Volume 23, Issue 4 - July/August 2009

Is There an App for That?
The Specification and Use of Smart Hardware Continues to Grow

By Ellen Rogers


Sure, key fobs can start your car and some can even open your front door, but what about your i-Phone? Does it, too, provide access control? Maybe not just yet, but give the folks at Apple some time and before long the company’s commercials will likely be touting: “Let’s say you lost your keys and need to get inside. There’s an app for that.”

While the door-opening i-Phone app may not be on the market just yet, some companies, though on a limited basis (and still a few years away from general applications), are already using cellular technology to actuate locks from remote locations. Indeed, “smart” hardware products are appearing all over, providing new opportunities for increased use and specification.

A host of hardware products and technologies that no longer require keys are readily available on the market. These most commonly include products such as electrified locksets, exit devices and electric strikes coupled to keypads, smart cards and biometric devices.

Michael Phillips, director-brand management, for Adams Rite Manufacturing Co., says the market for these products is one that is growing quickly.

“The electrified hardware side continues to grow at a double-digit pace while purely mechanical hardware is somewhat flat,” says Phillips, adding that hardware manufacturers continue to evolve their product offerings to match this trend. “Almost every product we design has an electrified option attached. Whether it monitors or actuates the lock mechanism, we have a wired option with every product.”

The market is growing for a number of reasons, including a need for increased security. For example, Chris Ward, with CWArchitects in Los Angeles, says he used electronic hardware on a new school his firm just completed. He says security and access control were important to the owners.

“The interface with the security system allows anyone at their desk to see on their computers who wishes entry into the building,” says Ward. “Then they can either open the door, communicate with the person or deny entry. It allows flexibility, and reduces the need for a full-time receptionist, especially during off hours.”

Ward says at the same school there is also a public access area where people from outside of the school can go to learn about learning disabilities.

“We needed to control access to the school, but did not want it to feel like a prison,” he says. “So, we used glass doors with electronic locks that are accessed remotely or by a nearby keypad. The solution worked really well.”

Phillips agrees that a need for security is driving the increased use and specification of electrified hardware.

“Electrified access control products provide the owner tighter control over security throughout a building. Traditional keys that can be lost, stolen or duplicated are slowly giving way to keypads, smart cards and biometric type devices,” says Phillips. “These systems also offer the flexibility in being able to vary security controls on-the-fly to match the threat or conditions present. The increase in this market segment is also tied to the integration of systems such as time and attendance, IT, phone, alarm, access control, etc. The convergence of systems is driving much of this growth, but the overriding factor is the enhanced security these devices provide.”

As the access control technology continues to advance, so, too, will the products.

“The trend is still moving toward greater integration between the various disparate systems throughout the building,” says Phillips. “The security products are continuing to evolve in order to ‘talk’ with these systems either in a wired or wireless mode of operation. Networked locking solutions will enable this communication while providing enhanced security through real-time monitoring.” AG

Ellen Rogers is the editor of the Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal.


Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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