The desk is cleared, the computer is off, and the weekend lies ahead-hit the lights and you are out the door. Not fifteen minutes later you begin to question whether you locked the safe where you store your classified materials--sound familiar? Even the most diligent and security minded personnel have at some time experienced this absent-minded professor syndrome.
At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, an Information Security Resource Center team worked through an evolutionary process to develop Secure Safe, a security container monitoring system using radio frequency technology. Both visual and audible signals are triggered if the system detects that a security container has not been properly closed when personnel leave the room.
The proper storage of materials, documents and files within the U.S. Department of Energy and the national laboratory system was a growing security issue. Some labs were at risk of losing their ability to work on classified documents.
"We needed a solution to a very real problem. This wireless idea was born from necessity," said Project Manager Mike Schwartz, adding "Secure Safe assists in reducing the risk of leaving sensitive or classified information unattended." Rest easy--it's safe and secure.
The wireless communications system triggers an alarm if a worker leaves a room without properly closing and locking a safe or other security container. Using a combination of mechanical and optical sensors, Secure Safe tracks the position of a safe's door and locking mechanism. One sensor checks the door bolt positions, while another verifies that the combination dial has been spun and the locking dead bolt is retracted.
This information is relayed to an optical sensor mounted at the room's exit, monitoring traffic out of the area. When the sensor board's infrared beam detects a person exiting, it provides an audible and visible alarm if the safe is not closed and secured. A single board has the capacity to monitor the status of five containers and can be upgraded to monitor over 1,000 sensors.
Under further development is the ability to integrate this alerting device into a facility-wide monitoring system.
According to Schwartz, "The ability to interrogate a safe from a remote location such as a corporate headquarters, centralized alarm station or through a mobile device makes all the sense in the world--it creates a more efficient and immediate reporting system."
Secure Safe is currently in use at the Department of Defense, DOE headquarters, and DOE facilities in Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. But the technology behind Secure Safe has the potential for widespread application in private industries as well.
The safekeeping and monitoring of pharmaceutical and hospital cabinets, intellectual property in corporate filing systems, high-value personal items, personal weapons, business sensitive materials and computer hard drives are some of the obvious private-sector applications. Presently, more than a half-dozen companies are looking at licensing opportunities to take advantage of this simple yet sophisticated monitoring system.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.