Advances in Wireless Electronic Access Control

In the beginning, there were the battery operated electromechanical locks. You entered a code into the keypad and if the code was correct, the lock unlocked, permitting retraction of the latch bolt. Over time, additional credentials were introduced...

When the TESTER is powered, a signal with a frequency of ten pulses per second a solid red LED illuminates indicates it is sending. When the DUT is powered, it will flash a red LED for every signal received. Place the DUT within close range of the TESTER. Count the number of red flashes per second to be sure it is ten. Place the DUT in the exact location for the lock or locking device. If the DUT flashes ten times per second the reception is good. Poor reception is less than 10 flashes per second. If the reception is poor, reposition until 10 flashes per second are counted.

Schlage’s TK400 test kit for the AD-Series consists of a wireless portable signal tester and a panel interface module. This enables the locksmith to verify the 900 MHz signal strength between each lock and interface modules (gateways) by reading the LED lights indicating the quality of the signal.

Wireless locks are available with a broad range of Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) credential technologies. Building upon the proximity technology, the Smart cards and multi-standard capabilities are an attempt to increase the levels of security. Some examples of Smart cards and multi-standard RFID Technologies include MIFARE, DESfire, Picopass, Legic and HID iClass.

Security comes with a price. The higher the level of security, the more expensive the technology is. A proximity card is inexpensive today. However, it was very expensive not to long ago. The latest RFID credentials are the smart cards (and the multiple standards smart cards) and Near Field Communications (NFC), a short range (contactless) technology that can be incorporated into “smart” phones in order to interact with an access control system to gain access. The “smart” phone becomes the employee badge and behaves like a contactless card.

Before purchasing hardwired or wireless electromechanical locks, find out about the requirements for buying and installing specific products. For example, ASSA ABLOY requires persons who install integrated Weigand products, IP enabled products and Aperio to become a Certified Integrator. Other companies may have similar requirements or minimum purchase (dealer) agreements.

All wireless products are software driven. Some lock manufacturers offer a variety of software options. Others offer only one. Some of the manufacturer’s software is designed for just about every conceived application. Some available software is just basic. Choosing the correct software for your application is probably more important than choosing the locking devices.

When installing a wired network, all signals travel through wires, most companies base security on physical access control. Limit access to computers and the wired network to trusted individuals.

A wireless network or a wired/wireless network has its own security issues. Unlike wired connections, wireless signals travel throughout a building (and usually beyond) making it theoretically possible for individuals to connect to the network without authorization. Encryption is the most common solution as most modems and access points have built-in encryption. Does the software offer any additional security?

When looking into software, make sure your specific application will be supported today and in the projectable future. Determine the number of user codes, types of credentials, lock hardware supported, scheduling support and audit trail capabilities prior to the installation and the projected numbers for one to five years.

For example, Alarm Lock software downloads and training videos are free, and Alarm Lock provides free technical support.

Note: Most lock manufacturers that I spoke to for this article do not offer technical support to the end user.


For More Information

Lock manufacturers discussed in this article include:

Alarm Lock: 631-789-4871,

Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware: 800-543-3658, .

Kaba Access Control: 336-725-1331,

Salto Systems Inc.: 866-467-2586,

Sargent Lock: 800-727-5477,

Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies: 866-322-1237,

SimonsVoss Technologies, Inc.: 414-421-2481,


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