Wireless locking devices are the future of access control, says Assa Abloy

Chrisi Bone, vice president for access control solutions EMEA, ASSA Abloy
Chrisi Bone, vice president for access control solutions EMEA, ASSA Abloy

Chris Bone, vice president for access control solutions EMEA, ASSA ABLOY

It’s growth and more growth in the access control market, according to Chris Bone, vice president of access control solutions EMEA at ASSA ABLOY.

From the company’s point of view, that’s partly down to growth in the access control market as the world starts to come out of recession, and partly ASSA ABLOY taking market share from its competitors, says Bone.

Now with the introduction of Aperio™ wireless door solutions, ASSA ABLOY is expecting to convert even more users to electronic access control.

Conservative market

Access control is probably one of the most conservative of the security sectors, especially compared to CCTV and intruder detection which have seen big changes in recent years. Locks are, after all, an ancient technology and end users are reluctant to tamper with tried and tested security technology.

The decision to upgrade to electronic access control has often been constrained by the cost of installation which typically involves drilling, cable pulling and carpentry, all of which adds to the cost. According to Bone, the installed cost of a wired access point is around £1500 per door which is why wireless could be a game changer.

A wireless system can be 40 to 60 per cent less expensive than a wired solution. Rather than £1500 per door, it might cost a more reasonable £750.

Although the upfront costs are still higher than a key-based access control system, the year on year management costs are significantly lower, meaning that ROI can be achieved in less than two years and perhaps as little as one, says Bone.

Within the commercial market it is estimated that only five per cent of doors use integrated electronic access control. Many security managers would like to get rid of the keys, or at least take them away from the average user.

Wireless access control, by embracing the IP revolution, enables security managers to not only lose the key management headache but also bring more doors into an integrated security management system, doors that would have previously been off the grid.

Chris Bone, ASSA Abloy

Chris Bone, ASSA ABLOY

“I have still to meet a security manager who likes having to manage mechanical keys, which is why we have projects under way that cover thousands of doors, in properties which are trying to go completely keyless,” says Bone. “This will be mainstream in less than five years, especially for new builds. Student accommodation is already there. And what’s driving this? Wireless products.”


ASSA ABLOY has seen phenomenal growth in wireless access control in the past few years. Market demand for the products has meant that sales have increased by double digit percentages, with revenues nearly doubling in three years. “We are expecting similar results this year. We have put an enormous resource into R&D and marketing, with new top quality people to sell and support it,” he says.

Growth is coming from new build activity as the economy comes out of recession, smaller organisations beginning to adopt wireless access control as the cost comes down and new market sectors such as serviced offices.

“The key advantage is that wireless access products allow you to get further into a building, with more locks. We have the SMARTair™ product line for standalone, smaller projects, and Aperio™, which integrates with other access control systems and security technologies installed, such as CCTV or an energy management system. Customer security and the user experience are both improved. University campuses are mainstream for us and our competitors,” he says. “We are involved in projects in Africa, securing mining and petrochemicals sites. Hospitals, arenas, and so on. Anywhere that has lots of keys to manage… this is the solution.”

Bone observes that one of the consequences of the recession and the growing use of the internet to work remotely is companies significantly downsizing their office space and moving into smaller, serviced offices. While there may only be 30 to 50 doors in an individual location, some serviced office providers have hundreds of sites. Access control solutions not only simplify the process of managing keys but also provides a more professional, hassle-free system for customers.

Bone says the serviced office sector is very astute when it comes to measuring costs, as their business depends on being able to charge the lowest possible price for the best service, and once they factor in the costs of managing keys, they quickly realise that access control – especially wireless – is the way to go.

“Aperio™ allows them to realise ROI within a year or two, depending on the facility,” says Bone. By comparison, a wired solution might take three to five  years.

Future developments

So looking ahead, how does Chris Bone see the market developing?

Next year is looking busy. New electronics will be incorporated into existing product lines to ensure they keep pace with technology. The company will also launch an extension of its mechanical range, “to allow more than just doors to run wireless locks—cabinets and server racks, for example”.

Aperio™ will also be embedded into more hardware and ASSA ABLOY will continue to expand its OEM base. “We will also support more RFID technologies, including iCLASS SE from HID,” he says.

He is hopeful that the maglock – heavy, ugly and power hungry – will go the way of the dinosaur. “I hate magnetic locks. They are seen as a low cost option, but they are really a false economy, because they are ugly when you look at their energy use. Over a year, they consume more than wireless locks by a factor of ten. Then there are the shipping costs—these things are heavy—and the metal content is very high. As energy prices increase, it only adds to the value of a move to wireless locks.”

And what about that innovation that’s on everyone’s lips – the cloud? Bone’s tone is decidedly cautious. Characterising the discussion about cloud technology as “noise”, it is clear that he is standing back and taking a “long-term view”.

For Bone, there are two aspects of the cloud to consider: cloud-based access control, where the access system lies entirely in the cloud, versus cloud-based management of an access control system.

“I look at it from a user experience point of view. It used to take a couple of seconds for an access control decision at a door. Now, it’s around half a second between presenting the credential and an access decision. If totally cloud-based access control stretches the access decision back to two seconds, that takes the user back 20 years,” he says.

“On the other hand, cloud-based management is already here: sitting here, in the UK, I can remotely unlock the door on our office in Spain, from my smartphone. Access control will move into the cloud when the time is right. But it has to be about the user at the door. And not just their experience, but their privacy and security, too.”

So it appears that electronic access control is gradually moving down the customer chain, from the large corporate sites and university campuses to the medium sized offices and even the domestic market.

“Personally, I don’t understand why we still use keys. I don’t use a key in my own home. I have a Yale digital lock and a fob. My kids use a PIN to get in. Mechanical keys are our comfort zone, obviously, and digital locks are still a little expensive for the mass market user, but ASSA ABLOY is rapidly addressing that.”

Aperio™ clears the way for wireless access control in glass doors

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