The Changing World of Advanced Technology at the Entryway

June 2, 2020
The demand for stronger security has moved access control toward the use of increasingly high-tech credentials.

The role of the entryway — doors and gates — has changed dramatically over the past 100 years; however, the mechanics of granting or preventing entry have been stagnant until recently. As physical threats have grown from terrorism and active-shooter events, we’ve seen a movement to defending and deterring entry in a preventative manner (blocking access) rather than in a detective manner (approving access).

Many factors led to this change of technology at the entryway, including compliance requirements, safety requirements and an outcry for more-fortified measures to protect people. Nevertheless, it’s important to define the changes in the mechanics of providing access and how edge technology, or technology that’s in the cloud and not tied to a wired system, has established a line in the sand that allows the mechanics to secure our entryways.

Changing the Rules

As long as there has been a door, there has been a lock. The use of locks to prevent entry always has been and always might be in existence, but the rules have changed as to the use of an entryway and what’s permissible compared with what isn’t, or, to put it another way, who should have access to a door or gate and who shouldn’t.

As we all know after working in this industry long enough, people more often than not are the problem, not the technology.  However, even after acknowledging that this is the case, we now must understand that the mechanics of entry must change. The birth of electric strikes to initiate access control was the most dynamic change within the past 40 years, but that no longer is enough to prevent unwanted access while allowing wanted entry to the level that’s acceptable today. Today, the goal is to define identity and thus deter and prevent unwanted entry. We know that unless there’s an entry mechanism that’s natural in preventing unwanted access, such as a revolving secure turnstile or a secured portal that has advanced technology to prevent piggybacking and tailgating (when more than one person gains access from a single credential), you’re always vulnerable.

So, what can be done, and how do the rules change? The evolution of biometrics, such as facial recognition, smart cards, camera detection, Bluetooth-connected mobile credentials and near field communication has initiated a monumental change in how mechanics interplay with identity management at the access point. This shift has become an increasing requirement among end users who have determined that a particular entryway is vulnerable. Without the adoption of identity-based access control, end users don’t mitigate the risk of unwanted entry, they only add to it.

Defining Identity 

The movement to the use of a multifactor process of determining identity and granting access to entry not only is a forgone conclusion now, but it also is becoming necessary in some circumstances. With ever-increasing demand for knowing who is in your environment, it’s important to implement technology that works with the particular entryway’s locking mechanism.

One example would be the use of a credential that validates the individual’s identity. As the person enters a doorway, a sensor mounted above the door recognizes the individual’s card or mobile credential. The sensor is tied to the access management system, which might be a cloud-based solution that’s tied to the electric strike and unlocks the door. A camera then validates the entry on the secure side of the door, which also would detect piggybacking and tailgating by a noncredentialed person. If a person didn’t have the proper credential, an invalid card read takes place and access is prevented, which could result in a warning. The infrastructure also could be cellular-enabled and sit on a cellular infrastructure.

Such a credentialing system would provide a seamless and frictionless entry solution while still allowing the locking mechanism to prevent access. The concept of readerless doors where a sensor signals the authentication to and from the access management system is no longer a theory but a reality. The edge handheld credential (mobile or card) now can interact with the door without additional infrastructure directly sending data to the access management system and sending a signal back to activate the lock. There are many cases where such a system is designed. Companies such as Sentry Enterprises produce card technology that fulfills the requirements of an increasingly converged world.

The constant in these systems has been the locking mechanism. However, inevitably, the use of technology will drive the entryway marketplace. New, more improved connected devices that can identify people and allow or prevent access will become the norm. With that in mind, it’s crucial for those in the hardware side of the business to become nimble and adjust to the market as soon as they can. Although it’s difficult to change, the technologically converged world is pushing all of us into a new paradigm. Regulations and compliance become another part to the equation in the decision to move towards more identity-based entry. The combination of business process and converged information-technology infrastructure tied to secured communication at the entryway will help with the adjustment during the change. 

Advanced Technology

There have been many advancements at the entryway, and the most interesting is the use of blockchain and encryption at the locking mechanism. Many have defined encryption as the use of a badge and a reader, but we’re seeing that solutions are becoming adopted at the locking mechanism itself. Companies, such as ZKTeco, are defining a new architecture at the lock, which becomes an encrypted bridge that secures and validates entry.

I believe many locksmiths hesitate learning about electronic door access, because they perceive it as being too complex to learn,” says Larry Reed, president of the Americas for ZKTeco. “But installing an electric door strike is no more complex than wiring a doorbell or motion detector off the side of your house. Even ZKTeco’s biometric readers install no differently than a 40-year old keypad reader connected to your garage door. When a code or face is recognized, the reader simply opens a 12-volt relay contact to power the garage door motor. That’s it. No rocket science.”

Reed sees the absurdity in a locksmith turning over work that they can handle themselves.

“If a locksmith hands their customer over to an ‘electronic security installer, in many cases, that same electronic security installer is also a locksmith,” he notes. “That’s like a restaurant only offering hamburgers and telling their customer to go to McDonald’s if they also want french fries.

“There’s a large variety of electronic access control vendors to choose from,” Reed adds. “While some vendors’ solutions are designed to secure the Pentagon, others are designed for securing a handful of doors. Locksmiths just need to identify which vendor is willing to help get them started.”

Attention All Locksmiths

The move toward frictionless entry and the use of high-tech solutions is pushing the locksmith industry to have a strong service model that can solve technological issues as well as locking-mechanism issues. The key is that the locksmith has to become a security professional and must transition to becoming competent with integrated solutions that incorporate access control, cards, mobile credentials and cameras. Without that, the locksmith loses the ability to be relevant in a future of automated systems at the entryway.

As Dave O’Toole, president of the European Locksmith Federation, states in an ASSA ABLOY article, “Locksmiths have to learn more about electronics.” Gale Johnson, editor-in-chief of Locksmith Ledger, states in the same article that “the business is at a crossroads. Perhaps a new term is needed, such as “security professional,” to make it clear that “we are no longer mechanical specialists but rather offer a broad range of solutions, both mechanical and electronic.”

The security industry is in a fundamental transition from providing on-premise infrastructure-based technology to software and cloud-based infrastructure. We as an industry must be the forward-thinkers and be willing to accept that the role of the entryway is changing and the locking mechanisms that we deliver will change with it. It only reinforces that the ones who service and install such mechanisms must change with it.

Pierre Bourgeix is the CTO and founder of ESI Convergent, a management consulting firm focused on helping companies assess and define the use of people, processes and technology within the physical and cybersecurity arena. As a thought leader in the security industry, Bourgeix has helped companies successfully launch and position products and solutions globally.