There are many myths when it comes to wireless online access control.
I intend to provide an overview of when and how to use wireless online locks and debunk some myths.
So what exactly is Wireless online access control?
Wireless online access control systems use a battery powered lock and are installed to control access.
These battery-powered locks are available as either escutcheon handle sets or cylinder lock units.
Wireless online access locks integrate with the access controller hardware and access control software to deliver a unified solution.
How wireless locks work
There are four main components to a wireless online access control solution:
- Access System Software– The access system or access control software stores the person and card information, including their access rights.
- Access System Hardware – Usually referred to as door controllers, which have wired card readers or hubs/nodes, connected. These process the card information and makes the decision on whether to unlock the door.
- Hub or Node – The hub or node acts as a bridge between the wireless online lock and the access control system. This communicates with the lock and sends information to the access control system.
- Each hub can manage between 8 and 16 doors depending on manufacturer
- Communications range from 5-25m from the lock
- Wireless Online Escutcheon or Cylinder – Battery powered lock with an integrated card reader. The lock reads the card and sends the information to the hub or node then waits for the access control system to make a decision.
Pros of wireless online 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.
Cons of wireless online 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.
- They may not be optimal for use on main entry doors
- 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.
So when should I use a wireless online lock?
In short, anywhere where you might consider a wired access control system.
Some wireless locks also support PIN verification through an integrated or external PIN pad, so if card and PIN are required, this is possible with wireless.
Situations where you can get data, but not power to a door are ideal for wireless online access control.
When should I not use a wireless online lock?
If biometrics are needed to identify or verify a person, as most locks do not have integrated biometric readers.
Turnstiles and automatic doors do not lend themselves to working well with wireless online locks.
Final Entry and Exit Doors, or Security Critical Areas.
In short, I would not recommend the use of wireless locks on final entry/exit or security critical areas.
If the batteries died unexpectedly and you cannot get in, what is the business impact?
Wireless locks are very reliable but still rely on a wireless communications link.
Local interference or signal jamming devices could interrupt wireless communications; in this case, a wired system can still operate if working on shielded twisted pair cabling.
Common myths with wireless online access control
Myth 1: “Wireless online locks can’t offer the same level of functionality as a wired system”.
This is simply not true.
These locks have real-time communication with the access control system and appear to the access control system as a door.
If you need to trigger a CCTV system, implement an airlock, or remotely unlock a door, this is possible with a wireless online system.
Myth 2: “Wireless online locks are not as secure as mechanical locks”
Wireless online 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 3: “Wireless online locks communicate over WIFI and can be hacked”
Wireless online access control locks are battery powered AND communicate in real-time with the access control system.
How they communicate
Hubs and locks communicate with each other using Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE.
Communicating over BLE means that the access control system is not reliant on the building WIFI.
Hubs and Nodes are connected to door controllers using RS485, meaning that in the event of a power or network failure, the controller can still communicate with the lock.
Hubs and Nodes can also communicate with door controllers using IP, however, there is no resilience if the network goes offline.
Bluetooth Low Energy is extremely energy efficient compared to WIFI so that locks can run for much longer on smaller batteries.
Wireless Lock Security
Communications between a lock and a hub or node are secured using 128-bit AES encryption.
This is the same level of security used for online banking.
Wireless locks can read encrypted card numbers, which is more secure than using the card serial number.
In summary, wireless online access control locks provide a number of benefits when used as part of an access control system.
If you have enjoyed this article, please check out my Book, Designing Physical Access Control Systems.