Reinventing or Just Renaming Locksmiths?

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jan 08, 2013, 07:00pm EST

Nothing conjures up images of an old, dusty, and dank trade like the word "Locksmith". While they specialize in a important area, locksmiths have seemingly been left behind in the fast-paced world of 'physical security'. In response, the largest trade organization for the locksmith trade, ALOA, has changed their name. Will this rebranding by the organization establish relevance in the 'new age of security' and energize it's membership? We examine the situation in the note below.

Broader Appeal?

ALOA (Associated Locksmiths of America) has changed its name to 'ALOA Security Professionals', signaling a broadening of the organization and a redefinition of the trade itself. While the organization claims over 12,000 members [link no longer available], the name change is intended to break preconceptions of the locksmith scope and attract new members to its ranks. The ALOA SPAI President states:

"By adding 'Security Professionals' to our name, we expand our view for the future ...and by keeping 'ALOA' in the forefront of our name, we stay grounded in our past and assure that we don't lose the name recognition and reputation that we've built over many years."

The 'new' ALOA claims to be involved in "all facets of locksmithing, including automotive, door hardware, electronic access control, digital video, CCTV, investigative locksmithing, safes, and other areas relating to physical security." Do locksmiths - and ALOA - have room to branch out and take place among today's preeminent security organizations and trades?

The Case For Locksmiths

Any move to adapt locksmithing to the modern IT-driven security marketplace is a positive sign. Frequently, the specification, installation, and maintenance of 'dirty' mechanical door hardware is often neglected or left to generalists like facilities maintenance groups. The complexity and importance of this hardware to facilities security is frequently understated and misunderstood, often resulting in the 'first layer' of security controls having 'the largest vulnerabilities'.

Even when given due-credit, the mechanical hardware industry lacks an unbiased, security-centric voice. Today, selecting critical security hardware is entrusted to specifiers working directly on manufacturer payrolls or by independent consultants heavily incentivized to specify one brand of hardware regardless of suitability.

In this environment, 'ALOA Security Professionals' and locksmiths alike stand to gain ground and influence. Much like integrators, who typically represent multiple product lines and develop facility-custom surveillance systems, locksmiths stand to address the needs of the end-user first, not the sales quotas of the manufacturers. For many customers, this frequently lowers the operational cost of security and enhances systems performance through selection of robust, 'world-best' equipment.

The Challenges Ahead

Simply stated, locksmiths - and even the newly minted ALOA Security Professionals Association - need to do more. Rather than being content eking out a living based on individual service calls in a commodity-priced market, Locksmiths should aggressively embellish their specialized mechanical knowledge of doors and hardware with comprehension of the IT-driven security marketplace.

Making the transition into IP is a long leap for locksmiths - longer than it has been for many analog integrators. The inability or unwillingness to do so is likely to be a significant source of mortality for many (a majority?) within the ALOA ranks, but it is a vital transition the Locksmithing trade must make in order to remain relevant in the security markets, much less gain ground.

Instead of simply existing as a phone number to be called in emergencies, Locksmiths should actively engage in Electronic Access Control (and other high-security projects like safe/vault work) and become proficient designers/installers in those segments. Building from this foundation offers many end-users and even IT-centric integrators an invaluable resource - a distinction that ALOA SPAI, and its member organizations would love to claim.

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