Selling the Options and Benefits of Electronic Access Control

Oct. 3, 2016
Smart cards and biometrics are great choices, and open architecture solutions give your customers the flexibility to upgrade and expand over time.

For years, industry experts have been discussing the global rise of smart technologies. In Europe and much of Asia, contactless smart technology has been adopted as the new standard for security, transportation and identity management systems. In North America, their popularity has become so widespread that today they can be found in every type of commercial facility, from fitness centers and college dormitories to hospitals and hotels. As their use expands beyond access control to vending, transit, logical identification and more, the pace of adoption will only continue to accelerate in the coming years.

As smart technologies become mainstream, consumers whose facilities have mechanical locks are increasingly interested in transitioning to electronic access control on some or all of their building’s openings. However, the growing popularity of these systems has resulted in an unprecedented number of options, which can be as overwhelming to those in the industry as it is to end users. Customers will rely heavily on your expertise, so it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the latest technology in order to successfully navigate clients through the difficult process of finding the right products for their specific needs.

Smart Cards

Many electronic access control systems utilize smart cards in place of traditional keys. They are typically credit card-sized, plastic credentials containing a microprocessor chip that serves the dual functions of communication and extensive data storage.

Smart card credentials can be Contact or Contactless. Contact cards are similar in operation to mag-stripe cards in that they must be swiped or inserted into a reader. They are recognizable by the gold chip visible on the outside of the card (which must make contact with the reader) and are now standard on all credit and debit cards.

Contactless smart cards utilize RFID technology, which allows for more information storage capacity, and far greater data security than a traditional proximity card. Although most new applications of smart cards appear to be heading toward contactless smart technology, contact smart cards are still the standard for logical (computer) access and other applications, such as payment systems.


Another increasingly popular electronic key is one that can’t be lost or shared with others. Biometrics uses human characteristics such as fingerprints or facial features to identify an individual. This form of access control has proven to be extremely effective even in the most demanding workplaces where the system needs to process thousands of people quickly and in less than ideal conditions.

Best of all, as the technology has improved, overall prices have fallen, allowing it to achieve what is essentially the holy grail of security – a system that is convenient, customizable, affordable, and incredibly accurate.

Achieve Balance

In any given facility there are multiple openings to secure, and multiple people who need access.  Helping your client understand their options will be an important part of transitioning them from traditional keys to electronic access control.

The best place to start this process is by finding out more about the end user and their specific needs. Issues to review and consider include:

  • Do they need to integrate cashless vending with their credential system?
  • Will they be integrating time and attendance into their access control system?
  • Are the locks being accessed in an interior or exterior location where weather may be a concern?
  • How deeply will they want to monitor each user's access and movement within the facility?
  • Does everyone have the same level of security clearance or is there a need for multiple security/access levels?
  • What’s unique about the environment? (i.e. industrial, sterile, etc.)
  • Will readers be placed inside or outside?
  • Do you want contact or contactless technology?
  • How important are aesthetics?
  • Are there privacy concerns?
  • Are there cost limitations?
  • What are the top priorities?

Security, technology and usability are typically the key priorities of any client. But it’s important to keep in mind that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to access control and security. The goal is to achieve a balance.

Flexibility is Key

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of smart technology is the amount of flexibility it offers. While the speed at which it is incorporated into everyday life is rapidly accelerating, the rate at which a facility makes the transition from mechanical keys to electronic access control is entirely customizable. An entire campus can be upgraded one building at a time or one door at a time, giving end users the ability to incorporate the new technology in stages, as their budgets allow.

Clients particularly value flexibility. One of their most common concerns is that the solution they select today will need to be upgraded and expanded over time as their needs change. They want a system that can meet current safety and security issues, as well as accommodate emerging technologies that will allow the system to expand and adapt as needed in future.

The best way to address this concern is with open architecture electronic locking systems. By design, this type of system easily accepts additions, upgrades and replacement of components to the security system – or the system itself. The structure eliminates proprietary constraints and employs open standards to provide access to critical data and information within the system. It also helps to protect an access control investment for years to come. As security needs change, the access control system can be changed, by adding new credential technologies, a variety of network protocols, increased security levels and system expansions. Upgrades do not require replacing all the locks or even taking locks off doors to retrofit.

Think Long Term

The selection process must be guided by a number of factors, including facility age, credential management platform and protocols, budget and long-term security strategy. Your role is to help consumers navigate the dizzying array of new products to find the right solution for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. But throughout the process, it’s important to remember that each client is more than just a potential sale. They represent an opportunity to build a lasting relationship that will lead to repeat business for your company. By focusing on the long term, the end result will be an access control solution for the present and future, as well as a satisfied customer willing to refer you to others.

Minu Youngkin in the Integrator Marketing Manager for Allegion. For more information, visit