Every so often, I am asked to recommend electronic locking products. Having been in the physical security industry over 25 years and worked in multiple continents, I have seen many and varied applications.
The electronic components in security products started way back in the early 20th century when the first electric strike was installed in an upmarket New York apartment complex.
Up until that time, multi-level apartment complexes required doormen and an escaped elevator trip. The advantage that the electric strike presented was the ability to enjoy a secure entrance unmanned 24 hours a day and 7 days a week at a significantly reduced cost.
Most electronic hardwired systems available today are required to be "fail-safe". This means that if the power fails or is interrupted, the device is un-secure. Many product manufacturers started putting in battery back-ups in their products to assist with security necessities.
The advent of wireless systems actually negates the fail-safe mentality until the battery runs out ….. but even still many products have an in-built lithium polymer long life battery, to provide just enough power until the main source batteries can be recharged or replaced.
Technology is advancing rapidly and products are slowly becoming better quality and experienced longer lives, however I still feel it necessary to recommend to my clients to maintain that mechanical back-up "just in case".
This is expressly why the locksmith industry will continue to exist, much to the negatives of some.
Locksmiths, for over 2 centuries have been designing, maintaining and creating systems and products designed to protect the assets of the marketplace. Locksmiths will continue to do so for the next 200 years, I'm sure.
When asked "Should We?" ….. my first answer is based on determining the true benefits. But I always will recommend a mechanical backup.
The true benefits could be, no more keys to worry about (what about the portfolio card – does not this just take the place of a key?), The ability to perform audit trails (on sophisticated systems), combination entry (negates the need for a key, but requires a code to be remembered – this could lead to codes being shared – leading to a major security issue).
One of the best advances today is the advent of Bio-metric systems. Finger print identification systems can negate the need for a key or the need to remember a combination (you can not lend your finger to someone else – can you?).
The marketplace should also remember that electronic security products are still expensive and not as generally reliable as mechanical security products. Locksmiths can provide restricted key control systems that enable end users to control who has keys to their properties. This is one of the least expensive and most secure methods for protecting assets, often without the need to replace costly hardware.