THIS IS THEN; THIS IS NOW: Manufacturers say traditional locks remain popular, but IP is knocking on the door

Friday, September 1, 2006

In many ways, when it comes to locking systems, the more the security marketplace changes, the more things stay the same. Demand remains steady for myriad locking systems, including mechanical and keypad, say locking system manufacturers, many of which have been around for a century or more, but IP-addressable and wireless locking systems are the future of the industry.
One of the many companies with some serious staying power is Adams Rite Manufacturing of Pomona, Calif. Founded in the late 1800s, Adams was acquired in February by access control giant Assa Abloy. The company offers a variety of exit devices and locking hardware and new ownership isn't going to affect its legacy success.
"We're synonymous with aluminum storefront hardware," said Joe Padilla, senior technical representative for Adams Rite. "When an architect specifies aluminum doors, [they're usually talking about] Adams Rite deadbolts."
Kaba Access of Winston Salem, N.C., part of the Kaba Group that is acquiring Saflok, is a worldwide provider of the full range of locking systems. Yet, Mark Allen, product marketing manager, noted, "We have all these different technologies and, in this day and age, there will still be more mechanical pushbutton locks sold than electronic locks."
"The reason for that is because they're simple, easy to set up, and easy to install and you don't have to learn a software package. It doesn't work in every application, but if you have a supply closet or conference room that you want to control access to, in many cases this is sufficient."
Still, when John Hunepohl, Assa Abloy director of integrated solution specialist, looks into his crystal ball to find out what's on the horizon for locking systems, he does see change afoot. The convergence of IP technology and physical security is knocking at the door.
"The trend is toward more IP addressable stuff in security systems," he said, "from cameras to intercoms to access control panels ... now we will start to see locks in the same venue. In the future I see the door itself as an IP addressable device."
Noting that standard new construction includes structured wiring, and that today we have a WiFi network with hot spots all over the country, Hunepohl predicts that new buildings will utilize wired and wireless technology everywhere. "When a tenant moves in they can manage a door because it's part of a network," he said.
It will be building owners seeking lower maintenance costs and the ability to attract new tenants "because their building is so configurable" that will drive this type of construction, he said.
Hunepohl sees present trends that point toward his future landscape of smart buildings. The two fastest growing vertical markets in his business are schools and healthcare facilities, markets where "customers want to tie standalone locks into a centralized system."
However, traditional products still rule the marketplace, and there are countless variations on locking systems products and much overlap among different categories of locking systems. It's common for manufacturers to license each other's technology--Stanley and others, for example, use Schlage's (which is part of Ingersoll Rand) wireless technology.
Martin Huddart, Schlage strategic business unit manager, said locking systems now fall into four areas: mechanical, keypad, computer-managed and networked.
Mechanical locks are the simple lock-and-key systems. Keypad devices can be programmed with a unique code, to get away from using a key. These keypads can be easily reprogrammed when a user no longer has access. Computer managed locks take the keypad one step further, with features such as time zones (to let people in between certain hours) and/or an audit trail (that tracks who went in and out). "It has access control capability, but in an offline context. You have to go up to the lock to reprogram it," Huddart explained.
Finally, Huddart calls networked locks an "important new trend" that provides all the features of an online access control system, but instead of it being a variety of components around the door (magnet or strike, power supply, card reader and controller) these components are integrated into the lock format. Networked locks can be wired or wireless.
Huddart said that Schlage, which acquired wireless company Recognition Source,two years ago, "firmly believe[s] a large part of the access control system market is going to go wireless, just like it has in the burglar alarm industry. Look at the intrusion detection market, [wireless is a] significant part of that market because of the lower labor installation costs and lower cost for the installer."
With locking systems, "it's the same dynamic, it's a productivity technology." Huddart said the typical cost of a networked wired opening is $2,500 to $3,500 per door for the end user. With wireless locks, however, that figure can be 20 to 30 percent lower, mostly because of labor cost savings.
"It often takes eight hours and three different tradesmen or -women to install an online opening. You've got to have electrician, low voltage, locksmith skills to do that," Huddart explained.
"With wireless, it's a one-hour event," because there's no need to run wires into the door frame for the electrical strike, or the top of the door for a magnet or feed wires through the wall for a card reader."
"There's also less disruption, no drilling and dust or running wire through the ceiling, it's much easier for the end user," Huddart added.
In addition, the wireless lock installation is economical for the installer because, without the unknowns associated with wiring a facility, it's easier to bid a job.
"When I talk to integrators, the big reasons for budget overruns are they either underestimated the amount of wire needed or number of hours it would take to feed wire through various walls and ceilings," Huddart said.
Jay Vaitkus, global product and market manager for Stanley, agreed that wireless is a hot trend in the market. With wireless systems, Viatkus believes that "hardware has to be married to software or you don't have a recipe for success." Stanley, and others, use Schlage's wireless technology. Schlage has partnerships with major manufacturers such as Lenel and GE.
Another player in the wireless market is OSI, a small company whose bread and butter has been the battery operated standalone lock it brought to market in 1986. Rick Rasmussen, vice president of sales and marketing for OSI in Sunnyvale, Calif., described OSI as a "small but nimble player." It introduced its wireless locking systems at ASIS last year and began shipping the product (to clients such as Rand, Harvard and UCLA) this summer.Rasmussen cites expandability and portability as advantages to wireless locking systems. "User capacity and reader capacity can be expanded through software not hardware," he observed.
"Wireless allows a corporation to move to a new location and bring the locking systems with them. The system becomes an asset instead of a liability," Rasmussen said.
Portability is important for temporary applications such as a tactical mobile military facility. And wireless is really the only choice for some applications where new wiring is not permitted, such as an historic building, or where drilling for wiring is not possible, such as if a site has heavy concrete walls, he noted.
Whether they're specialists in the sleekest new lock-and-key system or testing a futuristic IP addressable door, manufacturers seem to agree that simplicity of design and operation is key to success in locking systems.
"He who makes it the simplest will win the market," Huddart predicted.