Hot Seat: Cracking the Electric Lock Marketplace

As efforts to diminish security threats in commercial and corporate facilities remain paramount, the marketplace continues to shift from mechanical locks to electronic devices that leverage IP network infrastructure. Martin Huddart, vice president of electronic access control for ASSA ABLOY, joins the conversation to discuss how this technology progression brings with it new channel opportunities as well as introduces new challenges.

How have new locking technologies altered the marketplace?

Mechanical locks and online access control solutions are two well understood options for securing the opening. Mechanical locks offer low security at low costs. The typical online access control offers high security at a much higher cost. Electronic locks generally represent a new, third medium security option to the mix, which can help an end user achieve a higher total level of security for any given budget.

End users are very aware of security vulnerabilities with mechanical solutions — the challenges of key control, the lack of forensic audit data and overall accountability. It is impractical to deploy conventional access control at every opening, but electronic locks and cylinders can close these security gaps at a very affordable price.

Have installing security contractors quickly adapted to adding these devices to their portfolios?

Dealers and integrators very quickly grasp the EAC [electronic access control] features of electronic locks at the technical level. One of the hurdles we have had to overcome as a lock manufacturer is to convince an integrator that medium security lock solutions fit into their business model. We are eager to help them adapt their ‘hunting’ skills to find medium security opportunities and have them believe that they can make money selling EAC deeper into a facility and control more doors.

What recurring revenue opportunities do electro-mechanical locks offer?

Dealers and integrators can offer service contracts on electronic locks, just as they often do on online openings. This is an opportunity today. In the near future, we also see smarter components at the door streaming service-related data upstream to the dealer or integrator that allows us to create what I call the ‘engine warning light for the door.’

For example, ASSA ABLOY sells mortise locks that can transmit the temperature of the solenoid. Hot solenoids spell trouble and an impending failure. This allows the integrator to fix an opening on Friday afternoon instead of Sunday morning prior to the opening failing completely. This lowers the total cost of ownership for the opening and provides a compelling reason for a service contract through the managed care of the opening.

How has access control system design changed with the uptake in electro-mechanical locks?

Access control systems have evolved to accommodate the unique features of locks, particularly battery powered wireless locks. For example, they may add battery status to the graphical user interface [GUI] so the end user knows when to change the batteries. The way the locks function with regard to schedules, holidays and other features may cause other changes in the GUI.

The integration effort for the OEM depends on the architecture of the lock; some locks have decision-making powers that supplant the typical access panel and require considerable integration effort. Other architectures attach locks to existing panels and require less integration effort. When controller hardware manufacturers such as Mercury and HID Global integrate the ability to communicate to the wireless lock, the impact on the software providers is significantly lowered.

Is a lack of skilled installation labor limiting the wider use of electro-mechanical access control?

In general, the skills some integrators lack the most are mechanical in nature. They may need to learn to recognize different lock types, door handing, door prep, door coring or how to configure and order lock part numbers. Many integrators have hired locksmith skills into their teams – or acquired a local locksmith business — to overcome this gap and as a result they can service the entire opening for their end users. At the end of the day, end users want someone to take care of the opening, and we see this one-stop shop service as a great thing for our channels to offer.

Will electro-mechanical locks eventually make a good fit for the residential market?

Absolutely. There is already an established market for keypad locks for the home. Many of these products, like the ones from our Emtek business, are designed to blend into the hardware on the home. Studies show that the female head of household is very often the gatekeeper of the front door aesthetic. The convenience of keypad locks and the security of knowing you don’t have a key hiding under the mat have moved these products from a side niche to a significant portion of residential locks sold.

The current trend is now to equip these locks with a radio connection to a home control system. For example, our Yale Real Living locks work in conjunction with home control solutions from several OEM providers allowing consumers to lock or unlock the doors from their cell phones anywhere in the world. You can also get text messages when loved ones come home or find out what time your 17-year-old daughter came in last night. There is increasing awareness among consumers for this type of solution and there are also an increasing number of providers and channels of distribution. We believe this is likely to increase the market potential considerably over the coming years.

How does ASSA ABLOY’s certified dealer/integrator program operate?

ASSA ABLOY employs a Certified Integrator program for our most advanced access control products. We believe this is important because we want our integrator partners to be fully comfortable designing, selecting, installing and commissioning our solutions and in turn we want the end user to have a good experience.

To become certified, an integrator has to take and pass an online module dealing with the application of the technology to the end user’s need. Once this has occurred, we schedule hands-on training at one of 13 North American training centers and staff take two or three days of classroom and hands-on training. We teach the installation on the door and in some cases teach how to core the door for the wired locks, plus all the tools and techniques for starting up a network of locks. Integrators with prior lock experience have an advantage, but we don’t expect any prior knowledge to take and pass certification.


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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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