Electronic Access Control for Gates

May 2, 2024

Gates often serve as the first line of defense in securing a property and an important part of layering protection at the premises. They provide a secured barrier and limit access to a business or commercial property. But gates are not only used in exterior applications and they’ve evolved into site-specific and more designer-friendly applications. Now, they are being deployed closer to and inside buildings, warehouses, distribution facilities and data centers to limit access to sensitive areas and more effectively segment the population.

Specialty applications often require the same or more complex ways to secure openings, utilizing locks and access control to limit or control populations. Like other hardscapes, gates have evolved to different configurations and locking components, fostering new use cases and applications in a wide range of vertical markets. The technology behind the products has also advanced with features focusing on installation flexibility and dependable functionality.

Security professionals can extend their locking projects by thinking beyond the main building –considering locations like common areas of a condominium; pools; 24-hour fitness centers; equipment storage and interiors that may require added security. Schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure are emerging with specific use cases for the installation of gates that include locks and various other higher levels of security which require electronic access control.


Gates Get a Makeover

Many commercial, residential and institutional facilities have a variety of gates deployed throughout. They can be at the farthest reaches of the premises, securing a fenced perimeter and located near buildings and within interior areas. The locking mechanisms for gates are as varied as the product and the potential application. Manufacturers have been focusing on new ways to make these devices more flexible, durable and scalable – with the ability to upgrade to and interface with electronic access control.

Fixed gates can be used to protect common areas of a residential, commercial or multi-tenant property. Swinging and sliding barrier gates provide traffic, parking and pedestrian control, offering dependable operation in an aesthetic footprint that blends with many designs and buildings.


Restricting Access for Pool Safety

Condominiums and their homeowners’ associations with private swimming pools need to take special care to mitigate risks and prevent liability. Codes often require that the pool area is surrounded by a fence or other structure that includes a gate or door with a locking mechanism meant to prevent unauthorized access when the pool is closed. The American Red Cross says 69% of young children who drown were not expected to be in or near water. Gate locks and real-time status monitoring now protect these spaces – and the user can opt for a variety of secure configurations.


Magnetic vs. Mechanical

In its simplest form, the most common gate latch types are magnetic and mechanical. Magnetic gate locking solutions use magnetic force to lock. These practical devices require the user to exert little pressure to lock, with the magnetics holding the latch in place. Traditionally lever operated, they are suited for smaller gates, but not recommended for heavy use or force. Some magnetic latches include an additional locking system for added security. However, these don’t have sufficient holding strength to keep larger gates locked effectively.

Magnetic gate closures are available specifically for swinging or sliding vehicle, pedestrian, or stock gate access control, applying magnetic force to lock. Heavy duty maglocks deliver 1,200 to 2,000 pounds of holding force for electrical and manually operated indoor or outdoor gates where preload is a concern.

Mechanical gate openers resist high-force intrusion events. A metal pin or other solid metal piece resists shear to keep the gate locked. They do require consistent maintenance to stay operational when installed outdoors. An adjustable gate latch allows security integrators to keep the closing/opening mechanism of the gate working reliably. This built-in feature is available through an easy mechanism to remove and adjust screws and all the pieces of the gate latch as necessary.


Easier Installation

Products continue to evolve with “baked in” installation features that save time and promote retrofit capabilities and customization. For example:

·       Gate locks have been designed with features like automatic dual voltage so field adjustment is not required, and mounting adapters for various post types to reduce labor and installation time. They may include a self-aligning receiver with horizontal adjustment to manage and compensate for gate misalignment and sag.

·       A special shock absorbing strike mount (SASM) is designed to dramatically prolong the life of the lock, the gate and other hardware by controlling excessive impact between the strike plate and the magnet. It also minimizes and provides sound attenuation. The strike mount is available as a separate retrofit kit for certain strike plates, suited to install in areas prone to excessive force closures or slamming.

·       Gate locks may also include enhanced functionality and the ability to manage the latch status when integrated with electronic access control or other building management software to indicate that the lock is in a secured state. Latch monitoring assesses the lock to make sure the gate was closed and the strike was latched and secure. It also provides indication of an electrical fault that may prevent locking.

·       Field selectable fail safe/fail secure functionality is also a gate lock option, so security integrators can adapt the installation to the facility and regulations. Fail safe products are unlocked when power is removed. Fail secure products are locked when power is removed.

·       Mechanical key overrides in products provide space within the gate lock to add a mortise cylinder device for keys when dictated by the user.

Other features to consider in gate locks include: self-latching/gravity latch; universal application for swinging or sliding gate applications; suitable for indoor or outdoor use; tamper-resistant housing; push/pull operation for swinging single motion access/egress applications; double sided locking (asylum function); and child lock protection.


Upgrade and Expand 

These solutions can start out simple — as in the example of latches that integrate with standalone keypad or card access systems. More advanced applications can also be interfaced into third party access control software, so users have data and recordkeeping for facility accountability and compliance.

Gate locks can also be integrated to work with more complex systems such as automatic operators or telephone entry and intercom systems. Some swinging gates have the option to use wireless electric strikes or card readers to retrofit an opening with real-time online access control without additional digging or trenching.

In addition to exterior gates, we are now seeing gate applications being implemented in interior spaces for secure storage, logistics/manufacturing and critical infrastructure like waste water treatment facilities and electrical substations. Systems integrators can expand their projects easily with installer-friendly and secure gate locks and watch the possibilities continue to multiply.

Benjamin Williams is the Senior Director of Product Management for ASSA ABLOY brands, Phoenix, Ariz. He is responsible for identifying and defining trends for product applications.