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The evolution of mechanical locks into electromechanical locks has been occurring for more than a quarter of a century. The electromechanical lock offers many benefits that are not possible when controlling access with a mechanical lock. Many of these locks have the ability to control access via time schedules and groups, multiple credentials, thousands of different User Codes, biometrics, etc. Electromechanical locks offer audit trail, the ability to know who (by the credential) and at what time access was granted or denied. Because of these technological advances including wireless networking, locksmiths are now able to compete on a more level playing field, having the ability to sell and install many of these access control products.
With most electromechanical locks, it has been necessary to replace the mechanical locks in order to install electronic access control. However, for about the last decade, electronic lock cylinders have been available as an alternative to the electromechanical locks. These lock cylinders are electronic versions of mechanical lock cylinders. Like a mechanical key, the electronic lock cylinder requires physical connection with the electronic key at the contact position in order to transfer the electronic data.
Not only can electronic lock cylinders control access 24/7/365, but depending upon the manufacturer, they can also control a key’s start and termination date, limit which keys can operate what cylinders, track what key has gained or been denied access, provide time and date stamps, and provide day and time scheduling. In addition, electronic lock cylinders and the electronic portion of the keys can each be interrogated to determine who did what.
Most electronic lock cylinders cannot be picked like a mechanical lock cylinder and the electronic keys are designed to be individually unique, and not be duplicated through unauthorized means.
Electronic lock cylinders are manufactured to specifications that enable them to replace existing mechanical lock cylinders. Depending upon the electronic cylinder manufacturer, they are available for key-in-knob, key-in-lever, mortise cylinder, rim cylinder, removable core, interchangeable core and padlock configurations. Contact the manufacturer and determine what core and cylinder configurations are available in order to meet your customer’s applications.
An electronic lock cylinder replaces only the mechanical lock cylinder, converting existing mechanical locks into an access control system. This lowers the costs of conversion to electromechanical access control, as existing lock hardware does not have to be replaced. The cost of an electronic key is more expensive than the cost of a proximity or smart card.
No wiring is required. Some electronic lock cylinder manufacturers require batteries, other do not. Since the electronic lock cylinder is only a lock cylinder, it maintains the opening’s fire ratings.
Two basic types of electronic keys are used to operate the electronic cylinders - those with an operable mechanical key blade and those where the key tip aligns the electronic contacts between the cylinder and the key. Having an operable key blade can enable the key to operate mechanical locks having the same keyway and corresponding bittings. Eliminating the keyway provides protection against debris being inserted.
To simplify terminology, we will use “duality key” to describe an electronic key with a mechanical blade. The mechanical blade can be cut to operate mechanical lock cylinders. This enable a “duality key” to operate a mechanical lock (i.e. master key system), electronically operate a mechanically combinated electromechanical lock and in some case, electronically operate with a card reader.
Depending upon the electronic lock manufacturer and the electronic system, electronic keys could be used to operate as RFID, 125 kHz proximity and/or 13.56 MHz Smart Card iClass electronic access systems. A duality key access control system can be used as a standalone system or an interim system during a conversion from mechanical locks to electromechanical locks.