Can keyless access eventually replace the traditional lock and key completely? And how far can the ‘Internet of Things’ take door hardware, access control and security? Paul Barrows reports.
Keyless access has been around for over 20 years now, with mainstream systems available since the mid 1990s. Adopted and used in a wide range of industries – from commercial buildings to public sector, sports stadia to even residential houses – the importance of keyless access development can be likened and tracked to the use of smartphones and how they are revolutionising our daily interactions with the built environment.
It is ironic that smartphones are the medium for partly dictating how keyless access is taking shape for the modern society. Since the smartphone was introduced in 2007 with the iPhone, bringing with it the phenomenon that is the Internet of Things (IoT), we are now seeing major advances and widespread use of this technology within the door hardware and access control industry.
Before understanding the full potential of the smartphone era of keyless access, it is important to understand how this technology works, and the core benefits that it brings to installers, building managers and end users.
Why Keyless Access
Keyless access is as simple as it sounds - where keys are not required to access areas or buildings. Powered via mains or batteries to control the mechanics of the door, access can be gained through pincodes, transponders or smartphone, depending on the setup of the system.
The benefits that keyless access brings are numerous, with cost and increased control being the primary advantages. Whilst mechanical locks and door hardware potentially need to be changed each and every time there are user turnovers, particularly in high security environments, keyless access methods require just a simple reprogramming without the need for any changes in the physical hardware. This may be particularly good news to those responsible for a huge set of keys! With a keyless system, all that needs to be updated when access requirements change is a reset of pin codes, a reprogramming of fobs or cards, or an update of access control through a smartphone app.
Some keyless systems use mains-powered hardware, although battery powered systems are becoming increasingly popular because of the ease in which they can be fitted and the lack of wiring into the system. Battery lifespans are also improving, with systems such as SimonsVoss MobileKey giving a huge battery life of 4-6 years.
There are also significant security benefits of a keyless access system. Digitally controlled access is much more ‘pick proof’ in comparison to mechanical lock and key, making buildings much safer and more secure. It is well known that digital access systems are notoriously difficult to crack, with systems that use their own frequency being particularly secure against attempts to digitally access them.
In high user environments, lost keys or copied keys are also mitigated through keyless access, as new technology and software means transponders can be switched on and off at the flick of a button.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT technology has been slowly driving the way that keyless access is developed, and with very good reason.
As internet access has become more sophisticated and available, so too has the ability to control our everyday hardware. From the control of heating and, or to the programming of TV shows and movies on smartphones, IoT has become part of our daily lives. The costs for this type of smart system are now well past the high costs that were paid by early adopters, and are now affordable for most households or businesses.
In everyday use, remote control access can revolutionise access control. There is less of a necessity for facilities or security managers to be physically at the scene. Deliveries can be taken remotely, and a workforce can be given timed access as and when necessary, without even having to involve them in the access process.
From a monitoring point of view, the internet has made it possible for building managers to review which doors have been accessed, by what personnel and at what time. Needless to say, the constant necessity for better surveillance and user information is helping to push the growth of IoT in door hardware systems.
A wide variety of uses
The growth in keyless access has been exponential since its first development, and as the technology and systems available improve, the potential for where the systems are used is growing continually.
Education facilities, healthcare buildings, commercial buildings, sports stadia and public sector areas are all markets where we are seeing a real demand for new innovations, and the case for keyless access is clear. Where you have public access within buildings with restricted areas, a keyless access system in place to prevent unwanted entry means that access to restricted areas can be controlled without the need for updated hardware or even PIN code access.
Sports stadia is a particular area that is receiving a lot of attention in the light of recent terrorism and security issues. As well as the existing challenges of controlling access of a large number of people, in which areas that are free or restricted may change, terror threats are becoming an ever more likely possibility in any given high density situation. In these emergency situations, the ability to increase or restrict access to certain areas quickly and remotely could save lives.
Now that keyless access is well-established, the next challenge for the industry is how to integrate remote access even further. The next generation of these systems is likely to see building management systems and video surveillance systems merge seamlessly with keyless access systems, enabling us to effectively manage user access, potential threats, building monitoring and maintenance all at our fingertips.
Safe and Secure with SimonsVoss MobileKey
SimonsVoss have been pioneering the keyless access market for 20+ years since its inception, and one of the latest products to be rolled off is the MobileKey, a digital access control system based on radio-controlled, cable-free locking.
Designed for security and facilities managers in medium sized buildings, MobileKey provides access control for up to 20 doors and can manage up to 100 users at a time. Users gain access to doors through the use of either a pincode, transponder or allowing remote access via the MobileKey app.
The innovation comes in the form of the app, designed so that managers of security and access control can give permissions remotely to users, control doors over the internet and monitor the use of doors.
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