Welcome To The Access Control Era

Some people might say that locksmiths have always been involved with access control. Locks were initially designed to provide a way of preventing access entirely. Only authorized persons with the proper credential (a key) were allowed access. Starting from Egyptian times, lock systems were understood to be in either one of two conditions - secured or unsecured. Some physical action was necessary in order to set a lock in the required condition.

Necessity is said to be the mother of invention. An old article in Locksmith Ledger describes why the first electric strikes were invented. According to the article, tenants in tall apartment buildings in New York City had to walk down many flights of stairs whenever someone came to visit. An electric strike allowed the tenant to ‘buzz’ someone in and the electronic security age was born. Electric strikes still required a physical action in order to operate, but at least the action could take place some distance away from the locked door.

The next step was to include automation. Electronic components provided the possibility of automatically locking and unlocking doors according to a time schedule. Audit trails were added to electronically record who unlocked a door and what time or date it was opened or closed. Most of these automation options were not possible with mechanical locking systems. If any special options were available with mechanical-only components, they were cumbersome and undependable at best.

Access control has become a popular term for the wide range of available electronic security products. While a mechanical lock has always been able to secure an opening, the term “access control” is more fitting for the many additional security features electronics can provide.

As new technologies emerge, old technologies sometimes fade away. This is particularly true in our industry. As keypad, card swipe, biometric, proximity and cell phones have become more popular ways of opening locks, key-operated lock cylinders have begun to disappear. Pin tumbler lock cylinders are noticeably scarce even as backups on newer hotel locks and automobile locks. The ‘emergency’ car key tells the story. Emergency car keys may only be used one or two times during the life of a car if or when electronics fail. Mechanical lock cylinders have been eliminated on some new electronic push button locks for residences.

People will always need security. Deadbolt and latch functions are not going away but the delivery system to operate the deadbolt and latch will certainly change. Anybody under the age of 35 has been raised on the use of computers, charge cards and cell phones. Electronic locking is an expected extension of every other modern convenience.

Keys and locks have been associated with locksmiths for centuries. During the last 20 years, locksmiths have gradually moved away from the single source for locks and keys into several different vertical markets. This is the specialty era. You may choose to specialize in safe work, automotive work, lockouts, commercial hardware or access control but today it is difficult to be proficient in every category.

Investment is the qualifier. The investment in a key machine, pin box and a few popular key blanks was enough to put you in business at one time. A much larger investment must be made today in order to be prepared for any one of the vertical locksmith markets. An investment in proper training is also mandatory.

If you choose to enter the access control sector, the rewards are worth the investment. Every mechanical lock in use represents a possible upgrade to an electronic version. Locksmith Ledger will continue to introduce new electronic products and information to guide readers concerning this exciting new, profitable vertical market.