Access Control Lock Guide

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Sep 26, 2018

In this guide, we examine locks; critical elements of any security system and fundamental parts of every access control system.

Two fundamental classes of locks are used in access, electrified locks and mechanical locks. But with thousands of lock options in the market, understanding the basics and when to use either is crucial for successful systems. 

This report covers the factors driving selection, including:

  • Codes Impacting Which Options You Can Use
  • Why Electric Strikes Are So Common
  • Understanding 'Fail Safe vs Fail Secure'
  • Using Maglocks The Correct Way
  • Why 'Request to Exit' Hardware Is Critical
  • Using Electric Lock Bolts or Other Electric Locks
  • Other Electrified Hardware, Like Standalone Locks
  • Understanding Mechanical Hardware Options
  • Cylindrical vs. Mortise vs. Surface Mounted Hardware
  • Why Deadbolts Are Dangerous

Inside we examine where you should pick strikes, maglocks, or something else altogether to keep doors secure, legal, and reliable.

Electrified Locks

Picking between electric strikes, magnetic locks, electronic bolts and locksets is a complex decision. The sections below describe the major types:

  • Electric Strikes
  • Maglocks
  • Electrified Bolts
  • Standalone Locks

Electric Strikes

Electric Strikes are a common and favored method of securing electronic access controlled doors, especially interior, office or single door passageway openings where egress hardware like Exit Devices are already installed.

Strikes are  built with a mechanical latch or jaws that swing out of the way when a door opens. This is an important characteristic of strikes; they are only as secure as the accompanying door hardware. The strike itself is designed to permit access even when the mechanical hardware is locked and the bolt is thrown.

Here is an image of a strike:

Strikes can be surface mounted on the frame (typically required when used with rim mounted hardware like panic bars) or mortised into door frames. A variety of other access control components can be furnished in this type of hardware, including latch position sensors and card readers.

This type of hardware can be bought in a variety of finishes, power options, mounting dimensions, and accessory options. The most commonly applied versions of the hardware cost about $125, and require periodic maintenance (cleaning and lubrication) to remain operational.

For in-depth details about this lock, read our Selecting the Right Electric Strike guide.

'Fail Safe' versus 'Fail Secure'

While most common in electric strikes, these terms describe the default behavior of any electrified lock when power drops from the device. If a device is configured for 'fail safe' operation, this means that if power is lost, then the lock will fail in an unsecured position.

** **** *****, ** examine *****; ******** ******** of *** ******** ****** and *********** ***** ** every ****** ******* ******.

*** *********** ******* ** locks *** **** ** access, *********** ***** *** mechanical *****. *** **** thousands ** **** ******* in *** ******, ************* the ****** *** **** to *** ****** ** crucial *** ********** *******. 

**** ****** ****** *** ******* driving *********, *********:

  • ***** ********* ***** ******* You *** ***
  • *** ******** ******* *** So ******
  • ************* '**** **** ** Fail ******'
  • ***** ******** *** ******* Way
  • *** '******* ** ****' Hardware ** ********
  • ***** ******** **** ***** or ***** ******** *****
  • ***** *********** ********, **** Standalone *****
  • ************* ********** ******** *******
  • *********** **. ******* **. Surface ******* ********
  • *** ********* *** *********

****** ** ******* ***** you ****** **** *******, maglocks, ** ********* **** altogether ** **** ***** secure, *****, *** ********.

Electrified *****

******* ******* ******** *******, magnetic *****, ********** ***** and ******** ** * ******* ********. The ******** ***** ******** the ***** *****:

  • ******** *******
  • ********
  • *********** *****
  • ********** *****

Electric *******

******** ******* *** * common *** ******* ****** of ******** ********** ****** controlled *****, ********** ********, office ** ****** **** passageway ******** ***** ****** hardware ******** ******* *** ******* *********.

******* ***  ***** **** a ********** ***** ** jaws **** ***** *** of *** *** **** a **** *****. **** is ** ********* ************** of *******; **** *** only ** ****** ** the ************ **** ********. The ****** ****** ** designed ** ****** ****** even **** *** ********** hardware ** ****** *** the **** ** ******.

**** ** ** ***** of * ******:

******* *** ** ******* mounted ** *** ***** (typically ******** **** **** with *** ******* ******** like ***** ****) ** mortised **** **** ******. A ******* ** ***** access ******* ********** *** be ********* ** **** type ** ********, ********* latch ******** ******* *** card *******.

**** **** ** ******** can ** ****** ** a ******* ** ********, power *******, ******** **********, and ********* *******. *** most ******** ******* ******** of *** ******** **** about $***, *** ******* periodic *********** (******** *** lubrication) ** ****** ***********.

*** **-***** ******* ***** this ****, **** *** ********* *** ***** ******** Strike *****.

'Fail ****' ****** '**** ******'

***** **** ****** ** electric *******, ***** ***** describe *** ******* ******** of *** *********** **** when ***** ***** **** the ******. ** * device ** ********** *** 'fail ****' *********, **** means **** ** ***** is ****, **** *** lock **** **** ** an ********* ********.

[***************]

**** *** **** *** door *** ****** ***** open ** *****, *** in ** ********* **** allow ********* ****** ******* the *******. ** ********, if * ****** ** configured ** '**** ******', this ***** *** ****** will ******* ** ******* the **** ****** **** power ** ****. *******, this ******** ** ********* in ******* ********** ** if ***** ******* ** the **** ******** ****** unimpeded ****** ******* *** opening ** ** *********.

Magnetic *****

**** ******** ****** '********', these ******* *** **** of *** ********* *** most ******* ****** ** locking ******** *********. ******** are ***** **** *** perimeter ***** ** **** of ***** ***** ***** modification ** *********. **** consist ** *** ************ bonded ********** (*** **** armature *** *** ******* magnet ***), ********* ******** by * ***** ***** strength **** ******** ** several ********* ** ******.

**** ** ** ***** of * *******:

* ******** ** ***** type ** ******* ** that **** ****** **** be ******* ** *** 'secured ****' (******) ** the ****. **** ** due ** *** ************* of ******* ***** *********** to *** ****** ** simply ******** *** ****** off *** ***** **** the ********* ****. **** requirement *** ******** **** the***** ** *** ****** ** ******* ** the *****, *** * variety ** ******* ****** are **** ** ********** uncommon *********.

***** ******* **** ******* constant *** ************* ***** to ****** ******. '**** Safe' ********** *** *** always *******, ** ******* backup ** * ****** feature ** *** ***** supplies *** ***** *****.

* ****** **** *********** for ***** ******* ** that ***** ** **** to **** ******** **** a **** ***** ******. It ** **** **** common ***'*******-**-****' (***) *** ******* and ********* **** ********* ** ******** *** every ******* **** *** a ******* *********. *** more, *** *** ******* ** **** ********.

***** ******* *** **** costly, ***** ******* *** $400 ** **** *** lock. *******, ***** ********* pieces ** ********* **** power ******** *** *** devices **** *** *********** cost ** **** **** of ******* *******. ** is *** ******** ** spend $**** ** *** pieces ** ******** *** this **** ** *******. Once *********, *** ** lack ** ****** ** wearing *****, ***** ******* are ********** *********** **** and ******** *** ***** use.

*** **-***** ******* ***** this ****, **** *** ******* ********* *****.

Electronic **** *****

**** **** ** **** features ******** ******, ******** steel ***** **** ******* into *** ***** ******** the **** ** ***** open.

***** ***** *** **** commonly ******** **** *** frame, *** ************* ***** be ******* ** *** leading **** ** * door (*** ****** ****), the ***** **** ** the ****, ** **** the *** **** ** the ****.  *******, ***** bolts *** ****** ******* on *** ****** (***** side) ** *** ****, due ** *** *** comparatively ***** **** **** is *** *** ** may ****** ********** ******** of *** ****.

**** ** ** ***** of ** ********** **** lock:

**** **** ** ******** can ** ****** *** $200 ***, *** ******** periodic *********** (******** *** lubrication) *** **** ********** to ****** ***********.

Standalone ********

**** **** ** ******* device ** **** ** a ******** ******** **** a ******** ******.

***** ***** ***** ******* all ********** ******** ** be * ***** **********, self ********* ****** *** securing * ****. ********** from * **** ****** to * ***** **** are ******** **** ***** devices, *** **** *** intended ** ******* ******** unpowered ********. ***** ***** often **** **** ********* for ******** ********** ***** into *** ******, *** they *** **** ** a **** '****-**' ****** control ******** **** ** additional ******* ** ****** required.

**** ** ** ***** of ** ********** *******:

*** ******** *** ******* of ***** ***** *** widely ******, *** ** intend ** ***** *** more ******* ***** ** future *******. *** *** sake ** *********** ** the ***** ****** *****, however, *** **** ** these ******* *** ** anywhere **** $*,*** ** $3,000 *** *** ******.

*** ********* *** ***** of ****** *** ***** these ******* *** **** commonly ****:

  • ******** *******, ****** **** interior ********: ******** ******* *** most ******** ****. ***** devices *** * **** selection *** ******** ****** doors, ******** *****, *** storage *******. ******* ***** and ***** **** ******** of **** ******** ****** for ************ **** ******** gates.
  • **** *******, ****** ** double **** ******** ********: ******** Locks *** * **** fit. **** '**** *****' openings *** ******* **** maglocks. ***** ******* *** very ******, **** * low ********* ****, *** require ******* ***********. ****** cost *** **** ******** mounting ******* ***** ***** locks *** ******* ***********.
  • **** ******** **** ** desired *** ***** ******** cannot ** ******: ********** ***** can ** ****. **** type ** ******* ******** is **** ******, *** require **** ********* ** keep ********** *** ******* properly **** ******* ** maglocks.
  • '******* ********' ******* *** retrofitting * ****: ********** ******** are **** ****. ***** are ********* **** *** both ****** *** ****** leaf ********. ***** '***-**-***' solutions *** **** ****** than ******** * ******** from ********* *****. *******, these ********* *** *** best ****** **** * quick *********** ** ********.

Mechanical **** *****

****** ******* ** **** than **** *********** ********.  In **** *****, ******** locks remain **** ***** ********** access ******* ** *****. Understanding *** ****** ** selecting *** ********** **** locks ** ******** *** every ********, *********, ** end **** ** ****. ***** ** take * **** ** the ***** ***** ** locking ********, ***** ***** of ******** *** ****, and ******* * ******* overview ** *** ** install ****. 

Major *****

*** ***** ** **** hardware ** *****, **** each **** ****** *** own '**** ***' *** relative *********. *** ***** types **** ** ********** buildings *** ***** *****:

** *** ******** *****, we ******* ***** **** type ** **** *** how ** **** *** best ****** ********* ** the ***********.

Door ***** ******* ****** **** ******

*** **** ********* ****** driving **** **** ********* is *** *** '**** is*******', ** *** ** has **** ********** ** work **** *****. ********* forms ** ***** ******* different ************** ** ***** and ******* *** **** the ****, *** ** most ***** ***** ***** are **** ** *** manufacturer **** ****** **** are ****.

*********, ** **** *****, lock ********* ** ******* by *** **** ****, and *** **** ** condensed ** ******* ***** product *** ** ********* without ********* ** ********* the ****. ** *** sections *****, ** ******* the ***** ***** ** 'door *****' *** ***** models ** ******** **** accept.

***********

**** **** ** **** is **** ****** * "Bored" ****, ***** *********** is ******** ** **** inside * * */*" hole ******* **** *** door. *** ***** ******** to *** **** **** are ***** ** *****, and ********* *** *** hole ** ******* *** lock ** *** ****. While *** ******** ** doors ******* **** ****, it ** *** *** most ****** **** ** Electronic ****** *******, ******* most ** *** **** these ***** *** **** for ********, ** ***-******** doors.

***** ***** ***** ** locks *** **** ****** for *****-**** ***, **** contain **** *** ***** - *** ***** **** slides **** *** *****. High ******** ***** ***** include ******* ****** ** latching *** **** **** a *********** **** ** built ** ********* **** cycles, ** ***** **** other******** ********** (**** * ********) for **** ******** ************. 

  • ****:*********** ($** - $***), easy ** *******
  • ****:****** ***** *** ** secure ** ***** *****, not ** ******* ** mortise *****
  • ***** ****:******** *****, *******, ***********, Low-Medium ****** *****

*******

*** ** *** ****** types ** ***** ** also *** **** ******. Compared ** * *********** lock, * ******* **** is ***, *****, *** full ** ******* *****. However ***** ********** **** it **** *******, ******, and **** ** ********* constant ***. ******* ***** require * ****** *** into *** **** ** the ****, ***** ******** more ***** ***** **** a ****** ***** ****. However, ******* **** ****** is ****** **** * cylindrical ****, ******** ******* are ******* ******** ** mortise ********.

*** **** ** ******** bolts ***** **** *** frame, *** ******* ***** support ****-**** '**** ********' mortise **** ********* ********* 'bump/pick **********', ******* ******** pinning, *** ***** ********* protections. 

******* ***** *** ******** used ** ***** ********* high ******** *** **** volumes, *** *** ********* too ********* ** *** on ******** ***** ** light-duty ******/ ********** ********. Doors ***** ******* ******** must ** ********* ** handle **** *** **** and ****** ** * mortise ****:

  • ****:**** *******, ******* ******** security *******
  • ****:********* ($*** - $****), field ******* * **** to ******* * ******* lock ** *********
  • ***** ****:******** *****, **** ****** Doors, **** ******** *****

*******

**** ****** '*** *****, or ****-******* *****', ***** locks ********* ******* ******* door ****, *** **** types ** *** **** occupy *** **** ** a **** ** ***. The **** ****** **** of ******** ** **** category ******* *******, * ******** ** high-volume, ********* ****** ********. In *** ******* *****, notice *** ***** ** the **** ** ******** to *** '*******' ** the ****, ***** *** name:

******* **** ******** ** typically ******* **** ******* strikes (*** ******* *******) or************* *********. **** ******* are ****** *** *** very ******* *** ********* withstand **** ******* ** abuse *** *********.

  • ****:***** ****/****** ********* ****** Codes, **** *****, ********** of ******* ****, ******* Surface ******** ************
  • ****: ********* ($**** - $3000), *** *********** ********** to **********. ********* ** hang ** ***** *****.
  • ***** ****:****** *****, **** ******** Doors

*********

**** **** ** **** is ****** **** ***** without ********** ******** *******, and ***** ** ********* egress ***** [**** ** longer *********]******* *** **** ********* requires ******** ** * key ************* *******. **** *********** locks, ********* *** **** to *******, ********* **** a **** ** ** drilled ******* *** ****. However, ******* ** ***** limited ***********, ********* *** primarily **** ** ******* the ******** ** ***** locks **** ** *** door.

*** *******, **** **** with * *********** ****, a ******** ***** ******* independent **** **** ** defeated ** **** ******* access. ********* *** ********* used ** ******** ******** during '**** *****' - used **** * ******** is ****** ** *** the ***** ** **** it ** **********. *** image ***** ***** * typical ******* ** *** deadbolts *** ****, ** conjunction **** *********** * ********* ****:

  • ****:*********** ($** - $***), easy ** *******
  • ****:****** ** ********* ** egress *****, ******** **** must ** ****** ** match ***** ***** ** use
  • ***** ****:********* **** ** ******** security **************** ******** *****.

*********

**** **** ** ******** is * ****** ******* a ******** *** * mortise*******. *********** *** ******** used ** ***** ********** doors **** **** ******. Most *************** ********* ******** ***** are ******** ****** ******** hours [**** ** ****** available], *** **** ****** and ******** ** *********. Therefore, ************ **** **** ** keep * **** ****** when ********* *** ****. Like * ********, **** models **** ******* ** retract *** *****, ******** some ***** *******'**** ******'-**** *********** ******** ** ****.  Unlike * ********, * door ***** ****** ****** have * ***** **** for*******, *** *** ***** must ** ******* ********* to * ******* ***** lock. ***************** **** ******, *** may ******* ******** ******* or**** **** ********* ****** ****** **** the ********* *****.

  • ****:******** **** *********** *********, the ***** *************/******** ********** for ***** *****
  • ****:******* **** ** ********* separately, ********** ********* **** key ****. ***** ********* to ***** **** ** fit**********.
  • ***** ****:**** ***** (*****) ***********

Lock *********

***** ******* ***** *** types ** ***** **** can ** **** ** secure ****. **** ** comes ** ********* *** specific **** ** **** to *******, ***** *******:

  • *** ** *** **** Prepped?*** ******* ***** ******* defines *** **** **** influences **** ******** *********. Taking **** ** *** prep **** ****** ********* criteria ** * *** basic *****.
  • *** ***** ** *** door? ***** **** ******* ***********. ** the ********, ***** ******* are *.**" ** *.***". However, ******** ****** ***** between **** *** **** thick. **** *********** ** critical ** *********** *** latch ******** ** *** door, *** *** ***** the ******* ********* ** the ****.
  • ** **** ** ****** door? ** *** **** ***** in ** ****** ** emergency ****** ****, ******* lock ***** (**** *********) should *** ** ****. Hardware **** **** ******* maybe ** ********, ********* selection ** ***** *****.
  • *** ** ***** ****** lock *********?**** ************** **************, ******* **** '*********** hardware ** ******* **** be ****. ***** **** interpretations ***** ******* ***** of *****, ** ********* conditionally ******* ***** *** depending ** ******** **************.
  • *** ********** **** **** door ** ****?*** ***** *** **** and **** ** **************** ******** *******. *** ***** **** commercial ***, ****/**** ***** 1 ******** ** *****, while ** ************ **** closet ** ******* **** is ****** ****** ** use *******-***** ***** * hardware.

******** *** ***** **** is ********* ****** ** the '*******' ********** ** the *******, ****** **** selecting *** **** ***** and ****** *** ******* to ***.

[****: **** **** *** substantially ******* ** **** after *** ******** *********** in ****.]

Comments (14)

Brian,

Great write up as always. In regards to the AHJ being the final say in the interpretation of codes and implementation of specific types of hardware what has been your experience in the approval or denial process? Specifically when a certain type of hardware (ie. maglocks) are approved/denied did your AHJ provide documentation citing the approval/denial or has it always been verbal? If they don't provide documentation on approval should the integrator provide something for them to sign off on related to the project?

There is generally a signature given on the design proposal, final invoice, or the acceptance form, but I've never seen/heard of a document from an AHJ explicitly saying "YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO USE MAGLOCKS" or something similar.

Maybe in some federal or high-security jobs. Usually just consent by way of initials or signature.

If other members have details to add, I'm interested too.

I'm a little surprised there is no mention of electric latch retraction and electrified handset, which really is the preferred method as it maintains the integrity of the original door hardware. The different types of power transfers can be a good note, eg. hinges, door cords, EPT, concealed door cords. I always try to consider one of these options before a strike, and certainly before a maglock. Also, the difference between solenoid and stepper motor latch retraction - and latch retraction retrofits.

Hello Tyler:

Good points about latch retraction, which is a section I'll expand on in our Exit Devices note.

Based on our various survey results, I would not call ER the 'preferred' method of electrifying the lock for many doors. Besides cost, existing hardware does not always support it, and drilling power wires into a UL rated door, or even a standard solid core door can take some courage (or skills.)

I'm not sure you mean 'most popular' or 'common' anyway, (I think you mean least disruptive/reliable) but strikes use dominates access opening methods, with maglocks running a <distant> second.

Thanks for reading! I'll update here with our expanded section on latch retraction.

Agree here. If that door has a label on it and you drill it...you own it. Unless you get it re-labeled you have created a liability for your company and if there was ever an issue where the integrity of the door came into question you would be invited to that party. If doors are being ordered for new construction then it is a no brainer and definitely the cleanest install.

As for latch retraction, electrifying existing panics is an inexpensive procedure nowadays. You can retrofit most hardware with low power devices that are quiet unlike the agressive solenoid slam.

So if you cut in a strike on a fire rated door [and frame], aren't you taking liability for that too? Or a maglock - more holes in the door and frame. Which is actually holding the door shut in the event of a fire, the strike? If a strike is not installed properly, or adjusted properly and it won't latch - we will get that call. If all the original hardware is in place, the door company gets that call.

You are correct, I meant least disruptive/reliable - ELR uses the dominate and native locking method for a door - which is going to be the most secure. (and the door guy can't point fingers to the access control company if it's not latching properly)

For example, I have a customer that had a door near a weight room, and it was the football players' goal to get said door open. The 4000lb maglock held, but the door folded in half. We then put a 9600 on there and they kept breaking the gates on them. So, I had maintenance weld a latch plate back onto the mullion and I put in a latch retraction retrofit motor and a concealed door loop for the same cost of a 9600. The door now stays locked and if there is a problem with it, it's back on the maintenance department to work with the door.

Likewise, this customer has several double doors with removable mullions. For us, fixing the wire going to the strike in the mullion was a common task (yes, there are disconnects and warning labels - they still get destroyed). Using the ELR, we have avoided that issue as well. We were also able to retrofit ELR onto vertical rods instead of installing maglocks, and that cost was a wash.

These examples are for rim type panic devices. We have done a few handsets and paddles, and they come with their own set of challenges.

One point I haven't seen mentioned in regards to using ELR is that in a stairwell, when positive latching is required, neither an electric strike or a mag lock is a viable option. In that case, ELR or electric trim is an option, although as one reader stated drilling the door will may affect the fire rating. The only other option I'm familiar with is a stair tower lock, which does all the positive latch features on the latch side of the door. There is a company that will take any brand mortise lock and retrofit it for this application.

Can a cylindrical latch always be replaced with a deadbolt without any additional working of the door or jamb? And vice-versa?

No. While many cylindrical locks are roughly the same dimension, even if the backset is the same (standard dimensions vary) the diameter of the latch or bolt can vary anywhere between 0.75" - 1.125" or greater. Using chisels or files to make the dimension larger, or strike face cutout dimensions is a routine requirement.

Excellent article. Thanks!

Definitely gonna save this one for future reference!

Found this door yesterday.
If I'm not mistaken the IBC codes are the basis in Mexico,
so this door would not be complying with regulations. Although
it has a sign off sheet on the door stating otherwise.

Issues I see:

1. Door is blocked; it's a small thing but can cause trampelin
2. Big deadbolts on top and in the bottom, not sure if they were actually used.

Although this is the secured side of the door, it is a public stairwell leading to 
a public garage, and all wires are exposed. Not sure if this is a good idea.There is 
no camera overseeing the door.

*Edit* Not sure why when uploading the image flips sideways, sorry

Returning to say "potentially disruptive to aesthetics" is perhaps the most professional way I've heard something be called "ugly"

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