There are many myths when it comes to wireless offline access control.
I intend to provide an overview of when and how to use wireless offline locks and debunk some myths.
So what exactly is Wireless offline access control?
Wireless offline access control systems use a battery powered lock is installed to control access.
These battery-powered locks are available as either escutcheon handle sets or cylinder lock units.
Wireless offline locks do not directly integrate with the access control system.
They use the card to store access permissions on where someone is allowed to go and when, as well as an audit trail on where the card has been used.
How wireless locks work
There are four main components to a wireless offline access control solution:
- Access System Software– The access system or access control software stores the person and card information, including their access rights.
- Update Unit – Usually a card reader, these devices writes permissions onto the card and reads the audit trail from the card.
- Smartcard – Usually a MiFare Card or similar, that has permissions written onto it.
- Wireless Offline Escutcheon or Cylinder – Battery powered lock with an integrated card reader. The lock reads the card and makes the decision itself on whether to open the door. It writes the event back to the card’s audit trail.
Pros of wireless offline access control
- No separate software – the existing access system can manage both wired and wireless locks. All the operator sees are doors, cards and people.
- No wiring to the door – Locks can be fitted without any wiring, making them quicker and easier to install.
- Compliance with EN escape standards – Escutcheon locksets have Mechanical egress from the secured side of the door.
- Wireless locks can be installed on glass doors and similar door types, where it would be difficult to install a conventional card reader and door furniture.
- Cheaper than wired access control system to purchase and install, wireless offline solutions are also cheaper than wireless online.
Cons of Wireless offline access control
- May require a carpenter to install – When using wireless locks with wooden doors, traditional carpentry skills may be required.
- Cannot use them on some types of doors, e.g. Automatic doors or turnstiles.
- Batteries do not last forever – Most locks will last for between 20,000 – 40,000 operations. They will also send a battery low event to the access control system via the card.
So when should I use a wireless offline lock?
Wireless offline locks are best suited to doors that would not otherwise be electronically secured.
In a building, there may be doors that are secured with a mechanical PIN lock, or a key – these would be good candidates for wireless offline.
For this reason, they are popular on University Student Residences, Apartments or hotel doors where a key, or real-time information on what is happening at the door is required.
Situations where you cannot get power or data to the door, but do not want to use a mechanical key are ideal for wireless offline access control.
When should I not use a wireless offline lock?
When you need to monitor or know exactly what is going on at the door.
If access control needs to trigger other systems, such as CCTV. This cannot be done with wireless offline locks.
When there is insufficient storage space on the card to hold the authorisation data.
Common myths with wireless offline access control
Myth 1: “Wireless offline locks are not as secure as mechanical locks”
Wireless offline locks are based upon or use mechanical lock cases.
This is especially true when using cylinder locks.
The lock itself is mortised into the door and is far more secure than a maglock used in most installations.
Myth 2: “Lock batteries do not last very long”
Most locks will run for between 20,000 and 40,000 operations on a new battery.
Because wireless offline locks do not communicate with an access control system in real-time, the lock batteries last longer than wireless online locks.
A note on standards
With wireless offline access control systems, the data, such as where someone can go and the audit trail information is written to the card.
Some lock manufacturers write the data to the card in a proprietary format.
This makes it difficult to switch to a different manufacturer.
Whilst this makes sense for the lock manufacturer, it is less than optimal for the client.
For a customer to switch out the locks from one manufacturer and replace them with another manufacturer, they would need to either:
- Re-program all existing smart cards to work with the data standard from the new lock manufacturer
- Re-issue new smart cards programmed with data ready for the new locks
Both of these options are expensive and time-consuming for the client.
There is, however, an industry-wide standard defining how data is written to smart cards for offline wireless access control.
The standard is called OSS and is ratified by the OSS Association, externally from all manufacturers.
Selecting an OSS compliant lock and access control system means that data written to the smart card can be read by any OSS compatible device.
This means that the client can switch out the locks or access control system for another manufacturer who has an OSS compliant solution.
As with everything, there are times when they wireless access control should be used, and times when it would be best to use another form of access control.
If you have enjoyed this article, please check out my Book, Designing Physical Access Control Systems.