Wireless Access Lock Use Growing, Stats Show

By Brian Rhodes, Published Aug 04, 2014, 12:00am EDT

With more access companies supporting or producing wireless locks than ever before, are they disrupting traditional hardwired access doors? With everything combined into a single lockset, this access type often installs in minutes, and typically takes no special skills or experience.

In this note, we examine how integrators answered:

"What percentage of openings/doors are controlled with wireless/wifi locks? Has this percentage grown/declined in the last three years?"

Low Acceptance

Overall use for wireless/WiFi locks is low, with only 38% of our integrators reporting they employ the type at all.

In total, ~15% of all EAC doors use wireless locks.

Three themes were clear from integrator answers:

  • Importance of security concerns
  • Belief that they are not really cheaper
  • Limitations for commercial use

Security Concerns

With use of WiFi/wireless locks so low, the leading reason given for the lack of interest and avoidance for the type was that 'wireless access' is a hard security sell for many end-users:

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  • "We do however favor wired solutions due to aspects like stability, service cycle and information safety."
  • "Our customers have no interest in wireless because they think they are more risky to hacking."
  • "People are not comfortable so far with anything wireless. Data security is a real concern."
  • "Most locksmiths I work with would still recommend a wired solution."
  • "We do not install wireless/wifi locks. Less secure than wired. Customers do not trust them."
  • "We are still testing the new AssaAbloy WiFi locks with the Synergis system. Once we feel they are secure, reliable and provide good ROI compared to a wired solution, we will present them to our customers as a viable option."

In the case of 'hacking' concerns, these fears are likely fueled by uncertainty rather than actual events, but if integrators are not on the front lines addressing these 'risks', they will likely persist.  With most commercial WiFi locks employing AES128 encryption or more strict, the 'hacking' risk is marginal at most.

Not Really Cheaper

Another key theme why wireless is not more common is because they are not less expensive that traditional 'hardwired' systems:

  • "The additional cost of hardware often offsets any labor savings, but now we have batteries that require service."
  • "Finally locks using standard AAA batteries and the ability to communicate of 802.11 are really helping spike interest."
  • "They usually end up costing more than hardwired doors in maintenance and upkeep."
  • "Locks need power and if batteries are the solution for power you have to get someone to go to the door to do this."
  • "Our use will get bigger, but is dependent on servicing the batteries regularly."
  • "5% increased somewhat with the use of 802.11 lock sets. [Proprietary wireless] was more expensive with all the hubs."
  • "The cost for pulling cable verses the additional cost for wireless and the unreliability is still not proven in our experience."

While the initial installation costs may be lower for WiFi/ Wireless locks, integrators report they are most costly to use over time, especially locks that use replaceable batteries or proprietary radios for networking.

Not Commercial Solutions

Several integrators reported that WiFi/ Wireless locks are not commercial grade products, or are preferred by non-integrators and those lacking the skillsets to properly install hardwired systems:

  • "We don't use this technology, WiFi locks are very DIY and non professional access control."
  • "We have trained staff to install door hardware and locks in a professional way. WiFi locks are good for IT guys and cable companies to use."
  • "We do commercial projects. There's no call or need for wireless locks in our work."
  • "It is growing but leaves a lot to be desired in my mind!"
  • "We have had nothing but random range issues with wireless locks, dont sell very many of them."
  • "We do not feel wireless or Wi-Fi locks are suitable for most of our installations."

We see this bias as one that will soften in years ahead, with many 'commercial security' brands like ASSA ABLOY and Allegion producing hardware, and brands like SALTO developing wholesale enterprise access systems using wireless locksets.

But Use Growing

While very few integrators make widespread use of these locks now, many of them feel like acceptance is shifting and they be used more in the future:

  • "Wireless/wifi locks are a nice option for hard to reach areas or where the application fits such as hotels. We do very little in this area but if I had to guess it would be about 10-15%. I think as the technology and reliability grow this market will continue to grow."
  • "10% now, but it's growing."
  • "In the broader access control market, the wireless/wifi locks have become increasingly popular."
  • "20%. Quickly growing."
  • "The idea has grown tremendously. We are pricing them as options roughly 25% of the time now but can't seem to get them going yet."
  • "85% of our installs use them. Our use has grown massively."
  • "About 10%, this has grown and will most likely grow more."
  • "These locks are taking off, slow now but really picking up."
  • "WiFi locks are becoming big.  We are doing more and more quotes with them."
  • "I have definitely have seen this grow interest in the past three years. I imagine we will see more specs be written with these as people get more comfortable with wireless."

Compared to the Past

Overall, the sentiment that 'WiFi/ Wireless locks are becoming more popular' was the strongest single theme. Indeed, contrasted with use and availability five years ago with a use rate of less than ~2% of doors, the fact that upwards of 15% use them now indicates a huge increase.

We see this trend continuing to grow at a mild to modest rate, as traditionally tough-to-network doors are eligible to add to central access systems.

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