The New Standard

The New Standard

Connected locks can rely on Wi-Fi as a solution

As the Internet of Things becomes more prevalent in today’s world, smart locks and access control systems are at the heart of the revolution. Costly wired systems are being replaced with wireless, cloud-based solutions that deliver remote management and monitoring. With solutions like Wi-Fi locks, companies can manage access to offices, retail, gyms, rentals, and other businesses via the web.

SELECTING THE RIGHT SMART LOCK

Selecting the best access control solution really depends upon each individual application. However, more and more installations are gravitating towards Wi-Fi locks as Wi-Fi is nearly ubiquitous throughout residential homes and business facilities. The ability to leverage a home or business’s existing Wi-Fi network is a huge advantage that eliminates the expense and hassle of installing a separate radio frequency network just for connected devices. Further evidence of the growing support for the Wi-Fi standard in connected devices can be seen with the Apple Home Kit and Google OnHub, which have both made Wi-Fi a pillar in their infrastructure.

THE EVOLUTION OF KEYLESS ACCESS CONTROL AND CONNECTED LOCKS

For decades, companies have searched to add functionality by keeping things simpler. The evolution from keys to Smart Locks has looked something like this:

  • Mechanical locks got rid of keys but didn’t solve the issue of multiple user codes.
  • Electronic locks offered multiple codes but remote management or time-based credentials.
  • Algorithmic locks delivered remote management and scheduled permissions but no real-time control or notifications.
  • Zigbee and Zwave internet connected locks give immediate control and alerts but require additional bridges and expense to build the mesh networks.
  • Wi-Fi locks are managed on existing networks and are easily provisioned.

POWER MANAGEMENT AND BATTERY LIFE

What about power management and battery drain? This is the most common message from large home automation companies—Wi-Fi won’t work because it drains batteries too fast.

Devices, like the RemoteLock 6i, communicate through regular Wi-Fi network; however they’re not always connected to this network. Once a lock is connected to the network, the lock will begin checking in with servers at a regular interval called a “heartbeat.”

Each time the lock heartbeats it will check for new commands, such as locking or unlocking the door or receiving a new schedule or user code. This heartbeat interval is used to save battery power in the lock. And each time the lock is touched it can wake up and automatically connect to the server to get its updates and report access events to the cloud.

For instance, if you have someone outside the house that you wish to let in, but don’t want to give them a code, simply unlock from your smartphone, and then instruct that person to press any button on the lock to wake it up, receive the command from the cloud and unlock the door.

THE BEST SOLUTIONS FOR BUSINESSES

While IoT is starting to “cross the chasm” with more people adding connected devices, home automation has always been a luxury for consumers. Businesses, on the other hand, are always looking to solve pain points through solutions. Rekeying doors when employees leave, tracking when people use specified doors, giving employees or service contractors access at only certain times, even limiting access to certain areas.

Certainly, there have been systems that manage doors through cables, electric strikes, keypads, and proxy credentials. But, the reality is most companies don’t have the budget for these expensive systems, and even if they do they can’t afford to include internal doors like conference rooms on the access control system.

Now wireless management of locks, cameras, sensors and other solutions allow commercial buildings to add access control that is managed through smart phones and computers. We estimate that so far only 1 to 2 percent of all business access control systems are currently cloud controlled, and the demand is growing rapidly. (How’s that for a great market opportunity for security companies!)

CLOUD-BASED BUILDING ACCESS CONTROL

Over the last few years the use of cloudbased building access systems has been accelerating. This has been driven by the need for business customers to allow temporary access to a building for contract workers, employees and guests; to be notified when certain people enter the building or when strange behaviors occur (like multiple entries at night); and the need to do it all remotely through their phone or laptop.

But the resounding request from our customers was to include all their doors on the system and not just outside doors. The problem is, of course, cost. A typical access control system can start at as much as $4,000 per door, and adding a storage room, conference room or small internal office makes it hard to justify the cost.

To address these needs, lock manufacturers are starting to offer Wi-Fi enabled products such as the RemoteLock 6i, a Wi-Fi enabled electronic lever lock. It can be installed in under 30 minutes on any standard door, and can be a standalone or connected to the same cloud-based access control system as the external doors.

BENEFITS OF WI-FI ENABLED LOCKS AND CLOUD-BASED ACS

With internal doors being added to more cost effective cloud-based access control, small businesses now can add these security features to their buildings without having to break the budget. And for a cost as low as a few thousand dollars, a building can utilize a front door with an electric strike and keypad, and then add internal Wi-Fi locks to common areas that need monitored.

The benefits to these systems are many.

  • Know when and who enters both internal and external doors on the same system.
  • Add additional doors that need monitoring, even if at another location.
  • Take away or grant users temporary or permanent access from multiple facilities.
  • With smart phone controlled access, managers can monitor remotely.
  • Use to check when employees start the day through the reporting on the portal.
  • Give limited time for entry for cleaning crews and other contractors.
  • Instant deleting of accounts for terminated employees.
  • Rules-based control for other devices— turns on light when door is opened.

MULTI-FAMILY BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES

Wi-Fi locks and cloud-based access control solutions are being used now in multi-family apartment buildings and short-term rentals, like Airbnb and HomeAway. They are the perfect, keyless answer to give both owners and renters control over their property, even if it is far away.

Apartment owners and managers are recognizing the benefits of using Wi-Fi to remotely manage without the need for keys—and the pricey rekeying that occurs in tenant and employee transitions. Using cloud-controlled Wi-Fi locks allows owners and managers to:

  • Eliminate the cost of changing or rekeying locks after each lease.
  • Eliminate the risk of terminated employees having duplicate keys to buildings and units.
  • Let service people in remotely with temporary codes and know when they arrive. Using Wi-Fi locks for units allows renters to:
  • Give temporary codes to house guests.
  • Allow neighbors temporary access when the pet needs feeding.
  • Get text alerts when children arrive home from school.

With all apartment doors and common area doors on the same system, the entire building can be monitored and controlled either remotely or on premise via smartphone or computer. Tenants can be provided keyless access to laundry rooms, health clubs, business centers and pools, and their access can be immediately terminated when they move out. Managers and employees can get access to boiler rooms, supply closets, and offices and their access can also be terminated when they leave the company.

SHORT-TERM AND VACATION RENTAL OPPORTUNITIES

Not only are Wi-Fi locks changing the way the multi-family rental industry is being managed, but there is another booming market that is looking to connected locks to solve problems; the shortterm rental and vacation rental industries. Managers in these markets are using Wi-Fi locks to:

  • Let guests in remotely with lock codes they receive when booking the room.
  • Limit the time guest codes are active to the duration of their stay.
  • Limit access for cleaning and service companies to the specific times they need to be in the units.
  • Add additional days if guests decide to extend the stay.
  • Use keypad codes to keep the guest’s experience simple and positive—no need for guests to download a smartphone app or to carry a smartphone. Smart locks are becoming a key part of the new hospitality industry that depends on internet-based solutions like online booking, remote management, and flexibility to make real-time changes.

THE INTERNET OF THINGS SOLVES BUSINESS PROBLEMS

Wi-Fi locks deliver to traditional and revolutionary businesses the best way to manage security in their operations. By connecting via existing Wi-Fi networks, companies get a full management solution for their security.

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Security Today.

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