Looking Forward: 2015

Dec. 1, 2014

Steve Hunt wrote an article on the future of locksmithing in our June, 2005 issue, citing the 4As of security: Authentication, Authorization, Administration and Audit.

Locksmiths have always been connected with Authorization. Basically we install lock systems designed to prevent access by persons who do not have a key or combination to operate the lock. For over a century authorization has been all that our customers normally expected. Our business relationship with each customer ended as soon as the lock was installed. 

Authentication is used to identify who has the key or combination and if that person is who they say they are. Administration is a procedure used to add or remove privileges for key holders as circumstances change. Audit is the process of keeping records of how keys and locking systems are actually being used.

Electronics will be an important ingredient of security products in the 21st century. Part of the security package will still include mechanical locks designed to protect people and goods. A growing list of less-essential, security-related items such as CCTV, biometrics and alarms is increasingly in demand by consumers. No longer is authorization the only requirement demanded by the public.

The bridge between authorization, authentication, administration and auditing can be automatically achieved with electronics. By using dual credentials such as fingerprint readers and a mechanical key, secure authentication is assured. Keys cannot be passed to an unauthorized person in order to gain entrance. Administrators can quickly add or remove access privileges.  Audit trails can keep records of who accessed a door and when the access took place.

Traditionally, locksmiths have depended on keys and key-operated locks for the majority of their income. When the public needed a duplicate key or a lock repaired, a locksmith was the logical choice. 

New phrases such as 'home automation' and 'access control' have become part of the language. This has not come without a price for the locksmith industry. Since both residential and commercial door locks now have electronically-operated versions, companies in allied fields such as the alarm and CCTV industries are adding electronic locks as part of their home automation or access control package of products. 

Cell phones, plastic cards, keypads and biometrics are slowly taking the place of tried-and-true metal keys. Big box stores sell home automation systems which include phone-operated thermostats, lighting and deadbolt locks.

Will a locksmith business be the first company sourced when an electronic lock malfunctions?  Are we prepared and trained to troubleshoot and repair electronic locksets when problems do occur?

The solution to all of this is to re-invent locksmithing for the 21st century. In order to be the first line of defense when someone needs security products, the public must be informed that locksmiths can do the job.  Using a giant bit key as an attraction in a store window, on truck signage or as the logo of a locksmith association only indicates that we are prepared to service the locks of yesterday.

Our business phones will ring less often unless people recognize locksmiths as the primary security professional for every facet of security from mechanical locks to electronic security.  This will require increasing your budget for advertising and increasing your knowledge of how to service and install the burgeoning amount of new electronic security products.  New electronic security inventions appear every day. Installation and servicing techniques for electronic hardware often change and this requires frequent additional training.

As the population increases and people live closer together, security will become even more important than ever. The question is not if security products will be needed but rather who will deliver these services. Large corporations recognize the profit which can be made and are using every modern means to get their name before the public. For example, ADT is using a nationwide advertising campaign to move from installing alarms-only into furnishing electronic lock and home automation installations.

The future belongs to those locksmiths who use the same methods as emerging competitors from other industries are already using.  One thing learned from scammers is that they know how to use the Internet to their advantage. Dynamic internet sites and social media presence are necessities. Concentrate on making the public aware of your company name and then offer the services and products in demand. Better use of advertising and new product knowledge will be the keys to success in the coming years.