HID: Mechanical Locks Dead In A Decade - Agree/Disagree?

Ethan sent this to me earlier:

Very few businesses will use the traditional lock and key 10 years from now, 62% of security professionals believe.

According to survey results published by Assa Abloy and IFSEC, those in the 62% group that think mechanical keys are done in 10 years are "the views of a wide range of security professionals".

Do you agree? Vote:


Count me in the group that thinks the 10 year deadline is insane. Not even 100 years.

Any survey sponsored by a manufacturer of high-margin electronic access control (ie: Assa) is going to have a vested interest in promoting those products.

Brian, what does a basic mechanical lock and key cost?

For that prediction to be true, the cost differential would have to get quite close.

Btw, contrast:

  • Their statement "Very few businesses will use the traditional lock and key 10 years from now"
  • To "Very few businesses will install new traditional lock and key 10 years from now"

I am not sure if either will be true but the former is almost certainly false because it implies that in a decade the hundreds of millions of existing locks will be replaced.

In 2016, the cost difference is not close!

In general, a complete lock and key kit ranges from ~$50 - ~$200.

Supposing that a commercial user opts for the high-end $200 product, the cost of fitting a door for electronic access is substantially more, on the order of 4 of 5 times more for even a simple door.

Also Mechanical keys may cost $2 to buy and cut, whereas a credential card or keyfob routinely sell for $5 and more per unit, and require addition labor to program or make valid in a system.

There are many advantages to electronic access, but being as inexpensive as mechanical locks is not one of them.

This seems like the "analog" is dead argument, only based on a technology that is hundreds of years older and 1/10th the price per unit.

When I think of "businesses", I think of all the doors inside a building that have no need for access control, plus all the smaller stores that don't need every employee to have a key. It would seem that these doors could far outweigh the commercial doors where employees have access badges.

Almost every electronic access control system I've seen also has a door with a mechanical key override. I think some places even require this by code for emergency access in case of power outage, etc.

I don't see how you could have a building that was truly "keyless" in a practical way.

I don't see how you could have a building that was truly "keyless" in a practical way.

Why not? Do you mean they don't exist today? Or the ones that do are not practical?

Last time I talked with the Allegion A&E rep he mentioned their new NDE electronic lock sets (Wifi enabled) would run at about MSRP $600 for cylindrical. The lock also fits in a standard cutout. With a solution like that I could see locations having more access control, but to hardware every door is just unnecessary and will always be way to costly.

Thanks for the feedback! We profiled Allegion NDE when it was announced in 2014: Allegion Releases NDE Engage, Assa Aperio Competitor.

It has taken them some time to ramp production up and release actual product.

However, I agree with you - lower prices for electronic access will generally help expand to more doors, but keys aren't going to disappear anytime soon.

I think this kind of lockset has the greatest potential to make a significant dent in the market, the key (yok yok) reason being, it's self-contained with no need for extensive supporting infrastructure.

We've outfitted some remote buildings for a local city with Viscount Liberty Nano Cubes, and while they're a very slick little standalone system, it still requires a bunch of conduit, wiring to interconnect all the components, and the installation of an electric door strike (or maglock, if you prefer). That adds up to a fair chunk of labour in many cases, plus material costs.

Then there's the ongoing cost of updating the system user lists - if someone leaves and they want to cancel his fob, I need to visit each site and delete it from the system. At least until they network all the sites, then they can do it remotely... but that's even more ongoing cost to maintain that connection. Granted, it's still cheaper to having to get every site re-keyed and then giving everyone new keys...

Okay, that's probably a bad example overall... but with small sites like retail stores, even two or three self-contained locks like Michael describes could be really beneficial - most if not all the staff probably have smart phones, so if that becomes their key, then you don't have to worry about buying fobs or cutting keys... and if you're directly replacing an existing deadbolt, your installation costs are almost nil. I think THAT is going to very attractive to smaller customers that don't need multi-site integration and enterprise-level user management.

It looks like this group's opinion is basically the inverse of the Assa/IFSEC survey:

I think the HID prediction is a lot closer to reality then this thread gives them credit for. Granted replacing all or even most mechanical locks is marketing hyperbole. However replacing the majority of mechanical locks to facility entrances and high use locked doors is, in my most humble opinion, very likely. I believe this will happen when the cost of an electronic lock drops to about double the price of an equivalent mechanical lock. This day is not far off. A standalone electronic lock should easily fit into the $200 to $400 price range, once production and competition is ramped up. These locks would not need conduit, wires, a wireless connection, or even periodic updates from someone walking around with an update tool.

I think the future to a large percentage of this market now served by mechanical locks, that don't need the control of an access control system; will be served by locks that don't need to be online. These locking systems will carry the access rights and time schedules on the credential rather than a central database, downloaded to a lock. There will be no need to update the lock's database, as the lock will request it from the card itself though an encrypted RFID transaction.

If you are in the access control business today, be aware that your future competition may be the big box store near you. I don't want to be all doom and gloom, there will always be a need for an access control systems, but it won't look like todays systems!

your future competition may be the big box store near you. I don't want to be all doom and gloom, there will always be a need for an access control systems, but it won't look like todays systems!

I totally agree with the sentiment here. However, with paper tigers like Lockitron:

I am also not sure how close tomorrow's competition really is at this point. No doubt it is coming, but just how soon?

These locks would not need conduit, wires, a wireless connection, or even periodic updates from someone walking around with an update tool.

Powered by batteries or kinetics from handle turns and the occasional door slam?

A standalone electronic lock should easily fit into the $200 to $400 price range, once production and competition is ramped up. These locks would not need conduit, wires, a wireless connection, or even periodic updates from someone walking around with an update tool.

However, on these points, I'm a little confused or just disagree.

First, the $200-$400 price point is really low by today's prices. Sure, economies of scale can be a factor, but there are a wide variety of door types and preps to accommodate for in the mass market that fly in the face of a 'one size fits all' solution.

Second, how would a standalone electronic lock be networked if wires or wireless connections, or 'periodic updates from a tool' are not needed?

The comment is silly. Access control is the slowest moving segment in our business (even slower than alarm). New locks will appear (especially with network driven features) but the mainstream mechanical locks will change very little. Change and adoption of new technologies is snail-paced in access control.

My guess? in 10 years it will look remarkably like now (which looks remarkably like 10 years ago).

Hi Mark, are you wearing a hat? If so, hold on tight, cause I think we are in for bumpy ride that will be exciting and get us out of the rut, that we in access control, have been in since the early 90s! There is a lot to write about, but out of respect for our limited attention spans that are constantly interrupted by our customers, I will keep it short!

So what I see on the horizon, is movement away from the card reader having the smarts to know who is allowed in the door and at what times; to the card reader asking the credential if it has access rights to the door at this time. This change will eliminate the need for a data connection to the card reader or its field panel. When you couple that with the ability to make the locks self or battery powered, you eliminate the expense of running conduit and cable - a huge cost component. Eliminating wires will significantly drive down the cost of adding intelligence to a lock.

Are there down sides to the offline lock? For sure! The biggest is how do you tell the offline lock about lost, stolen, or cards of fired people? Offline locks have a "blacklist" database, which is a list of credentials that are not permitted access at any time. A blacklist does not need the constant updates that a whitelist of valid credential holders do.

You can update the blacklist by adding the newly blacklisted credential to all cards. When the updated credential is used in an offline lock, it will update the offline lock's blacklist database. A good design will have online locks at the perimeter these locks provide the normal access control functions, in addition they write to the credentials new blacklist data, and they will query the credential to get a log of its own transactions with offline locks.

So who is manufacturing these systems? I wrote an article about this in 2012, thinking that this would be new concept. However, my research found Salto, and I believe Kaba were already implementing the strategy. Last year we saw Assa Abloy and Allegion bring offline card readers to the market, and there are probably others.

I think the offline lock will make electronic locking proliferate. It won't replace mechanical locks, but it will significantly change the market share between the mechanical and electronic locks.

Maybe it will go up and then fall?


CLEVELAND, March 16, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Sales of mechanical security products in the US are expected to rise 5.4 percent annually through 2020 to $6.1 billion. Growth will be driven by the large lock segment, which will benefit from continued gains in building construction spending.