The earliest locking systems were discovered in Ancient Mesopotamia, dated around 4000 B.C. In the late 1800s, the first mechanical key came to life. Yet, the biggest breakthrough in locking mechanisms was in 1975 when the first patented recordable magnetic swipe card key was invented, or as we call it, a keycard/fob.
Since then, the digital key systems have evolved into other ways of opening a door, such as keypads, biometric locks, smartphone devices, RFID, NFC, and Bluetooth. In the door security industry, those digital keys are now called 'credential.'
The ability to use a credential instead of a key is revolutionary not only because we now don't have to carry mechanical keys, but also because we can have them trigger other types of door locked mechanisms that aren't your traditional mechanical lock. So before we review the different types of credentials, let's talk about the locks.
The securest way to hold a door shut. A magnetic lock is combined of two parts; the lock panel, which is on the door, and the armature plate.
The panel gets a consistent flow of low voltage power (usually 12v or 24v) to keep the door shut. Once that flow of energy is cut, the magnet releases the plate, and the door swings open.
One of the reasons magnetic locks are so secure is because they have 600lbs–1200lbs of holding force. For reference, the average person can lift up to 175lbs. Another advantage with a magnetic lock is that there is no cylinder, i.e., the lock can't be picked or drilled.
Magnetic locks can be connected to any type of credential, including smartphone software, Bluetooth readers, NFC, Card Swipers and Digital Keypads.
A 'Door Strike' refers to the metal piece in the frame that catches the mechanical lock latch once the door closes. Traditionally, the only way to open a door is by turning the handle; when the knob is rotated, the latch is retracted, and the door is pulled open. If the door is permanently locked, one would have to carry a mechanical key with them every time they opened the door. Traditional Intercom Systems in apartment complexes work this way
An Electric Strike replaces the strike in the frame. The credentials are presented (e.g., a key fob or code). The metal piece inside the frame releases a spring that allows it to let the latch move in and out even if the doorknob itself is locked. In other words, when triggered, the door stays locked, but the frame gives the opening!
Frequently, Electric Strikes are referred to as 'buzzer systems' because some of them make a 'buzzing' sound once activated, but that can be customized.
Electric Strike systems are perfect for properties that want an electronic locking mechanism. However, they still want to have the option to use the mechanical key if needed.
Another advantage of installing an Electric Strike is that no new hardware needs to be installed on the door itself; it merely replaces the existing frame metal strike that came with the original lock.
Replacing a regular strike with an
Changing your deadbolt with a
An electric strike or maglock, need an electronic signal to activate and release. The electronic message comes from what we referred to earlier as the credentials or digital keys. Almost every type of credential will work with an electric strike or maglock. There are countless brands and technologies, but the following are the most common electric opening systems in New York
Working on the 'Proximity' of the credential to the actual device, e.g., the physical distance between the card, fob or phone from the reader
It can be set and programmed either from an Access Control system or from a standalone reader. Readers will have a master code and user codes
Usually apparent with Smart Locks where the reader is connected via Bluetooth from the user's phone
Proximity readers activate the lock via a contactless smart card, key fob, or any other credential with contactless technology. Readers use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. Each RFID tag, i.e., credential, consists of a tiny radio transponder.
RFID readers can be standalone or combined within digital keypads as well to give the user the option. There are standalone locks that have RFID readers built into them.
Programming fobs for RFID readers is a rather simple process as long as one has master-access to the reader. If part of an Access Control system then only the administrator would be able to carry that out.
When you think about it, a combination entry credential is the oldest form of keyless entry. A combination lock was available long before the digital age. As a matter of fact, mechanical keypad locks are still used today.
Many choose digital keypads as their access control reader because of the simplicity and the convenience of not having to carry a credential device at all. Hundreds of combinations can be programmed, with different access levels (employee, manager, and master codes.) They can be connected to any low voltage locking device.
Most common via standalone Smart Locks, for instance, the Yale Assure Lock.
'Digital Keys' are stored within an app on the phone. Those digital keys are programmed to the lock itself. When a digital key is presented (via Bluetooth), it signals to the lock to open up. Digital keys can be assigned to different mobile devices without being present at the lock.
With the easiness of RFID technology, people are now steering away from Bluetooth operated credentials as it is a bit more of a hassle, but it is important to mention they are out there.
Remote Mobile Opening is the future and what most customers are now looking for. The 'tap-to-unlock' technology which allows the user to open the door from a distance.
The door lock is connected to an access control network system. The mobile phone apps are connected to that network system either via WiFi or remote network access. When the app is activated, the network software gets the signal, and it is what opens the lock. A physical reader is unnecessary for mobile remote opening.
That being said, it is always a good idea to have another method of entry in case one fails. Many manufactures add to their setup the NFC (Near-Field Communication) feature, which allows data to be transmitted securely from short distances.
Mobile access control is the perfect combination of proximity readers, digital keys, and remote access, all programmable from the network.