ID element. The ID element has an RFID tag that can be read by the key handle. When the key handle reads the ID element, the key handle retrieves predetermined permissions given to the ID element. When the key handle is then moved near the lock mechanism, the key handle reads the lock ID and compares the lock ID with the predetermined permissions. If the key handle determines that the ID element has the permission to open the individual lock, the key handle causes the lock mechanism to change from a locked state to an unlocked or unlockable state.

Description

AN ELECTRONIC LOCKING SYSTEM WITH LOCK MECHANISM, KEY HANDLE, AND

IDENTIFICATION ELEMENT

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This disclosure relates generally to an electronic locking system. More particularly, this invention relates to a system for allowing a cabinet or other structure to be securely closed or opened through communication between a locking mechanism, a key handle or key, and a separate identification (ID) element.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] In an office environment, many different cabinets, doors, elevators, and other structures require many different keys or access identification. A company may have hundreds of file cabinets that need to be kept under lock. Also, not all persons present in an office should have access to all areas accommodating confidential activities and trade secrets. For instance, only a certain number of employees should have access to any given file cabinet or to a laboratory. This may require several keys per structure distributed to those employees with permission to access the structure. Any given employee may have a collection of many keys to a number of structures. Additionally, security personnel may have one or more master keys that will unlock all file cabinets of a specific type. The existence of hundreds of mechanical keys makes it difficult to keep track of user keys and master keys and to locate keys once they have been handed to a user. If keys are misplaced or stolen, a company may incur high costs of recutting keys and replacing lock tumblers. Due to the limited number of tumblers in a lock cylinder, the number of lock and key combinations is also limited. Furthermore, it is impossible to track which individuals have accessed the content of a file cabinet.

[0003] It has become customary to customize access to certain areas by installing ID chip readers at access points that read an ID chip embedded in an employee's ID badge or in a key fob. As part of an electronic locking system, a central database contains a table of access permissions assigned to specific ID chips. The electronic locking system unlocks the access to a structure if the ID chip that has been read has been granted access to the structure. The database can store such unlocking events and attempts in an event log. While such electronic locking systems allow a great variety of individualized permissions, they allow anybody who obtains an ID chip to access all structures accessible to that ID chip. If an employee ID chip is stolen, it may not be evident for several days that it has not merely been misplaced, and the ID chip may not be disabled immediately after being stolen. Also, it is not desirable to disable an ID chip after a short time of not being used because reinstating employee access would present a great administrative burden after employees return from vacation or business trips. An ID badge, however, typically divulges the business name so that it is easy for an outsider to gain unlawful access to a building or structure with a misappropriated ID badge.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0004] It is the object of the present invention to provide a locking system that is highly flexible and secure. It is also an object of the present invention to provide a locking system that enables a company to easily reconfigure and customize permissions of employees to access a given structure, such as file cabinet or laboratory. It is a further object of the invention to enable tracking of activities that involve unlocking locks within the locking system. Furthermore, it is an object of the present invention to provide a secure system that disables keys removed from the system.

[0005] According to the invention, an electronic locking system for providing security by controlling the ability of a structure has a lock mechanism a key handle interacting with the lock mechanism, and an ID element adapted to interact with the key handle or the lock mechanism. Accordingly, the locking system requires two devices for unlocking a structure: a key handle as well as an ID element, such as an employee badge with an embedded RFID tag. This dual requirement enhances the security of the locking system because a misappropriated ID element alone does not provide access to a structure, even if the rightful holder of the ID element has the permission to unlock the lock securing that structure.

[0006] The ID element with the key handle causes the key handle to identify permissions given to the ID element. Then the key handle interacts with the lock mechanism to change from a first state to a second state if the permissions given to the ID element include the permission to unlock the lock. If the permissions given to the ID element do not include the permission to unlock the lock the key handle does not interact with the lock mechanism to change from the first state to the second state. While the first state is a locked position that cannot be unlocked without permission, the second state can either be an unlocked position or a position that enables a user to unlock the lock, for instance by turning the key element in the lock. An individual lock is typically unlockable by specified individuals only, but not by anybody else. Likewise, a specific ID element can open only a specified subset of locks within the locking system. [0007] The key handle can be powered by a rechargeable battery located inside the key handle that also provides the energy to operate the change of state of the lock mechanism. A discharged battery will thus not disable a lock. A user only needs to find a key with a charged battery or recharge the discharged battery.

[0008] To recharge the key handle battery, the key handle further includes a connector with a dual function as a data port and a charging port. This makes it possible to exchange data and to recharge the battery at the same time.

[0009] For automatic logging of unlocking events and for storing a permission table, the key handle further includes an electronic processor and a read-write memory. When the data port is connected to a workstation communicating with a central database, the key handle memory is synchronized with the database, and the key handle is validated for a specified time, for example one day, after which its validity expires. Accordingly, even if a key handle is misappropriated with an ID element, access to a structure is only possible within the time window for which the key handle has been validated. After expiration of the validity, the key handle is useless.

[0010] The invention also provides a method of unlocking an individual lock within an electronic locking system with a plurality of locks, at least one key handle, and at least one ID element, to control the ability of a user to open the lock. The method involves moving the ID element near the key handle for the key handle to read the ID element and to retrieve predetermined permissions given to the ID element. The the key handle is moved toward the lock mechanism for the key handle to read the lock ID and to compare the lock ID with the predetermined permissions given to the ID element. If the predetermined permissions given to the ID element include a permission to open the individual lock the key handle causes the lock mechanism to change from the first state to the second state.

[0011] Further details and advantages of the present invention are apparent from the following description of exemplary figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] The drawings described herein are for illustration purposes only and are not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure in any way.

[0013] Figure 1 is schematic representation of the basic concept of an electronic locking system constructed according to the teachings of the present disclosure; [0014] Figure 2 is a schematic representation of the locking mechanism, key handle, and ID of the electronic locking system according to one aspect of the present disclosure;

[0015] Figure 3 is a schematic representation of the locking mechanism, key handle, and ID element of the electronic locking system according to another aspect of the present disclosure;

[0016] Figure 4 is a schematic representation of the locking mechanism, key handle, and ID element of the electronic locking system according to yet another aspect of the present disclosure;

[0017] Figure 5 is a schematic representation of the locking mechanism, key handle, and ID element of the electronic locking system according to another embodiment of the present disclosure;

[0018] Figure 6 is a schematic representation of a method of using the electronic locking system of Figure 1 according to another embodiment of the present disclosure;

[0019] Figure 7 shows a key handle for use in an electronic locking system encompassing a plurality of locks and a plurality of users;

[0020] Figure 8 shows a lock cooperating with the key handle of Figure 7;

[0021] Figure 9 shows a schematic cross-section of the lock shown in Figure 8;

[0022] Figure 10 shows a diagram of an unlocking process utilizing the key handle of

Figure 7 and the lock of Figure 8 and 9;

[0023] Figure 1 1 shows a diagram of a synchronization process between the key handle of Figure 7 and a permission database pairing users with locks;

[0024] Figure 12 shows a diagram of giving a user an additional permission to open a specific lock through steps performed with the key handle; and

[0025] Figure 13 shows an exemplary hierarchy for authorizations to change permissions.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0026] The following description is merely exemplary in nature and is in no way intended to limit the present disclosure or its application or uses. For example, an electronic locking system made and used according to the teachings contained herein is described throughout the present disclosure in conjunction with office furniture in order to more fully illustrate the system and method of use. The incorporation and use of such an electronic locking system in conjunction with doors, windows, equipment, and/or vehicles, among others, is contemplated to be within the scope of the disclosure. It should be understood that throughout the description and drawings, corresponding reference numerals indicate like or corresponding parts and features.

[0027] The present invention generally provides an electronic lock for use with office furniture, such as filing cabinets and desks. The electronic locking system generally includes a lock or lock mechanism that is coupled to the component of a cabinet or other office furniture that is movable between open and closed positions; a key handle or key; and an identification element (ID). The ID element as used herein is a physical component in itself. One skilled-in- the-art will understand that the conventional means of identifying a key by providing it with a unique number or identity is different than the ID element as used herein. The lock mechanism may include a mechanical mechanism to allow the cabinet to be opened or held closed, as well as electronic components to control the release or locking of the lock mechanism. The key handle or key may also include electronic features/components, a mechanical portion, or a combination of both. The ID element may include electronic components or a unique mechanical feature. The electronic components in the lock mechanism and key handle, the lock mechanism and the ID element, or the key handle and the ID element may communicate with each other through at least one contact point (e.g., Dallas chip) or through wireless communication (e.g., RFID tag on ID and RFID reader in either key handle or lock mechanism).

[0028] Referring to Figure 1 , the relationship between the various components of the electronic locking system 10 used to control a user's ability to open a structure is shown to include a lock or lock mechanism 15, a key handle 20, and a separate ID element 25. The ID element 25 with electronic components (e.g., RFID tag) can communicate with and change the state of a key handle or key 20 that also includes electronic components (e.g., RFID reader, among other elements). The change in state of the key handle may alter the way in which the key handle will interact with the lock mechanism 15. The ID element 25 is an entity that may be physically separated from the key handle 20 or the lock mechanism 15. The key handle 20 is capable of interacting with and changing the state of the lock or lock mechanism 15 (e.g., by direct electrical contact). The change in state of the lock mechanism 15 may automatically cause the lock mechanism 15 to unlock and open the structure or the change in state may require the user to provide additional movement of the key handle 20 to open the structure. Movement of the key handle 20 can cause movement of lock mechanism 15 after the lock mechanism 15 changes its state. Power to operate the electronic locking system 10 may be provided by at least one battery. Such a battery 30 may exist in the lock mechanism 15, the key handle 20, or the ID element 25. The battery 30 may be, for example, a conventional disposable battery, a rechargeable battery or a capacitor. Accommodating a rechargeable battery 30 inside the key handle 20 that also provides the energy to operate the change of state of the lock mechanism 15 has the advantage that a discharged battery 30 will thus not disable a locking mechanism 15. A user only needs to find a key handle 20 with a charged battery 30 or recharge the discharged battery 30.

[0029] Referring now to Figure 2, the electronic locking system 10 constructed according to one aspect of the present disclosure may include the ID element 25 being placed within, on, or very near the key handle 20. The key handle 20 is adapted to interact with the lock mechanism 15. The battery 30 providing power to the locking system 10 in this case is included in the cabinet or other structure to which the lock mechanism 15 is coupled.

[0030] Referring now to Figure 3, the electronic locking system 10 constructed according to another aspect of the present disclosure may incorporate the battery 30 into the key handle 20. The ID element 25 may be placed within, on, or very near the key handle 20. The key handle 20 is adapted to interact with the lock mechanism 15. Optionally, the key handle 20 may optionally include a connector 35, such as an RS-2 type connector, that can be used to charge the battery 30 located in the key handle 20.

[0031] Referring now to Figure 4, the electronic locking system 10 constructed according to yet another aspect of the present disclosure may utilize an ID element 25 that is independent of the key handle 20. The ID element 25 may be incorporated into a separate component, such as an identification card, among others. The ID element 25 communicates with the key handle 20 to change the state of the key handle 20. The key handle 20 is then capable of interacting with the lock mechanism 15 to change the state of the lock mechanism 15 and allow the cabinet or other structure to be opened.

[0032] Referring now to Figure 5, the electronic locking system 10 according to another embodiment of the present disclosure may not require a key handle 20. Rather the lock mechanism 15 includes a knob that can be rotated by the user. The ID element 25 located on or in an identification card or the like can communicate with the lock mechanism 15 to change the state of the lock mechanism 15 and allow the knob to rotate to an open position.

[0033] Still referring to Figures 1-5, the ID element 25 and key handle 20 may include components such that when the ID element 25 moves near or contacts the key handle 20, the key handle 20 may change state. For example, the change of state in the key handle 20 may be the result of contact or wireless communication between the ID element 25 and the key handle 20. The ID element 25 and lock mechanism 15 may also include components such that when the ID element 25 moves near or contacts the lock mechanism 15, the lock mechanism 15 can change state. For example, the change of state in the lock mechanism 15 may be the result of contact or wireless communication between the ID element 25 and the lock mechanism 15.

[0034] The key handle 20 may include components such that when the key handle 20 is moved near or moved into contact with the lock mechanism 15, the lock mechanism 15 may change state. The key handle 20 may include features that allow movement of the key handle 20 to cause movement of the lock mechanism 15. The lock mechanism 15 may include features that allow movement of the key handle 20 to cause movement of the lock mechanism 15. The key handle 20 may also include at least one feature that allows an electrical connection to the lock mechanism 15. The lock mechanism 15 may include at least one feature that allows an electrical connection to the key handle 20.

[0035] Referring now to Figure 6, a method 50 of using an electronic locking system to open or securely hold closed a cabinet or other structure is provided according to another embodiment of the present disclosure. The method 50 generally comprises a step 60 of a user moving an ID element 25 to be in the near vicinity of the key handle 20. The key handle 20 may then change state in step 70 as a result of wireless communication between the ID element 25 and the key handle 20. The user may then bring the key handle 20 near the lock in step 80. The lock then interacts with the key handle 20 to change its state in step 90. The change in state of the lock mechanism allows the user to move the key handle 20 in step 100, which also moves the lock 15 because of features on the lock 15 and/or key handle 20 that interact with one another. In summary, the user may have an ID element 25 that allows a lock 15 to be moved from one position to another.

[0036] Figures 7 through 13 illustrate various aspects of an electronic locking system in which a plurality of users are given individually variable permission to access a plurality of locks that are part of the locking system.

[0037] Referring now to Figure 7, a key handle 120 has a housing 126 and a lock interface 124. The housing 126 accommodates a rechargeable battery (not shown), an RFID reader 121 , a read-write memory and an electronic processor (not shown). A data port 122, for example a USB port, is arranged on the housing for synchronization of the electronic processor with a database 1 16 as will be described in more detail below. The data port 122 has the added functionality of charging the rechargeable battery while the key handle 120 is connected to a computer workstation 1 14 for synchronization with the database 1 16. The housing 126 further includes an indicator light 123, such as a light-emitting diode (LED).

[0038] Referring now to Figure 8, a lock 1 15 configured to cooperate with the key handle 120 has a key interface 1 1 1 shaped complementary to the lock interface 124 of the key handle 120, thus allowing an insertion of the lock interface 124 into the key interface 1 1 1 in only one specific orientation of the key handle 120. The key interface 1 1 1 is equipped with an exemplary number of three electrical contact zones 121 configured to interact with corresponding electrical contact zones on the lock interface 124 of key handle 120. The lock 1 15 further includes a threaded barrel 1 13 for fastening the lock to a structure. The threaded barrel 1 13 accommodates a locking mechanism 1 19 that operates a latch actuator 1 17. Inside the barrel 1 13, electrical connectors 1 18 lead from the contact zones 1 18 to the locking mechanism 1 19, where only a specific configuration of electromagnetic signals manipulates the locking mechanism to change from a locked state into an unlockable state that allows a rotational movement of the key interface 1 1 1 , the locking mechanism 1 19, and the latch actuator 1 17 relative to the barrel 1 13. The lock 1 15 itself does not have a power supply. It receives the energy required to change its state from the key handle 120. Placing the energy storage in the key handle 120 rather than in the lock 1 15 has the advantage that in the event that the rechargeable battery is depleted, the key handle 1 15 can easily be recharged. Likewise, it is possible to use a different key handle 15 with a charged battery to open lock 120. If the lock 1 15 had its own battery, opening an associated structure would be fairly complicated when the battery is depleted.

[0039] Figure 10 depicts an exemplary process of unlocking a lock 1 15 that is part of an electronic locking system. A user ID element 125, which may be identical to or different than the ID element 25 of previous embodiments, assigned to a user named "User-A" is brought in the vicinity of the key handle 120. The user ID element 125 is equipped with an RFID tag, and the key handle 120 features an RFID reader. The RFID reader of key handle 120 reads the RFID tag of the ID element 125 and looks up the credentials of User-A in a permission table 1 12 stored in the read-write memory of the key handle 120. In the example shown, each user stored in the permission table 1 12 has been assigned one column designated in Figure 10 with capital letters A, B, C, D, etc. Every lock within the system occupies one line in the permission table, designated with 1 , 2, 3, 4, etc. It should be noted that users as well as locks can be assigned group permissions. This means that a group of users, such as members of a specific department or employees with specific function, can be placed in a specific category with the permission to unlock locks of a specific class, such as office supply, invoices, test lab, etc. In the illustrated example of the permission table 1 12, permissions are indicated with an "X" in locations where the columns of user ID intersects a row of a lock for which the user an unlocking permission. User-A of the example has the permission to unlock "Lock 1 " and "Lock 4" and not any other locks. The key handle 120 stores the information of the user ID element 125 for a short period of time, preferably less than 30 seconds. During this time, the lock interface 124 of the key handle 120 must be inserted into a lock for the purpose of unlocking the lock. Upon insertion of the lock interface 124 into the key interface 1 1 1 , the key handle 120 reads a unique identification code of the lock 1 15. There are various ways of communicating a lock ID to the key handle 120. For example, this lock ID may be stored in an RFID tag located in the vicinity of the lock, or it can be retrievable from a storage device inside the lock 1 15 through the contact elements 121.

[0040] The key handle 120, having been provided with both a user ID and a lock ID, looks up the lock ID in the permission table. If the combination of user ID column and lock ID row has been given unlocking permission, as indicated by an "X" in the permission table 1 12, the key handle 120 feeds the contact zones 121 with the specific signal configuration that manipulates the locking mechanism 1 19 to change from a locked state into an unlockable state. The processor of the key handle 120 stores this event in an event log in the read-write memory of the key handle 120 for later uploading to a central database 1 16. It is possible to assign an individual signal configuration to each lock 1 15 within the system. But is is likewise an option to have identical signal configurations for all locks 1 15 that are part of the system.

[0041] Fig. 1 1 illustrates a first method of changing permissions for unlocking a specific lock. In the following, the term "permission" is used with reference to the ability to unlock a lock, while the term "authority" and "authorized" refer to the power to change permissions.

[0042] Approximately once per day, the key handle 120 is connected to the computer workstation 1 14. While the key handle 120 is connected to the workstation through the data port 122, the rechargeable battery of the key handle 120 can simultaneously be charged through the same connection. The workstation 1 14 has access to the central database 1 16 with an updated permission table 1 12. Typically, the central database 1 16 is maintained by a system administrator authorized to change entries in the permission table 1 12. There may be an authorization hierarchy in which superiors are authorized to change the permissions of subordinates to access locks for which the superior has the unlocking permission. The locking system can be set up so that every user with access to the workstation 1 14 can view the permission table 1 12 stored in the database 1 16 to see who can open a given lock, but only authorized employees can make changes in the permission table 1 12.

[0043] Upon connection of the key handle 120 to the workstation, a locking system software is activated and compares the permission table 1 12 stored in the key handle 120 with the permission table 1 12 in the database 1 16. Each individual permission in both permission tables 1 12 is updated to the latest entry. This means that a permission that was changed in the central database 1 16 at a later time than the corresponding entry stored in the key handle 120 will overwrite the entry in the key handle 120. Likewise, an entry changed in the key handle 120 at a later time than the corresponding entry stored in the database 1 16 will overwrite the entry in the database 1 16.

[0044] Additionally, the workstation 1 14 uploads the event log from the key handle 120 to the database 1 16. The event log stored in the key handle 120 can contain up to approximately 1000 events, a number that is likely large enough to keep track of all unlocking activities occurring within a day.

[0045] Furthermore, the key handle 120 must be validated periodically, typically once a day, or its functionality expires and it becomes inoperable. This feature adds a layer of security in the event that the key handle 120 is lost or an employee resigns and takes the key handle 120 off the premises. Because the key handle 120 is only valid for a short time interval, a person without access to the workstation is unable to use the key handle 120 after the validation time interval has passed. Upon connecting the key handle 120 to the workstation 1 14, the system software validates the key handle 120 for another day, approximately 24 hours while the key handle 120 is connected to the workstation through the data port 122. The validation may cover 28 or 30 hours to allow some flexibility in the exact timing of the next validation. The system software may also include an option to vary the time intervals of the validation.

[0046] Once the permission tables 1 12 have been synchronized, the event log has been uploaded, the key handle 120 has been validated, and the battery has been sufficiently charged, the key handle 120 is disconnected from the workstation 1 14 and ready for further use during the time interval of validation.

[0047] Figure 12 illustrates an alternative method of changing permissions within the electronic locking system remote from the workstation 1 14. An ID element 126 of an authorized employee is moved close to the RFID reader 121 of the key handle 120 in a specific pattern, for instance two or three successive times. Reading the RFID tag of the authorized employee in the specified pattern causes the key handle 120 to switch into a programming mode in which the permission table 1 12 stored in the read-write memory can be altered. Then the ID element 125 of an intended user is brought into the vicinity of the RFID reader 121 so that the RFID reader of the key handle 120 reads the associated RFID tag and causes the processor to identify a column or to create a column assigned to the intended user in the permission table. The lock interface 125 of the key handle 120 is then inserted into the key interface 1 1 1 of the lock 1 15, for which the authorized employee wishes to grant access to the intended user. If the authorized employee is properly authorized to change this specific entry, the entry in the permission table 1 12 in key handle 120 is changed. The indicator light lights up to inform the authorized employee that the entry was successfully added or changed, and the permission change is stored in the event log of the key handle 120. In order to be authorized to change an entry, the authorized employee must have permission to unlock the specific lock 1 15 and the authority to make changes for the specific user. Finally, another reading of the RFID tag on the ID element 126 of the authorized employee causes the key handle 120 to exit the programming state.

[0048] As previously described, the changed permission entry in the permission table

1 12 stored in the key handle 120 is entered into the permission table 1 12 of the database 1 16 when the key handle 120 is connected to the workstation 1 14 for synchronization.

[0049] Figure 13 is a schematic diagram of an authorization hierarchy for changing permissions within the locking system. In the example shown, an employee 138 named "User 3" needs access to a file cabinet. In the shown hierarchical structure, the employee 138 has a reporting line that proceeds from the direct supervisor 148 via a manager 146 and a director 144 to a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). A system administrator 140, while not at the top of the corporate hierarchy, has the broadest authority within the locking system because a corporate CEO is unlikely to engage in activities involving changing unlocking permissions. In the diagram of Fig. 13, higher-ranking individuals in the authorization hierarchy are indicated with double borders. For example, the supervisor 148 of the office in which the employee 138 works is authorized to change permissions for employee 138 pertaining only to locks for which the supervisor 148 has an unlocking permission. Supervisor 149, however, who heads an office for which employee 138 does not work, cannot change the permissions of employee 138, not even for those locks for which supervisor 149 has an unlocking permission. The CEO 142 has the authority to change all employees' permissions to all locks, except for the CEO's own permissions. Likewise, the system administrator 140 has the authority to change all employees' permissions to all locks, except for the system administrator's own permissions. Because the system administrator 140 also occupies a position within the corporate hierarchy, the system administrator's own supervisor and higher-ranking individuals within the system administrator's reporting line can change the system administrator's permissions.

[0050] The foregoing description of various embodiments of the invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise embodiments disclosed. Numerous modifications or variations are possible in light of the above teachings. The embodiments discussed were chosen and described to provide the best illustration of the principles of the invention and its practical application to thereby enable one of ordinary skill in the art to utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. All such modifications and variations are within the scope of the invention as determined by the appended claims when interpreted in accordance with the breadth to which they are fairly, legally, and equitably entitled.

Claims

PATENT CLAIMS What is claimed is
1. An electronic locking system for providing security by controlling the ability of a structure, such as a cabinet or other office furniture, to be opened or closed, the locking system comprising:
a lock mechanism, the lock mechanism having a locked position that prevents the structure from being opened and an unlocked position that allows the structure to be opened; a key handle, the key handle being adapted to interact with the lock mechanism, and an ID element, the ID element being adapted to interact with at least one of the key handle and the lock mechanism, the at least one of the key handle and the lock mechanism being configured to allow changing the lock mechanism from the locked position to the unlocked position only upon interaction with the ID element and upon verification that the ID element has been granted permission to change the lock mechanism position from the locked position to the unlocked position.
2. The electronic locking system of claim 1 , wherein the interaction of the ID element with the key handle causes the key handle to identify permissions given to the ID element; wherein the key handle interacts with the lock mechanism to read a lock ID and to change the lock mechanism from a first state to a second state if the permissions given to the ID element include the permission to unlock the lock with the read lock ID, and wherein the key handle does not interact with the lock mechanism to change from the first state to the second state if the permissions given to the ID element do not include the permission to unlock the lock with the read lock ID.
3. The electronic locking system of claim 2, the lock having a third position that is an unlockable position, wherein the locked position prevents unlocking, the unlockable position allows unlocking, and the unlocked position allows opening an associated structure.
4. The locking system of claim 3, wherein the first state is the locked position and the second state is the unlockable position.
5. The method of claim 3, wherein first state is the locked position and the second state is the unlocked position.
6. The electronic locking system of claim 1 , wherein the system further includes a battery to provide power to the system; the battery being located in the key handle.
7. The electronic locking system of claim 1 , wherein the key handle further includes a connector for at least one of exchanging data and charging the battery.
8. The electronic locking system of claim 7, wherein the key handle further includes an electronic processor and a read-write memory.
9. The electronic locking system of claim 8, further comprising that the read-write memory contains a permission table storing unlocking permissions of specific ID elements to unlock specific locks.
10. The electronic locking system of claim 8, further comprising that the key handle is adapted to synchronize data stored in the read-write memory with a database outside the key handle when the connector is connected to a device providing access to the database.
11 . The electronic locking system of claim 8, further comprising that the read-write memory contains an event log storing information on ID elements that have interacted with the key element and of locks that have been changed by the key element from the locked position to the unlocked position or to an unlockable position.
12. The electronic locking system of claim 8, further comprising that the read-write memory contains a program causing the key handle to enter a programming mode upon moving an authorized ID element near the key handle in a predetermined sequence, the programming mode authorizing a modification of the permission table.
13. The electronic locking system of claim 12, further comprising that the programming mode only authorizes changes to the permission table that add permissions to unlock lock mechanisms for which the authorized ID element has an unlocking permission.
[[13.]] 14. The electronic locking system of claim 12, wherein the authorized ID element is assigned to a first user and a user ID element is assigned to a second user, the programming mode only authorizing changes to the permission table that add permissions to the user ID element when in an authorization hierarchy the second user ranks lower than the first user and has a reporting line to the first user.
[[14.]] 15. A method of unlocking an individual lock having a lock ID and a lock mechanism and being part of an electronic locking system of the type having a plurality of locks, at least one key handle, and at least one ID element, to control the ability of a user to open the lock, the method comprising the steps of:
moving the ID element near the key handle;
causing the key handle to read the ID element and to retrieve predetermined permissions given to the ID element;
moving the key handle near the lock mechanism;
causing the key handle to read the lock ID and to compare the lock ID with the predetermined permissions given to the ID element;
causing the key handle to determine that the predetermined permissions given to the ID element include a permission to open the individual lock
causing the lock mechanism to change from a first state to a second state.
[[15.]] 16_ The method of claim 14, wherein the first state is a state preventing unlocking the lock and the second state is a state allowing unlocking the lock.
[[16.]] 17. The method of claim 14, wherein first state is a locked position and the second state is an unlocked position.
[[17.]] 18. The method of claim 14, further including the step of logging every change of state caused by the key handle in an event log in the key handle.
[[18.]] 19. The method of claim 14, wherein the lock mechanism is only caused to change from the first state to the second state within a predetermined time after the key handle has read the ID element.
[[19.]] 20. The method of claim 14, wherein the predetermined permissions are electronically stored in the key handle. [[20.]] 21 The method of claim 19, further comprising the steps of:
connecting the key handle to a locking system database via a data connection;
causing the key handle to update the predetermined permissions from the locking system database;
causing the locking system database to validate the key handle for a predetermined time.
[[21.]] 22. The method of claim 20, further comprising the step of charging a rechargeable battery in the key handle via the data connection.
[[22.]] 23. The method of claim 20, further comprising the step of uploading the event log to the locking system database.
[[23.]] 24. The method of claim 14, further comprising the steps of:
causing the key handle to enter a programming mode by moving an authorized ID element near the key handle a plurality of consecutive times;
moving a user ID element near the key handle;
causing the key handle to read the user ID element;
causing the key handle to read a lock ID and to add the lock ID to predetermined permissions given to the user ID element; and
causing the key handle to exit the programming mode by moving the authorized ID element near the key handle.
[[24.]] 25. The method of claim 14, further comprising the step of:
causing the lock to revert to the first state when the key handle is removed from the individual lock.
PCT/US2011/039948 2010-06-11 2011-06-10 An electronic locking system with lock mechanism, key handle, and identification element WO2011156689A1 (en)

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