Wireless innovation is effectively changing the footprint and possibilities for electronic access control. For systems integrators, it means additional projects and new ways to expand the customer’s security system while adding more profitability to every job.
Wireless access control offers choices: standalone (offline) and networked (online) solutions, locks, electric strikes, deadlatches, readers, controllers and internet of things (loT) devices. Many can be integrated with access control software for reporting, data and remote management, and some are hybrid solutions, mixing wireless and hardwired controllers. Power management for door devices fosters an all-wireless solution by eliminating separate power cabling. Here, batteries take over.
Products that leverage 900 megaHertz (MHz) wireless have staying power with an extremely stable platform, enhanced signal penetration and fast communications for quick lockdowns or other real-time system management. Wi-Fi has also gained stability, emerging as a predominant player in IP-enabled electronic access control locks and readers.
New narrative in access control
Thanks to wireless innovation, electronic access control is more accessible and easier to tailor to the customer, especially in retrofits. Manufacturers often maintain partnerships with hardware providers that facilitate integration and follow open standards and protocols to provide additional possibilities for physical security. Wireless locks are made with the flexibility to deploy different credentials depending on the user’s needs, including Bluetooth, near-field communication, smart cards and proximity.
Wireless enables connectivity in locations where running wires is impossible, such as concrete structures or historical buildings, in areas devoid of network infrastructure and where laying cabling would be too costly. Benefits of wireless include labor and time savings. Systems integrators can bid more competitively with a solid edge.
Cellular is increasingly an option in commercial wireless security design. Newly introduced to market, Tysons, Va.-based Alarm.com’s Cell Connector for Access Control eliminates the need for a wired network connection, so integrators can install cellular-powered controllers and readers. Cell Connector bypasses the local network to provide a 4G LTE connection between the access control system and the cloud.
“This adds installation flexibility and eliminates the need to run expensive cable back to a central location,” said Brian Lohse, general manager for Alarm.com’s commercial business unit. “Cellular connectivity for alarm panels simplifies installation and adds reliability even during a power outage.”
Wireless stacks up nicely
The growth and rapid adoption of wireless is a significant pivot for the marketplace, according to Lester LaPierre, director of business development, electronic access control for ASSA ABLOY, New Haven, Conn.
“While wired access control options work well in new construction, installation can be costly and disruptive in retrofits. Wireless solutions enable access control at a fraction of the cost of wired by allowing customers to penetrate systems deeper into a building, extending access control and security throughout a facility in an affordable and efficient way. Saving time (and) money and being more efficient are words that resonate with integrators,” he said.
With wireless access comes several key choices: IP-enabled intelligent Wi-Fi and real-time wireless.
“IP-enabled Wi-Fi includes intelligent locks and exit devices that provide a complete solution for locations that are too difficult, remote or costly to install wired systems. Real-time wireless uses local wireless communication between the lock and a communications hub to connect to an electronic access control system. It’s extremely versatile as well,” LaPierre said. “These devices can be added to classrooms, glass entries, storage/file cabinets, desk drawers, restricted access areas, server cabinets and telecom closets, as well as traditional doors. Products like wireless deadlatches make it easy for integrators to upgrade mechanical openings to wireless access control.”
According to Matt Welty, vice president, Americas at Codelocks Inc., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., many locks are Wi-Fi-dependent, which necessitates constant communication with the lock to grant access rights to users.
“This can be a problem in the event of a power outage or internet failure. However, providing customers with the ability to remotely grant time-based access to the lock without the need for Wi-Fi is the most significant advancement in the wireless locking/reader product category,” he said.
Welty advised integrators to assess the site and listen carefully to customer needs before deciding on the type of system.
“Installing wireless locks in a large warehouse with concrete walls and a vast space will need a different solution than a small business office,” he said.
Other considerations include signal penetration, any current or planned changes in the structure or building’s interior, and cybersecurity protocols and safeguards.