Bluetooth, of course, is a wireless protocol that enables convenient connectivity for devices and services, and it’s being adapted by the security industry in a number of ways.
In electronic access control (EAC), Bluetooth is used for the following:
- Connect a credential reader to an access controller, which eliminates the wired connection that typically is used between the reader and EAC controller.
- Enable smartphones to function as a mobile ID and access credential.
- Wireless remote lock release.
Although Bluetooth has a limited bandwidth and range, the hardware is inexpensive, and the relatively new Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology uses little current, which makes it well-suited for battery-powered devices.
Many Locksmith Ledger readers might recall the “growing pains” we all suffered through when battery-powered security equipment appeared on the market.
It was a “hard sell” to provide a battery-powered security device when everyone knew that it wouldn’t be long before the batteries would have to be replaced. It also was inconvenient not to mention the poor security that occurred when doors would be blocked open until the technician could return to replace the batteries. It also provided a difficult customer choice between running a wire for power or using a more pricey wireless alternative.
Fortunately, wireless Bluetooth products have become a lot better. They now use much less current than before, and they provide warnings of low battery power well in advance of a shutdown.
Finally, the wide assortment of wireless devices are at lower prices, so the customer has an easier decision to make.
The result is just as wireless took over the burglar alarm market, BLE is helping it to do the same thing in EAC and video surveillance now. We now can deploy new technology in places previously impractical because of expense or accessibility, such as secondary openings. Even an old school “hard-wire” guy like me has been converted.
However, wire still has its desired applications, such as providing power for door controllers where life safety is an issue. Those should be hard-wired. Also, applications that might be exposed to inclement weather, particularly extreme temperatures might make wireless solutions impractical.
VIZpin Entegrity Smart Lock
We interviewed Paul Bodell, president and CEO of VIZpin, which makes a number of Bluetooth-capable locking solutions.
Locksmith Ledger: What should readers know about VIZpin’s Bluetooth locking solutions?
Paul Bodell: Our Entegrity Smart Locks and Bluetooth door controllers are Bluetooth only. This means they are very low power. We get more than 16 months of battery life on our smart locks, which is a huge savings on large properties. It also means you never mount anything on the outside. Everything is on the inside away from vandals, hackers and the elements, which leads to much longer life for the products.
Other smart locks and smartphone systems include a variety of wireless components and contact technologies, such as RFID [radio-frequency ID] and keypads. The contact technologies mean they have to put electronics on the non-secure side of the door, which subjects them to hacking and vandalism.
Last, since there are no wireless routers or hard-wired network connections, anyone can install VIZpin.
LL: Why is Bluetooth preferred over other short-range wireless communications technologies, such as RFID, near field communications and zigbee?
Bodell: As I mentioned, Wi-Fi and contact technologies require equipment to be installed on the outside of the building, which not only adds costs, it compromises security and introduces networking complications.
LL: Where can VIZpin products be purchased?
Bodell: We sell our products through our Certified Partners.
LL: What’s necessary for a basic installation?
Bodell: For our Entegrity Smart Lock, you have to have a screwdriver and four AA batteries. For our door controller, you have to have 12VDC and a door strike, maglock, gate controller or cabinet latch. That’s it.
LL: Does the reader work only with VIZpin-enabled Bluetooth devices?
Bodell: The reader works with VIZpin Smartkeys and VIZpin Bluetooth fobs as well as any Wiegand output device.
LL: What role does the VIZPin app play?
Bodell: The VIZpin SMART app is your key. It also continually updates the readers so you never have to. The app works on any android or iOS smartphone device. You even can run it on a tablet.
LL: Does the reader report opening alerts or exceptions?
Bodell: Of course! Every access event is recorded with our PLUS service. There are unlimited reports you can generate from that data. It’s completely customizable.
LL: How many unique Bluetooth devices can be under a single license?
Bodell: We have no practical limit to how many VIZpin access points are on a single account, but for practical administration reasons, our customers tend to create separate accounts after they get over a few hundred access points.
Entegrity Smart Locks provide high security and reliability, allow users to unlock doors by using their phone and require only four AA batteries. Entegrity locks are aimed at use in apartments, offices, equipment rooms, restrooms and more.
The VP1 controller works with any electronic lock. It can be mounted in a secure area, away from weather and vandals, or out-of-sight for architecturally and historically sensitive installations.
More info: vizpin.com
Camden CV-7600 Series
Camden Door Controls offers a mobile-ready reader based on RFID technology that combines BLE and contactless smart-card technologies.
In operation, it’s capable of reading data stored on a contactless smart-card credential via high-frequency RFID. In addition, it can read data from a mobile credential stored in a smartphone’s wallet app via BLE and pass the data obtained to the physical access control system.
CV-7600 readers are compatible with MIFARE prox cards and fobs. This feature allows system managers to assign the preferred type of credential for each system user.
More info: www.camdencontrols.com
Medeco XT, CLIQ
Not all Bluetooth locking solutions involve a connection between a lock and an app. In the case of Medeco, it’s between an app and a key.
Medeco XT and CLIQ intelligent keys have Bluetooth-capable models available as options. The connection with the lock is mechanical or electromechanical, but the keys’ access control credentials can be programmed through a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone.
The Air app accepts the credential from the manager and connects wirelessly with the XT key through Bluetooth. The key then is used normally. (The same is true of the Connect app and CLIQ key.)
Key control is simplified by assigning end users a single key that gives them access to all the locks they want to open. Intelligent keys that have Bluetooth allow the key holder to receive updates to access rights and scheduling for their personal key.
More info: www.medeco.com
SECO-LARM Bluetooth Access Controllers
In addition to allowing the use of a mobile credential to unlock a door, SECO-LARM’s Bluetooth access controllers provide for a fully app-based setup. This provides convenience and security to the user and administrator. All data is secured on the device without the risks inherent with an internet connection.
The reader can control doors, gates, lighting, machinery, etc. It also can provide permanent, scheduled or temporary access, and the number of times that the credential can access a door can be limited.
The lock can have timed relock or be unlocked or locked continually. The connection has AES 128 encryption.
The app can manage an unlimited number of devices, and there’s an easy back or restore feature for off-device storage or restoration.
Models include the SK-B241-PQ mullion keypad with prox, the single-gang SK-B141-DQ and the SK-B141-PQ, which is single gang with prox.
More info: www.seco-larm.com
dormakaba Saflok SR Card Readers
Saflok SR Series Readers provide access control to common areas, perimeter entries, elevators and amenity spaces. SR readers work with various electrified access hardware devices.
The SR readers are BLE-capable and can operate through dormakaba Mobile Access Solutions for a perimeter access or a resident unit application. The SR reader can be installed on an aluminum door frame or by using a flush-mount wall plate for perimeter access applications.
SALTO XS4 Locker BLE
The XS4 Locker BLE drives manageability, creates a flexible and safe-storage service environment and enables users to have what they want at the touch of a mobile app or smartphone, wherever they are.
There are a variety of demands for securing the contents of lockers. In the workplace, lockers can contain property or expensive equipment. In gyms, lockers in locker rooms hold clothing and personal effects. Lockers and cabinets in the medical field, for example, can contain pharmaceuticals. In retail, cabinets or lockers can contain cash and other valuables.
By using the XS4 Locker BLE, users can monitor online the status of the locker, know whether the locker was opened, monitor online the battery status, update firmware through the wireless infrastructure and open the locker remotely, among other tasks.
The XS4 Locker BLE also is compatible with SALTO KS cloud-based access control.
More info: saltosystems.com/en-us
Tim O’Leary is an experienced security consultant and a regular contributor to Locksmith Ledger.