Being responsible for multiple function buildings, some active 24/7, the reasons for using mechanical or electronic numeric code locks vary with the application. We started using an electronic numeric code lock shortly after their release. The first electronic locks were not much more...
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Wireless allows us to retrofit existing buildings with badge readers, buildings that don’t have wiring in place for the traditional access control system without the expense and time to run the wiring to each door. Another benefit is we will be able to provide or delete badge access at outlying facilities, without having to go to them. With some of these locations an hour’s drive or more away, this is a major labor savings.
All the systems we looked at have a power level report, which gives us the ability to schedule our service trips and maximize the efficiency of each trip. On any of these doors, you have the choice to tie into building power, giving you the option to have practically real-time connectivity to lock down a facility in an emergency.
An important consideration for choosing an electronic lock was if for some reason the network were to go down, these locks will function normally. All programming, schedules, and audits are in the hardware at the door, so when the network comes back up and ask for a report, nothing is lost.
We have been working closely with our Information Services department, our Network Communications department, and the manufacturer’s local representatives and their factory counterparts, to make sure our staff (I.S., CNS, and the locksmiths) have full understanding of the process and systems, and identify if there might be a software or wireless conflict, and resolve them.
Admittedly, because of the volume of locks we have in service already and the size of our facility, it is easier for us to get the attention of the manufacturer’s representatives. For a small facility or the typical commercial locksmith, I would recommend working through your wholesale hardware supplier’s representative to secure as much information on the systems as you can. They often can set up a meeting with you and one of the manufacturer’s representatives.
Another source is to go to the company web site, and if you don’t feel they have enough information, utilize their “contact us” field and ask to see a representative, or ask your questions directly.
Take advantage of your wholesaler’s trade shows, as well as state and national locksmith association exhibitions, to make contact with manufacturers. This will be very helpful if problems crop up later with any of their products.
Before choosing a system, we evaluated four manufacturers of wireless (WiFi) locksets. Each has a long history of either electronic numeric locks, or regular mechanical locking hardware. They also have a history of good to excellent end user support, which considered vital in making a commitment like this. Other items we included in our evaluation process were (in no particular order):
User capacity: How many badges is the lock capable of holding?
Software functionality: How friendly is it to use?
Signal frequency: Where does it fall in the wireless band, or is it a specialized frequency such as 900 MHz?
Signal range: Depending on building structure, how far will it reach?
Would the signal interfere with other wireless devices, that might be involved with direct patient care?
Battery issues: What type of batteries are required – standard. alkaline, or something specific and unique to this lock – and how long will they last? How difficult it is to replace batteries
Can the device be connected to building power? This would allow for more frequent communication with the lock for practically instantaneous change in programming.
Durability of the mechanical portion of the lock
Software: What is the flexibility of the software? Can it be integrated to work with an existing traditional access control system?
We found that three had their own operating software, which is proprietary to their hardware. There is nothing wrong with this approach, though you should be aware of it before committing, and consider if that is the route you want to go.
The fourth, chose to provide software limited to 25 doors. Any larger quantity would require you to find a software company that specialized in access control systems, as well as integration with existing traditional access control systems. Currently three vendors have software available for this product, and more are in the development process. This approach has many positives, yet ties you to these companies and their business plans.