Simplicity and Flexibility
Wireless access control can now be your Plan A for integrations
- By Peter Boriskin
- Oct 01, 2018
Wireless technology in the security space is on
the cusp of becoming the new norm. For the
past few years we’ve seen the adoption of the
technology grow steadily as it continuously
improves upon traditional security solutions.
ASSA ABLOY recently commissioned a survey into the opinions
and trends in the wireless security space. We found that while only
six percent of currently installed electronic access systems are fully
wireless, 31 percent are now a mixture of wired and wireless technologies.
Meanwhile, fully wired systems have fallen from 57 percent to 41
percent over a three-year period.
The report offers some intriguing context for this type of adoption:
cellular phones. In the 1980s, a marketing group projected that
900,000 mobile phones would be used worldwide by the year 2000. By
the time 1999 rolled around, there were 900,000 mobile phones being
sold every three days.
This is presented not to say there is causation between these
events, but to reinforce the anecdotal reality many of us observe in
the technology market: once a product or solution secures enough
market penetration, adoption ramps up to a rapid pace.
Wireless products are reaching that tipping point thanks to market
penetration in both the business and residential space—people
have come to expect them as part of their lives. Further, wireless solutions
are now faster and easier to install—thus saving integrators
time and money. The technology gives building owners more control
over their facility, and more flexibility in where and how they can
In short, wireless solutions are currently a driving force in our
industry and everyone needs to be prepared for the coming demand.
What does that mean for key groups in the security integration chain?
How can integrators use this technology to their business’ benefit?
What should end users now expect?
Benefits to the Integrator
The introduction of wireless as a more standard offering has altered
things substantially for the integrator channel—and this almost universally comes with positive impacts.
With traditional systems there was little choice in terms of product
offerings for locks. Brass keys with cylinder locks or fully-wired
access control systems were typically the only two solutions. With
the introduction of wireless enabled products, that has absolutely
changed. In locations where hardwired access control systems would
have been cost prohibitive, wireless solutions now fully open the possibility
for securely covering a facility or campus in electronic access
control. No more digging into walls, no more running wires, and no
more worrying about massive installation times.
This is, obviously, an incredible cost and time saver for the integrator
and end user. When looking at total project costs—with equipment
and labor—a wireless system can be implemented for nearly half the
cost of a traditional, hard-wired electronic access control system.
This also allows for upgrades to current wired systems. Doors and
openings that previously could not be wired for access control can
now be integrated into existing systems through the Wi-Fi network.
Research shows that integrators are also noticing this. According
to the ASSA ABLOY survey, 75 percent of integrators believe wireless
locks make installation easier, quicker and more cost-effective.
That means for some that this information will seem basic. However,
remembering the core benefits of a wireless system—simplicity, cost efficiency
and flexibility—is critical to understanding the biggest piece of
advice about the technology: always keep wireless on the menu.
Educating the End-user
End-users considering integrating door security solutions should almost
always be considering a wireless option. The benefits are too
great to ignore.
That said, there are still many assumptions and issues that facility
owners and managers have concerns over. According to the survey,
end users are not yet widely enthused about the advertised benefits
of wireless access control. Fewer than half of respondents believed
wireless systems have a lower cost of ownership, are more sustainable,
or even cut energy bills. One in three respondents believe wireless
systems run a major risk of downtime. Security concerns were
also a common theme among respondents.
It is the job of manufacturers and integrators to counter these
lingering jitters with factual information.
Cost of Ownership, Sustainability
and Energy Bills.
Combined with the reduced installation costs of wireless systems,
the cost of powering wireless systems also offers impressive savings.
Because wireless systems are not constantly drawing energy from
the building’s power system, the results are a sustainable and energy
saving solution. Even with annual battery changes, the cost related
to power consumption of the system is about 25 percent less than a
Downtime. Thanks to improvements in battery life, the need to
replace batteries is down dramatically, with some locks going several
years on a single battery. This ensures more continuous uptime than
a wired system. Battery-based wireless systems also operate despite a
power outage and are often seen as resilient solutions in areas where
flooding or other natural disasters occur. As long as the access control
unit is intact and above the waterline, the system is up and operating.
Security. Security remains key among the worries of end users—
and with good reason. Security breaches and data misuse remain
common occurrences in today’s world. Thus, it is important to
educate yourself on what level of digital security a manufacturer has
implemented in its products and solutions. How is the wireless communication
being delivered, and how is the data being accessed and
stored? Manufacturers should be readily able and willing to explain
this key consideration—including whether they perform penetration
testing and security validation—to help alleviate concerns.
The reality is that there has been so much time and energy invested
into the development of digital security for wireless communication
that it may now be easier to compromise a hardwire system than
it is to decrypt a wireless signal.
Universal integration. There is also an assumption that wireless
solutions are only for specialty applications. The reality is that some
type of wireless can now be considered a first option everywhere in
the built environment.
True wireless solutions can benefit all buildings by cutting costs
and streamlining future build outs. Small- and medium-sized facilities
are ideal for true Wi-Fi integrations as the lockset can use an onboard
controller to wirelessly communicate to the electronic access
control software. This means adding a lock to the system is greatly
simplified and the cost is just the lock and the installation time.
Less wired solutions exist where dedicated networks use wireless
technologies other than common Wi-Fi infrastructure. This creates
ad hoc networks in specific locations and connects them to a preexisting
wired system. This can be extremely beneficial in retrofit
applications where digging into walls could mean damaging a historic
asset or exposing asbestos. In these scenarios, creating the ad
hoc network and quickly upgrading using wireless may make the
A hybrid model also exists using data-on-card methodology,
where most of the locks are wireless but there are a few hotspots
within the system that are hardwired to communicate data to a server.
In this scenario the credential stores the information and updates the
server when it checks into the hotspot.
This can be used in large systems where wireless infrastructure
won’t exist throughout the building. Consider mixed-use residential
where the building won’t be supplying internet to tenants. In this scenario,
a hybrid model saves on running wiring through the building,
enhances overall security, and doesn’t require IT staff to maintain a
In short, the cost-savings, time-savings and simplicity in integration
is simply too great a benefit not to make wireless your Plan A
when it comes to implementing a project. These solutions have been
brought to mixed-use residential, small- and medium-sized business,
enterprise, education from K-12 to university, and healthcare verticals,
all with extreme levels of success.
Partner for Success
These are just a few considerations in terms of helping end users understand,
and accept, the benefits of the new technology. These are
also only a few examples of when and where to deploy such technologies.
The truth is, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to
wireless technologies. There are still secondary considerations into
how these systems play into the built environment as a whole.
To learn more about these technologies, the offerings available,
what they can offer, and when and where to apply, contact a respected
and trusted manufacturer who is innovating in the space. Integrators
who partner with a trained sales staff and who can partake in training
programs from these manufacturers will be able to fully engage in
what wireless technology offers—both now and for the future. End
users interested in upgrading their facilities can learn about these
technologies from manufacturers and connect with trusted, certified
integrators who carry the solutions needed.
By partnering in this way, we can bring to life
the promise of these new technologies: a more
comprehensive, more secure, and more intuitive
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Security Today.