Simplicity and Flexibility

Simplicity and Flexibility

Wireless access control can now be your Plan A for integrations

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 implement security.

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 wired system.

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 most sense.

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 wireless network.

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 security system.

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Security Today.

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