No one will argue AGAINST the effectiveness of locks as a security product. They keep intruders out and prevent thieves from stealing valuables. Of course, no security is impenetrable, including locks. Still, they represent an oft-overlooked opportunity for a contractor to keep the bad guys out or deter criminals while authorities have a chance to respond to the protected premises.

If marketed properly, with an eye toward the various levels of locking hardware available, these devices can be the initial step in presenting a full-service electrical contracting solution to the customer and a way to connect with the user and their facility.

Statistics back their intrinsic value. Historically, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports residential crime statistics, most break-ins are through unlocked doors and windows, so hardware certainly plays a role in establishing a perimeter layer of deterrence.

There has been continued growth in the market to match the steady stream of innovation. From simple yet aesthetic electromechanical offline locks to online devices, locks have the fortitude for every vertical market and customer. They can be scaled up or down, depending on the size of the facility and the number of doors that require security, and can stand alone or be networked at the initial installation or later as needed.

Locks constituted the largest percentage of world security equipment revenues by type, according to a 2005 study by The Freedonia Group Inc., Cleveland. The World Security Equipment Study revealed locks accounted for 29.9 percent of security revenues worldwide and led all other noted equipment categories, including alarms (28.7 percent), access and surveillance (24.7 percent), other mechanical (9.3 percent), and other electronic (7.4 percent).

Electromechanical locks also continue to represent one of the fastest growing sectors in the access control market, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan, San Antonio, Texas. The North American Electromechanical Security Markets report stated that a critical need for intrusion security drives the market for electromechanical locking components. The proliferation of residential and commercial construction in U.S. cities contributed to the market’s rapid growth, with contractors integrating electromechanical locks and hardware. In addition, the move to replace existing hardware with electromechanical devices that can be integrated into the building’s access control system also promoted growth.

“Electromechanical locks enable vendors to integrate every door and access point of a facility into a comprehensive access control solution,” stated the report. “The locks have the ability to be part of a wired network or connect wirelessly to the network and transmit information to a centralized location.” The hospitality and educational markets have been at the forefront of demand for this kind of integrated access-control system, revealed Frost & Sullivan.

Hickory Hardware, Nashville, Tenn., recently conducted independent research on door hardware. David Fields, Hickory Hardware’s channel marketing manager, said the findings suggested door hardware consumers fall into four distinct categories: conscious designers, security seekers, feature seekers and I-can’t-deciders.

“Our research shows that conscious designers want both style and security,” Fields said. “They are often facing a major life event, like buying a home or taking a new job. Elegant design for these consumers frequently represents a personal reward. Security trumps all for the security seekers. Their decision is based primarily on what they perceive as the level of security offered by hardware. Feature seekers are the techies. These hardware shoppers are looking for options like keyless entry and no-lockout setups and will spend to get them.”

Locks often represent a logical stepping stone to more secure devices, such as integrated biometrics. Electromechanical locks can be combined with fingerprint and hand-geometry readers as well as iris and facial recognition biometrics. Once customers make the move to biometrics or even networked electromechanical locks, they can move into other functions. For example, the ability to provide audit trails and time and attendance are part of the growing popularity of locks and access control.

Merging mechanical master key and electronic access control in a single system, Medeco Security Locks, Salem, Va., introduced a line of radio frequency identification (RFID) products under a “Hybrid” platform that consists of Hybrid Keys and Hybrid Cylinders.

The Hybrid Key allows users to access any system configuration—pure mechanical, pure electronic or Hybrid Cylinder—with a single credential. Hybrid Cylinders use the dual-technology credential Hybrid Key with an RFID head that supports 125 kHz or 13.56 MHz. The key blade and the RFID head both are used to operate the Hybrid Cylinder. The high-security mechanical blade of the key is for doors that require security but not necessarily access control.

Don’t limit your security contracting skills. Start with the basics, such as electromechanical locks, and move your way into higher levels of secured access control. EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.