Automated Access Controls

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In order to keep everyone and everything safe and help administer things so we don’t wear out our volunteers, we’ve decided to set up automated access control stations for each piece of equipment that requires training before you can be allowed to use it. All members will have an RFID badge to access the space. Before using a piece of equipment, a member touches their badge to the reader at it and, if that member has had the appropriate training, the tool will power up, unlock etc. The same mechanism can be used for restricted / personal storage, etc.

Prior Works

We have heard of a number of other hackerspaces working on this idea including ATXHackerspace,, and the hackerspace passport project but as far as we can find, no one has documented a system that really does what we want yet. So we are building our own and will do our best to document it here.

First prototype hardware

First prototype hardware

Concept of Operation

  • Badge reader at each piece of equipment.
  • Controls and monitors power to the equipment
  • Badge in to start
  • The badge reader sends badge ID to a web app which checks the training list to see if the user is authorized to use the equipment.
  • Off switch to tag out.
  • Automatically tags out after ~5 minute pause in activity
  • Automatically tags out after a brief pause in activity after ~2 hours of use (standard fair use interval)

Side Benefits

  • We can collect usage metrics on tools to see which ones are most important, need maintenance etc.
    • Put a “request maintenance” button on the reader?
  • Gamification – Award badges for being punctual, accurate, safe, etc. or just cutting for so many hours on the tool.
  • The reader hardware is a basic platform for any kind of networked sensing and actuation.

From here to there

There are a few basic moving parts to build this system. All of them should be fun so if you’re interested, please get involved.

  1. Developing the hardware – We have a prototype but if we’re going to build a lot of these, there’s a lot of room for cost reduction and optimization.
  2. Firmware
  3. Web application for tracking member training and responding to queries and associated database
  4. Designing a nice enclosure for device
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