Trends at the Door: Constant Change for Locks, Access Control and Biometrics

Trends at the Door

The foundation of any solid physical security detection solution starts at the perimeter and focuses first on the door or entrance and egress areas, and that means some type of access control.

There have been widespread changes in access control in recent years. Enhancements have made products easier to install, according to David Cronk, technology director for physical security solutions at Anixter Inc., Glenview, Ill.

“Electric strikes, for example, are now dual-voltage 12 and 24V DC, fail-safe and fail-secure,” he said. “They are non-handed and have internal solenoids to fit more easily into the jamb. There are also models that do not require the jamb to be cut, which maintains the integrity of fire-rated frames. Access-control hardware is becoming more energy-efficient. This allows the access controller to power egress hardware, reader and electrified hardware at once.”

Some of the major trends in the access-control market are occurring in door-locking hardware.

“We are seeing a security and convenience paradigm shift,” Cronk said. “In the past, there has always been a balance between convenience and security; the more convenient access control was to use, the less secure, and the more secure it was, the less convenient it was. That’s no longer the case.”

Intelligent multifunctional locks combine the electrified lock, credential reader, the request to exit (REX) and the door position switch (DPS) into one lock.

“This eliminates the need to install a separate electrified lock, reader, REX and DPS,” Cronk said. “Intelligent multifunctional locks provide an architecturally compatible access-control solution at the door that is aesthetically pleasing and reduces installation time and cabling requirements.”

Convenience and labor savings

Larry Reed, CEO of ZKAccess, Fairfield, N.J., said common trends are at the root of all access-control technology adoption decisions: cost, security and convenience. 

“Unless you’re installing a DIY door lock, access-control products usually require hiring a skilled installer,” he said. “In the U.S. and Western Europe, labor is relatively more expensive than other parts of the world. So, in addition to the cost of an access-control product, the consumer must also consider the associated installation labor. Since labor in the U.S. is often 50 percent the total expense, access-control companies are now incorporating labor-saving features into their products.”

Wireless also is gaining traction for labor savings and inherent security, as encrypted secure wireless communication can be provided between the lock and the access controller using a panel interface connected to the door.

“Today, wireless access control is either 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi or 900 MHz communication, both of which are 128 AES encrypted,” Cronk said. “Wi-Fi does have advantages in that it uses the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure for communication. However, Wi-Fi uses up quite a bit of power. Since wireless locks are battery-powered, Wi-Fi tends to give batteries a short life span. To combat this, Wi-Fi communication is limited to a couple of times a day. If real-time monitoring and control of access events is not needed and access-control privileges do not regularly change, then using Wi-Fi is a good option.

“In addition, 900 MHz, which requires a separate gateway for transmission, can communicate with several locks. It has the advantage of using very little power in communication and the ability to communicate in near real time—less than 10 seconds. Finally, 900 MHz also has a farther reach than Wi-Fi and can communicate through walls more easily and with less interference.”

Shoring up cyber vulnerabilities

Most access-control manufacturers are addressing network security concerns by adhering to standardized security measures recognized by the information technology community.

“When selecting networked access-control devices, due diligence is recommended to ensure that the manufacturer is using proven network security practices,” Cronk said.

For example, the security contractor and end-user should update firmware regularly.

According to Reed, hackers are finding it easier to compromise an access-control system or assume a person’s identity to gain access. 

“Higher-level encryption and the use of biometrics is becoming more prevalent to restrict access,” he said. “Today’s preferred credential is becoming a person’s smartphone or biometric [fingerprint, face, iris, etc.].

“As long as a person uses what they possess (e.g., key, proximity card or password) to gain access, there will always remain a security vulnerability. Keys, cards and passwords can be lost, stolen or forgotten. Therefore, it is far more advisable controlling door access based on who you are, as opposed to what you have. Biometric credentials cannot be lost, stolen or forgotten. And, some biometric technologies are near impossible to fake. But regardless of your preferred access-control credential, it’s always best to layer your security,” Reed said.

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com...

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