The safety that electronic locks offer extends from the safety of the general public, to the safety of private property. These locks are like all electronic, and serve a vast range of needs. Everything from residential to the highest of government security have been addressed with electronic locks. But what are the pitfalls of the technology? Are you, and the things you are trying to protect, safer with electronic locks? Not all of of the technologies are the same, and with electronic locks, the keys you use to open them are just as important as the locks themselves. Electronic locks are the choose your own adventure of the security world. The parings of unlocking and locking devices will both shape the final outcome of your protection. Personal needs are very important to take into account as well as the shifting landscape of new technology. New methods of electronic based security are always improving, and new products are always being developed. So what is the market like now?
What are Electronic Locks?
Electronic locks are locked or unlocked with the assistance of an electrical current. The electrical current is either used to power an electromagnet, a solenoid (electromagnet with a single coil), or a motor. These devices will actuate the lock in a manner that is either fail-safe or fail-secure.
A fail-safe lock will open on the side of ingress in the event of a power outage, or in the event of an emergency alarm being pulled. This is possible because the electrical current is used to keep the door locked, and removing power disengages the locking mechanism.
Protects workers in times of emergency.
Allows large buildings that have many visitors (gyms, museums, schools, etc.) to exit safely and for emergency responders to enter.
With the loss of power the building will not be secure.
Pulling the emergency alarm will unlock emergency exits with this function.
Susceptible to crime during an actual emergency as well as a staged one.
A fail-secure lock is the exact opposite of the fail-safe function. It uses the electrical current to retract the bolt. And in the event of an electrical outage the bolt will remain in the locked position.
Protects valuables in times of emergency.
An EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or power failure will not disengage the locks.
Not ideal for large buildings that have many visitors (gyms, museums, schools, etc.) because it impedes the entry of emergency responders.
Evacuation can be impeded if used on door locks .
Not all devices can be found in both fail-secure and fail-safe. Most of the time how the device functions will determine whether the loss of electricity will lock or open the door, gate, hatch, etc. For other electronic locks, the building codes may restrict the use of either fail-safe or fail-secure. The main types of electronic locks are:
Electric strikes have a spring loaded keeper that manipulates the bolt on the lock. Without the proper tool for entry, the keeper will stay fastened in place. Only with the correct verification with the keeper loosen and allow the bolt to retract. This type of lock can be fail-safe or fail-secure, and depending on the building codes for your area and type of structure, you may have no choice in which to install. The device is installed either on the door frame or in the case of double doors, on the stationary door (inactive leaf). Most often this type of strike is made for safely exiting the building, and in most cases will open from the inside even in the case of being fail-secure. This is done with a manual override such as a knob or key. A key can also be fashioned to override the lock from the outside.
Electric Latch Retraction
This electronic lock is designed to be uniquely fail-secure. The device has “retraction” in its name to describe that its bolt functions by retracting when electrical current is applied. The bolt will remain retracted until the current is shut off or inhibited. The bolt will stay secure when there is no current, so special precautions must be taken for emergency preparedness. Because this is a high-security device, a separate power supply is needed so that a fire alarm can make these doors open (if this is desired or required).
This lock is available with either fail-secure or fail-safe functions. They get their name from their contents and inner workings. A cross section of such a lock will display a latch and gear system that can be manipulated with the use of the lock cylinder and/or an electrical current. In the fail-safe version of this lock, the electric current will cause the bolt in the lock to stay extended. In the result of a power outage the door will be completely unlocked, and in the case of a fire alarm the door can be set up to lose power. The fail-secure version will use the electrical current to retract the bolt and therefore it will remain locked until power is reestablished to the system.
An electromagnet is a magnet that is created when a current is moved through a wire with multiple coils around an iron core, or a solenoid (single coiled wire wrapped around a metal core). When the current is disrupted the metal wire is no longer magnetised. Because of the very nature of an electromagnet it can not be fail-secure, which means that in the result of an emergency or power outage, the doors will unlock. The built-in feature of unlocking in the result of a power outage (referred to as fail-safe) was the founding idea of the electromagnet. The lock was first made as a commissioned safety feature for the Montreal Forum in Quebec Canada. The issue they were made to solve was the threat of doors being locked in the event of an emergency. The fear was that in the event of a fire, staff would have to go to all the doors and unlock them, or simply leave every door in the building unlocked.
The solution was a door that would unlock with the loss of power, and, furthermore, a series of doors that could be opened by the pulling of a fire alarm. When there is no emergency to disable the locks, the magnets can be manipulated with a key that temporarily interrupts the electrical current. After a few seconds, the current will return, and once the door has closed it will magnetically bind the door to the door frame. This lock set up is constructed by fixing a plate of magnetic metal (usually iron) to the door, and the electromagnet to the door frame. The strength of the magnetic force holding the door closed will depend on how the coil is wound and constructed on the electromagnet; the strength of the current (how much electricity is being used); and the material that the coil is wrapped around.
There is a lot to consider when you are examining electronic locks. With this information, you should now be able to discern for yourself what you need. I always stress the importance of practicality and diversity in your security. Implement methods that are going to work for your personal needs, and combine the different locks throughout your home or office. At the root of great security, there must be forethought and planning. Anything you haven’t considered is something for a thief to exploit. Preparedness is at the root of prevention and protection, especially in the security industry. Electronic locks are a big investment, so they may be suited more for a business than a home, but there is no better personal investment than in protecting your property. Remember to be practical with your solutions, and think not only about how this protects you but how it will affect you and the other people that will use your locks. You may have no problem with having three key codes that circulate after one is used, but this might be hard for others to use. Be practical, be prepared, and be safe.
Posted On August 19, 2015 by Ralph Goodman