Access Control: Making the Move to Wireless

Wireless security systems have literally opened up an entirely new world of security solutions that were unavailable before the technology became available. Wireless systems can offer major savings compared to the labor and expense of installing a wired system and can also provide expanded access control capabilities, such as the ability to open and lock a door using a smartphone.

Because they do not require a hard-wired connection, wireless locks can be installed in areas that are impractical or impossible to accommodate using standard wired or mechanical locks.

But what does this mean to the security integrator? What are the practical considerations in implementing a wireless security solution? When is it the right fit — or maybe not?


Step One: Know Your Customer

The first step is to know what your customer is actually looking to do. What kind of business do they have, and what are their overall security requirements? Determine whether they want to simply install or change out some mechanical locks, or if they want to upgrade to an electronic access control (EAC) system for some or all of their doorways.

If the client already has an EAC system in place, are they looking to expand their system? Very often, a customer’s primary requirement is to cover a larger area or increase the coverage inside the perimeter of the building.


Step Two: Facility Assessment

Next, the customer’s facility should be assessed. A thorough evaluation of all the entry and exit points in the facility should be made, with an eye toward any possible doors that might be hard to reach or overly expensive to wire.

Are there areas where large distances have to be covered where it might be impractical or impossible to use wiring; for example, buildings that are away from the main facility? Is it a historic building where no holes can be drilled or structural modifications made? Or perhaps the client wants to add access control to a beautiful, expensive entranceway and will not allow its elegant architecture to be disturbed in any way. In these and other situations, wireless access control can provide an ideal solution — or even the only solution.


Step Three: Sell the Benefits

Wireless security solutions offer many additional benefits that wired systems and conventional mechanical locks may not provide. They provide instant, real-time information about what’s going on in a facility, such as who entered what doors at what times, how long they stayed in the room and depending on the deployment, even when they left it.

Wireless locks are particularly well-suited to certain applications and markets. In the healthcare industry, it has always been a challenge to protect medicine cabinets and patient files, and a number of ad-hoc solutions have been employed over the years with varying degrees of success. Now, wireless locks can be installed on individual cabinets in patients’ rooms, instead of a hospital having to lock up all its medicine in a central pharmacy. This speeds delivery of medicine to patients and provides a complete audit trail of exactly which cabinet was opened, by whom and when.

In a data center, a lot of time is typically spent by those using locks and keys to get from rack A to rack B, and it slows down the ability of people to get access to the machines they need. Other access models are less restrictive — ie., a single access-controlled door for the whole area — however, once people get inside they might have relatively unrestricted access to cabinets containing valuable materials and information. By installing wireless locks on the doors, people can gain access more easily using various types of cards or other credentials, and once they’re in the data center, wireless cabinet locks will provide better security and accountability for everything inside.


Step Four: Determine the Ideal Wireless Infrastructure

If it is determined that the installation can benefit from wireless, then some decisions have to be made. Does the facility already have an existing security management infrastructure in place? If so, a solution can be deployed that interfaces with a facility’s existing security management hardware. If a facility does not have electronic access control hardware in place but already has a wireless infrastructure in place for other devices, such as routers, smartphones, etc., Wi-Fi-based security solutions are available which interface with a company’s wireless network and security management software directly.

These types of systems simplify installation and save costs, as the wireless hardware leverages the already-in-place IT infrastructure and little additional hardware has to be installed other than locks.

You should also consider a point-to-point wireless access control solution — a system that operates completely on its own, with its own dedicated network that does not need to interface with an IT network. These require more hardware — such as dedicated wireless gateways — for the initial installation, but are still much less expensive than wired door systems.

Assa Abloy has created an online tool for integrators to use when conducting an on-site evaluation. Integrators can log onto with an iPad to obtain information about what types of wireless security products are recommended for a facility. The website provides information about locks, door openings and doorframes, other hardware and credentials and connects integrators with Assa Abloy experts.


Peter Boriskin is Director of Electronic Access Control Product Management for Assa Abloy. Request more info on the company at