Doors for a whiteboard
February 9, 2009 3:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a way to make a rather large outdoor whiteboard VISIBLE to all but editable only to a select few. (My hope had been to convert to an online 'whiteboard', but the idea was a bit too high-tech for some.)

That's fine. But now the whiteboard my organisation uses needs to be protected from both petty and unintentional vandalism but still remain visible for all to see. I've thought about sliding or swinging perspex doors as a possible method of achieving this - sort of a large scale version of the glass cases used in shops to display but protect expensive items.

I'd love a biometric solution, if possible. Ideally a fingerprint reader to open up the perspex doors. So what I'm looking for are possible ways to close off this outdoor whiteboard but allow for opening by legitimate users. A low-tech solution is of course fine, but I'd still quite like to introduce a bit of technology to this community, not to be obstinate but to demonstrate its advantages. I don't think this use of technology would be in any way disapproved of.

This is partly a basic DIY question "how would you physically have the doors work" and partly a "and what fingerprint reader could be used to open up the doors".

The userbase is about 40 people, so I think the fingerprint reader would probably need to be one of those that link to a database with GUI.
posted by dance to Technology (13 answers total)
I wouldn't lock it away physically, but instead use a projector and a webpage. People could make changes to the whiteboard either through the webpage or via sms, mail etc.
posted by Iteki at 4:08 AM on February 9, 2009

The traditional solution is a padlock.
posted by pompomtom at 4:09 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

The biometric type technology I've seen sits on a curve where, if it's reasonably priced, it's not very good ("Well, he has two thumbs, this must be Mike" or maybe Lucas in your case.) and if it's good, you probably can't afford it.

If I were you and wanted to go electronic, I would use a micro-controler, a key pad or an RFID reader, and a pair of solenoids to drive the lock catches. That would require a trustworthy (and relatively clean) source of 5 and 12 volts (maybe an old low wattage computer power supply), but would be relatively cheap and trustworthy.

You could even add bluetooth to it so you could manage the userbase from the web, though that might be overkill.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:32 AM on February 9, 2009

Response by poster: iteki: I had something similar planned, only a webapp instead of a half-way house like a projector. It was turned down, with thanks, as too modern and cutting out the human element of walking to the whiteboard to make changes.

pompomtom: I'm not sure you understood the question, but thanks anyway.

Kid charlemagne: that's the direction I'm looking to head in - only I'm interested more in fingerprints than RFID. Are you thinking about a magnetic lock catch or those door-intercom type lock catches?
posted by dance at 5:06 AM on February 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thinking about it, it seems I would need an electromagnetic latch or two controlled by a fingerprint reader which in turn gets its data from a managed database.
posted by dance at 5:38 AM on February 9, 2009

Many biometric technologies, and fingerprint recognition in particular, have a reputation for being ineffective as a security measure.

I mean, you could have a whiteboard with a hinged perspex cover and secure that cover with a $200 fingerprint lock, and you'd have a bling high-tech toy you could show off to people, but it's not really any more secure than the same arrangement with a $10 combination padlock.
posted by Mike1024 at 6:52 AM on February 9, 2009

How secure does this need to be? By vandelism, do you mean deliberate or casual?
If it's casual ("heheh... fart!") then the security offered by a cheap system would be enough, whereas if it's something people would be willing to try circumvent then Kid Charlemagnes advice applies.

How cheap is cheap? For 250 you can buy a sweet fingerprint doorknob. Presumably it wouldn't stop Bourne, but it should make it clear that drawing other sorts of knobs on the whiteboard is not cool.
posted by Iteki at 6:55 AM on February 9, 2009

From a practical point of view, a combination lock or a padlock make so much more sense.

If you want to wow with technology, why not pop a screen in there alongside a traditional whiteboard (you'd need a computer in there to run your fingerprint database anyway, right?) and show people how much easier it is to update without going out to the whiteboard in the first place.
posted by samj at 6:57 AM on February 9, 2009

A far cheaper solution might be a motion sensing cctv camera. I suspect this will work if you have even minimal control over the area.

If your worried about people unintentionally using inappropriate markers, you could either switch to a chalk board or hang a marker near the whiteboard.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:36 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Put it sufficiently high up that people need a step-ladder to be able to write on it. Restrict access to the ladder.
posted by rongorongo at 9:42 AM on February 9, 2009

Yeah, it kinda seems like for practical purposes, this may not be the best opportunity to integrate technology. It's good that you want to do that, but don't let your fervor get in the way of practical reasoning.
posted by messylissa at 11:02 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, you might also put up a second whiteboard or chalk board for less important stuff, and attach a marker or just leave some chalk, thus moving all the vandalism to the new one.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:58 PM on February 9, 2009

I would also consider that your plan may backfire enormously. A DIY access system is less likely to show them that electronics are awesome and more likely to demonstrate that electronics cost 50x the equivalent low tech solution (padlock) and, even worse, fail in the rain.

This is no knock on your skills or on the electronics but it seems like a huge mismatch between need and solution, and your users will smell it immediately and resent the system for it.
posted by range at 10:18 PM on February 9, 2009

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