One of the first principles of excellent locksmithing we all learned as apprentices is "good enough is always good enough." That's the idea that we can always add a second or even a fourth deadbolt to the door, but that doesn't make the door twice or four times as secure. As Mark Garfinkel, the...
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So that leaves two alternative futures for locksmithing. Either we specialize in keys and locks, or we "own" more of the solution the customer wants to buy. If we do the first and specialize on the hardware, then for certain locksmiths will evolve into repair technicians. The access control system integrators will sub-contract to locksmiths for some keying, and for hardware repair. But the integrators will do all of the installations and will "repair" locks simply by swapping them out. Electronic keys will eventually replace almost all metal keys in business settings. In time, the only business left will be esoteric repairs and legacy locksmithing.
And don't think to yourself, "Yeah, but there will always be some locks with keys." You should be aware that the information technology world has already come up with a way of using a special smart card to operate battery-operated locks on completely non-wired, disconnected locks. It really works and it really does make keys on remote sheds or airline cockpit doors obsolete eventually.
The other future looks brighter. Locksmiths will find partners in access control vendors and installers, guard services, database and directory experts, and human resources software vendors. Together, this alliance will offer a more complete solution to the customer and will keep the locksmith in the middle.
Bottom line: The customer is more interested in people and their privileges than in the locks that enforce the privileges. Locksmiths must become identity experts, not lock experts. After all, it's not our job to secure the building. It's our job to secure the business.
Steve Hunt is the former head of security research at Forrester, and now is president of 4A International, LLC based in Chicago, the first security convergence company, helping the physical security industry to better utilize information technology, www.4Ai.com.