Keys, Key Fobs, and Door Codes Controlling Access to Your Building

It’s been a long time since most people have felt comfortable just leaving their front doors unlocked. For better or worse, security has become the order of the day – and technology follows security needs. 

Today, that path leads to electronic access. And according to Bob Maunsell, the CEO of Electronic Security Group in West Boylston, Massachusetts,  when it comes apartment living, that usually means key fobs. 

“Anyone who is in the process of refinancing or doing any major capital improvements are installing keyless entry systems,” says Maunsell. “Everyone is moving toward key fobs. They’re also doing intercom upgrading and video surveillance and getting rid of old-fashioned mechanical keys, since there is no way to keep track of them.” 

That lack of security tracking is a major factor in replacing old metal key systems with electronic fob systems. “With keyless entry,” Maunsell says, “you know who has entered the building and at what time.  You can disable a fob when it’s lost, or when a tenant moves out.  It’s easier than having a locksmith come and change the lock.”  Changing a lock on an entry door also requires replacing what could be dozens or even hundreds of keys.  Electronic technology simply eliminates that problem.

Tony Dahlin, a security expert and owner of Bullis Lock Co., in Chicago, says: “Fob popularity has become prolific as the price has dropped.  [They’ve] long been popular in the commercial sector, but with the price dropping, condos and apartment buildings are increasingly using the technology.  Basically, fobs eliminate the need for a physical key.  If you hand somebody a key and they don’t return it, you have to change the locks.  They can make duplicates of the missing key, and you don’t know who has access to your building.  With fobs, that can’t happen –  they give you control over who enters, and when.  If a fob is lost, you just go into the software and eliminate it without affecting anyone else’s usage.”


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  • One important aspect that doesn't seem to be recognized by the mainstream community is that fobs are very easily duplicated, very quickly and very cheaply. Our building stitched from one fob system to an entirely different new fob system because we learned the first type of fobs were easily duplicated. When we go the new fobs we wanted to test if they were any different. Nope. In literally 10 minutes my roomate was able to go to rite aid where they have a self serve key duplicator that is able to duplicate fobs too. It called Keyme and it costs dollars a copy. He came back with three working copies in less than 10 minutes. Someone who had access to your fob could literally run to rite aid and make a copy while you are in the bathroom. As convenient as they are, I am not sure they will last unless they is a way to copy protect them. Even then it seems a matter of time before those are copied too. I think we will switch to numeric pins which share many of the advantages of fobs but can't be copied so easily with a little care.
  • My apt. building deactivates our fob from working on the garage entrance door at 9 pm. Is it against the law for them to do that? I pay rent and should be allowed to use my fob all each and every entrance and exit in the building, but after 9pm I have to walk all through the garage and up 2 ramps to the main lobby entrance in order to enter. I dont like walking all that way at night through the garage. Anyone could be hiding down there. Our fobs do not work at 9pm down at the garage entrance. NOt right. They also deactivate fob for another entrance at the south side of the building.
  • This is not security. This is monitoring. This is an invasion of privacy. This is monitoring the residents and their activity. Notice how the words 'Crime Prevention' are not used. As I enter my building and should a person enter behind me (called piggy-backing) how does a fob prevent this person from piggy-backing on my fob swipe? It does not. What it does is it ties me to the entry of that stranger and makes ME responsible if that stranger commits a crime. I not a security guard or a bouncer or a cop. In my Coop building the Board President is nosy and will be looking at the daily fob histories. If I lend my fob to a visiting friend, it will be de-activated, I will have to pay a re-activation fee to avoid that situation I now must tell the management, the super and the Board President I am having company visit or when I go away and have family or friend check my mail, water plants, I must tell the management, the super, the staff and the Board President --how is that not an invasion of my privacy, my right to have company. These fobs presume I am the cause and/or responsible for any crime. And my personal info is being shared with the company that is installing the entry system and let's hope they never get hacked or ransomware.