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Wireless access control moves closer to mainstream adoption, with more potential waiting to be tapped

The report states that 69% of respondents consider wireless locks a cost-effective alternative to wired access control
Everything about wireless access control makes life easier
for those who install and operate it

A lot of market data crosses my desk at ASSA ABLOY. Sometimes it can be hard to spot patterns or pick out the trends. But not always. Some recent access control market research we commissioned pointed in one direction.

Our conclusion? Slowly but surely, access control is becoming a wireless technology

As the global leader in door opening solutions, we are able to survey a large, representative segment of security professionals. Comparing our latest data with similar research conducted in 2014 clearly indicates the trend. Our 2014 report found 23% of commercial properties using a wireless or hybrid wired/wireless access control system. Fast forward to 2016 and the proportion has risen to 29%, with 5% of the installed base already with a fully wireless setup. That’s a significant leap, in a relatively short time.

Already, 69% of respondents consider wireless locks a cost-effective alternative to wired access control. A whopping 62% even predict that few business premises will still have mechanical locks within a decade. We published the detailed results in a report, “The Wireless Access Control Market in 2016”*.

Easy to operate, easy to integrate

But why wireless? What aspects of the technology appeal in particular to facility managers, integrators and installers?

Cost-efficiency, ease of installation, and the compliance requirements for audit trails are often cited by building managers. Everything about wireless access control makes life easier for those who install and operate it. It’s easy to extend an existing third-party access control system by switching mechanical locking cylinders for battery-powered, electronic Aperio® cylinders, for example. You can bring them into the existing, single control panel via communications hubs (online integration) or via update-on-card (offline). Compare that to the full-scale rewiring job needed to add traditional magnetic locks!

Key management headaches are eliminated
by RFID smartcards, as are the security
risks posed by a lost mechanical key —
an all-too-common occurrence

Equipping doors previously locked using mechanical keys with electronic access control upgrades a site’s security in an instant. Key management headaches are eliminated by RFID smartcards, as are the security risks posed by a lost mechanical key — an all-too-common occurrence, and something 86% of our survey respondents also worry about. EN, DIN and CE wireless lock certification drive still more customers to wireless.

Easy, effective integration of wireless lock technologies like Aperio® with CCTV, alarm and other security systems is another major benefit. The era of the smart building is here; locking systems that integrate seamlessly with complementary building management infrastructure are increasingly vital.

“Wireless locks are often specially designed for integration with other systems. The integration capabilities and ease of use can be a significant benefit,” writes Blake Kozak, principal analyst at IHS Research, in commentary on our report.

Extensive adoption across many business sectors

Wireless is extensively adopted across many business sectors. In a corporate office setting, the ability for facility managers to amend access rights remotely, to instantly cancel lost cards or to extend an existing wired access control system without disruptive structural alterations are all valuable. Sensitive settings such as hospitals and residential care homes need the real-time information flow that only electronic access control can supply. Online wireless locks provide this much more cost-effectively than any other technology — and are even available with hermetic sealing and anti-bacterial coating. In the event of a security breach at a medicine store of patient records area, wireless locks generate detailed audit trails for locks, users or smartcards that regulatory compliance demands.

In student accommodation blocks, lost keys are a recurring security risk and drain on resources — risks and costs that are eliminated by installing wireless access control instead of mechanical locks. Critical infrastructure sites are often widely dispersed or remote (or both). Wireless locks don’t need a mains electricity connection, making them a perfect choice for reservoirs, electricity sub-stations and power generation or distribution facilities. Certified locks and encrypted communications between lock and system ensure security meets the stringent demands of such critical premises.

Certified locks and encrypted communications between lock and system ensure security meets the stringent demands of such critical premises
Wireless locks don’t need a mains electricity connection, making them a perfect
choice for critical infrastructure sites

Aperio wireless locks

Among our own product portfolio, Aperio® wireless locks integrate with almost any leading access control system, allowing facility managers to take access control much further into a site than would be possible with wired access control. At i2 serviced offices around the UK, Aperio® wireless locks replaced the slow and expensive job of hardwiring every newly sublet office into i2’s central access control system. Aperio® is the access control backbone of a 100% wireless deployment at Ghent’s Hospital Maria Middelares. It enables real-time management and “gold standard” resident care at a new care home in Umeå, Sweden, as well as flexible, online access control at the University of Surrey’s Manor Park campus.

SMARTair for small to medium-sized premises

SMARTair™ is a stand-alone wireless locking system aimed at small to medium-sized premises, including offices, retirement homes, hospitals, small hotels and universities. Building managers at Frankfurt’s Tower 185 chose SMARTair™ for its easy installation and access rights processing speed. Because SMARTair™ locks are wireless, they consume less energy and emit much less CO2 than wired magnetic locks. It’s no coincidence, then, that Tower 185 was among the first European high-rises to be awarded Gold LEED Certification by the US Green Building Council. The flexibility of SMARTair™ was also a major factor in the Red Cross’s decision to select it for its new Córdoba headquarters.

CLIQ key management solution

CLIQ® is a mechatronic technology, based on patented, high-security cylinders, battery-powered, programmable keys and encrypted electronic communications between cylinders and system. It is widely adopted in critical infrastructure settings around Europe. Its security credentials and the ability for in-house managers to issue contractors with programmable keys are a major benefit to workflow management in these complex organisations.

The ability for in-house managers to
issue contractors with programmable
keys is a major benefit to workflow
management in complex organisations

In Helsinki, Finland, CLIQ® secures 3,500 interior and exterior doors at 70 different sites for Helsingin Energia, ensuring 400,000 customers have uninterrupted electricity supply. The whole ecosystem is managed remotely from simple, web-based CLIQ® administration software. Industrielle Werke Basel needed a locking system that would equip it to face 21st-century security challenges — as well as padlocks that could withstand extremes of climate and weather. CLIQ® technology ticked all the boxes.

Adopting wireless beyond doors

Interestingly, our recent customer research also finds the market is already tuned-in to the potential for wireless beyond just doors. Well over half of respondents judged electronic access control well suited to securing server racks, cabinets, lockers, safes, and machines, as well as padlocked outdoor structures. Flexibility makes wireless technology the natural solution.

“Interior doors, file cabinets, carts and other deployments will increasingly use wireless electronic systems,” says Kozak. “In deployments beyond doors, IHS expects mechatronic locks to see the most growth. Globally, we forecast that these devices will see volume growth of about 24% in 2016 as security personnel strengthen security to adhere to strict compliance regulations, which often require audit trails. Mechanical keys simply don’t offer this level of tracking.”

With audit trail compliance, easy installation, cost efficiency, and seamless integration, wireless access control makes life easier for security managers, installers and system integrators. This, surely, is the secret to its rapid growth. We see it in survey responses and its increasingly widespread adoption across many sectors— and we expect to keep seeing it, as we analyse market trends through 2016 and beyond.


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