Best Practices for Deploying Wireless Locks & Readers

Get up to speed on the latest in wireless lock technology to ensure successful deployments.

Wireless locks and readers have been around for a number of years, but there have been struggles to find a place in the enterprise for the technology.

Concerns over wireless security and the cost of establishing a reliable wireless infrastructure have served as barriers to wide-spread adoption. Some manufacturers have used proprietary wireless technology, while others have standardized on Wi-Fi networks.

The latest generation of locks from many manufacturers is well suited for large enterprise deployments, but there are some best practices that can help ensure a successful deployment for all scenarios.

Wireless Locks Can Be Convenient, Less Expensive

A wireless lock is a convenient way to add security because it doesn’t have the expense of pulling wire to the door. The tradeoff is that the lock has to be battery powered.

In order to save energy, a battery-powered wireless lock goes into an offline power-saving mode when it doesn’t need to communicate with the application server. The more the lock is used, the more often the batteries will need to be replaced.

Configuring long polling intervals extends battery life and lowers battery replacement costs, but it also means that the lock doesn’t receive updates or commands until the next communication interval.

This suggests that wireless locks are not suitable for applications that require the ability to be remotely locked in an emergency.

Instead, they are best used in areas that don’t need to be updated frequently such as employee offices, conference rooms and dorm rooms.

Online hardwired locks are still the best method of securing perimeter security doors and high traffic areas.

If the lock is using a Wi-Fi network, the installer needs to work closely with the enterprise IT group to make sure that there is adequate signal strength at the device to allow it to communicate reliably.

The lock should be configured to use industry-standard encryption and authentication to protect it from malicious attacks. Understanding the network architecture and scalability requirements will help to enable a successful deployment.

Mobile Credentials Accessible, More Applicable Today

Smartphones continue to lead the evolution of technology in the consumer electronics space.

The smartphone is nearly always present with millennials, and their comfort level with using their phone to interact with their surroundings is evident in the number of new consumer mobile products that allow the control of lights, locks and thermostats.

Physical access control relies on a credential being presented at a reader to grant access to a door. Until recently, mobile credentials that allow a phone to be used as the method of entry weren’t easy to deploy in the enterprise environment.

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It was possible, but it required third-party software to generate certificates and transfer credentials between phones and application servers. Early products used Near Field Communication (NFC) protocols that were not supported by all smartphone manufacturers.

With the arrival of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), mobile credential technology is accessible to all major smartphones.

Established enterprise customers are generally not willing to invest capital to upgrading existing equipment without a compelling business case that minimizes risk.

With standards around BLE, many of the major enterprise access control manufacturers have been working to integrate mobile credential technology into their products over the past several years. Those developments should make the process of managing mobile credentials as easy as managing traditional proximity cards.

Don’t Throw Away the Keys Just Yet

Despite the advantages of the new technology, the most widely deployed access control device is still the lock and key. It’s certainly not as exciting or glamorous as wireless readers or mobile credentials, but it is still an important element of access control.

Most manufacturers of electronic locks now offer lower cost options that don’t have a key override. If there is an electronic lock, is it worth the added expense of brass keys and cores?

Consider this scenario: The batteries on a wireless lock are dead because of lapses in maintenance and battery replacement plans. How do you get into the room to change the batteries if the lock won’t read a credential? How long can you wait for maintenance or a locksmith to open the door?

A dorm room or office might not be considered critical, but an animal research lab or closet with critical infrastructure still needs the reliability and redundancy of having a key in a lock box somewhere.

End users are more aware of the need for security and expect their employers and schools to provide an environment that is a safe place to work and learn. They also want and expect a frictionless interaction with security technology.

As mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to make our buildings smarter and more integrated, it is more practical than ever before to implement wireless and mobile security technology.

READ NEXT: S2 CEO & Founder Discusses the Future of Access Control

BRAD KONKLE is Director, Integrated Solutions for Stanley Security. Reach him at [email protected]

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