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Announcing keyRead One: Open Access Control Platform

mmackh

TL;DR

keyRead One is an ambitious Access Control platform, complete with custom hardware and software. The reader features an ESP32 microcontroller with BLE & WiFi, an MFRC522 NFC chip incl. antenna, an LED light, a RTC and a piezo speaker. The hardware can be powered by 12V or USB and is able to drive a magnetic latch (on 12V) or trigger other hardware by driving the ground pin. Lastly, a 5V output will be able to drive relays - bridging the gap to a 240V circuit, like a garage door.

keyRead One is scheduled to be released in Q4 2021. Interested? Let me know via email: mmackh [at] gmail [dot] com.

Backstory

We've been looking to replace our Skidata Access Control system in the family business for over 8 years. The current system communicates over bus and is powered by 12V, meaning 4 wires are available for a new platform. It's been chugging along since 1995, way ahead of the time, and works well. Trouble is that the keycard is proprietary and isn't produced anymore. Any failing hardware is expensive to repair as well. Issues we've encountered finding a replacement:

Every direction I looked at, we would have to compromise. It took years to finally decide to go all in and 2019 is when the project started.

Funding

The project is entirely bootstrapped by proconsult.at gmbh (sole employee), Austria. Very early, I was able to bring on the talented @AlicanKurutepe to design the custom boards. Excluding my time, we've burned through ~€8k in prototyping cost.

Prototyping

I massively underestimated the amount of work this project would entail. The very first prototype was simple enough, but not scalable. The initial prototypes envisioned the reader being a header for the Raspberry Pi Zero.

We stuck with the Raspberry Pi platform for too long. The downsides were clear from the very first day we started: power hungry, slow boot, requires OS, requires SD card, slow to get up and running, mediocre reading performance. Enter the ESP32. The cost to performance is incredible. Development via the Arduino platform almost feels magical.

Software

What this means for owners of keyRead One - plug in a USB cable and program the board however you like. Access the RTC or LED Controller via an I2C bus. Same for the NFC chip. Connect the board to your WiFi or build an app that communicates via BLE.

To-Do

Do to the ongoing global chip shortage, I've pre-ordered enough components for an initial launch of 50 public boards. We're still finalising the routing and putting the finishing touches on the hardware design.

Determine pricing and interest. I will write more blog posts about keyRead in the coming months.

You can contact me directly on Twitter @mmackh or write an email mmackh [at] gmail [dot] com.