Mobile credentials, touchless opening solutions, electronic lock advances and increased customer demand for additional electronic access control (EAC) devices are just a few of the trends driving the security locks and door hardware market right now.

“The pandemic and associated global economic impact were major disrupters that created new trends, while simultaneously accelerating others,” says Brad Sweet, commercial marketing leader, Allegion, Carmel, Ind. “What surprised me is the pace at which change related to commercial and institutional buildings occurred.”

Much of this demand is coming from K-12 school districts as they began evaluating security best practices and prompting upgrades, Sweet adds. During the pandemic, “Schools across the country began adopting electronic locks and exit devices that can be monitored or locked down as a part of a complete access control,” he says.

ASSA ABLOY campus security

Mobile credentials for access are especially hot on college campuses because students use their mobile phones for vending machines, dining, book and supply purchases and more. // IMAGE COURTESY OF ASSA ABLOY

However, schools aren’t the only customers adopting EAC. “Mobile credentials were widely adopted in higher education and commercial settings as well,” Sweet adds. “This comes as no surprise as expanded support for wallet-based solutions from Apple and Google helped drive this trend.”

Over the past year, the most surprising change in the locks and hardware market has been the continued effects of the pandemic shutdown, including ongoing supply chain and economic issues that are affecting the labor market, raw goods costs and new construction projects, says David Price, vice president, communications and business development at Camden Door Controls, Mississauga, Ontario.

And while electronic locking solutions may be growing in popularity, so is the convergence of electronic and mechanical door hardware and the need to deliver open solutions for customers, says Bret Holbrook, senior vice president, Americas AHS and ACS channel sales at dormakaba, Indianapolis. “Going forward, the security industry will be even more digitally and mobile dependent, but mechanical locks will remain in use, particularly in legacy installations that may not have the budget or security impetus to change and for specific access points,” he says. “The good news is that they can complement each other to meet the security needs of a property and enhance the resident or guest experience.”

Latest Locks & Hardware Products

Allegion: Schlage NDEBSi and LEBSi options provide flexibility for users and now feature support for HID iClass and Seos credentials. This provides security dealers and integrators with more flexibility when it comes to adding wireless locks onto a system with an established credential program.

ASSA ABLOY: The company is seeing higher demands for its intelligent key solutions, including the Medeco XT ecosystem, the IN120 Intelligent Wi-Fi lock, Aperio real-time wireless solutions, and Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP) solutions like the KS210 server cabinet lock and the SN210 integrated wired lock. New and upcoming products include the Adams Rite DL100 wireless dead latch and the Securitron DR100 Integrated Access Control Door Relay.

Camden Door Controls: Available products include the CD-EPD1289L preload RIM strikes, which eliminate pressure on the keepers of the strike that cause it to bind (the most common reason for RIM strike operational failure); and CX-DE1200 Series Delayed Egress Magnetic locks, which offer improved flexibility, performance and value.

dormakaba: dormakaba has two web-based software solutions: Community Access Management Software, and Ambiance Access Management Software. Community is ideal for multi-housing properties, while Ambiance is typically used in hospitality properties. While dormakaba has other solutions that support an integrated environment, including its Keyscan Aurora Integrated Access Management and Switch Tech solution, it is currently expanding its new solutions in the multi-housing space using its Saffire product line and new open integrations standards.

Marks USA: The company plans to introduce a new access control lock line: Marks powered by Latch. This product combines the quality engineering locksets of Marks USA with 350 lever designs, 15 escutcheon designs and all architectural finishes with Latch operating system, as well as cloud-based access control. The Latch OS enables building staff to efficiently manage access.

Big Demand for EAC

Increasing customer demand for a broader range of EAC products for both new construction and renovation retrofits continues to grow, says Peter Boriskin, chief technology officer at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Americas, New Haven, Conn. “EAC provides the balance of security and convenience that customers need, and now they expect that capability to exist wherever they want to control access or audit use,” he says. “The ability to issue and customize credentials quickly and remotely makes it fast and easy to authorize access to specific users and places.”

What’s more, EAC systems capture data that’s useful for the customer, with significant progress being made by pairing building management and access control systems. “Depending on the number of people that an access control system ‘knows’ are in a building space, for example, the more data it can feed the building’s management system to regulate temperature and lighting,” Boriskin adds.

This knowledge helps management make adjustments such as changing airflow in a particular area of an office for better filtration or adding more air conditioning as more people occupy a space. “Not only can this promote greater comfort and healthier, more productive surroundings, but it also creates opportunities for greater energy efficiency,” which is especially important as flexible workspaces keep evolving, Boriskin says.

Topping the list of customer demands are e-locks as part of an overall security ecosystem, Sweet points out. Examples include using e-locks and software solutions to help facilities manage visitor arrival times at healthcare waiting rooms, multi-family package delivery and other use cases across industries.

Tech advances are also making it easier for technicians to install e-lock systems, with more low-voltage system contractors installing electric strikes every year, Price says. “There was a time when almost every system installer would subcontract a locksmith to install their strikes,” he says. “‘Universal’ strike designs, multi-faceplate packages and marketing jigs in the box make it easier for installers to install strikes themselves.”

Beyond e-locks alone, Price is also seeing more interest in battery-powered electric strikes, although he says the jury is still out on whether short battery life and ongoing maintenance costs will outweigh the potential advantage of a low-cost installation.

The Elephant in the Room: Cybersecurity

While advances in technology can be a boon for the access control and locks and hardware business, they have also introduced an increased risk of a cybersecurity breach, points out Peter Boriskin of ASSA ABLOY.

“Cybersecurity awareness is one of the predominant topics in the industry today,” he says. “While it’s not a new subject, the urgency to address vulnerabilities has increased exponentially over the past few years.”

The security industry needs to address two issues: the physical security of digital networks, and the cybersecurity of physical security devices, he says. This means manufacturers must continuously “level up” to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. “Threats have forced the industry to step back from traditional methodologies to ensure we are designing for security from the ground up,” Boriskin says. “For instance, we need to continue to make it as easy to update firmware on security technologies as it is for mobile phone operating systems. Until recently, many traditional devices required an installer to go to each device to initiate patches and load updates. Today, more devices are capable of automatic updating to keep them current and more secure.”

Credential flexibility for access control solutions is another growing area of focus as credential technologies evolve, Boriskin says. “Facilities are seeking flexible and future-proof solutions that will help them migrate seamless to the latest secure credential technologies.”

This also applies to other components of access control systems, such as controllers. Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP), an access control communications standard developed by the Security Industry Association (SIA), improves interoperability and provides secure channel serial communication between locks, credential readers and the physical access control system (PACS).

“As an industry, we’re developing new ways to support emerging options like these, based on open system architecture and more robust interoperability,” Boriskin says. “One nice addition of standards like OSDP is they also mean stronger cybersecurity protection — encryption and standards-based communications.”

The Impact of Mobile

One of the biggest changes in locks and hardware has been the advance of access controlled locksets using cell phone credentials and cloud-based security access control, says William J. Sporre, senior vice president, Marks USA. “The cell phone is so widely used as the credential and the use of the cloud base to transfer data to the locks, so there is no need for gateways or wiring in facilities,” which adds little or no infrastructure costs, he says.

“Credentials stored on individuals’ phones and expressed as a mobile credential will continue to make a splash because they work with existing paradigms for people’s lives,” says Sweet of Allegion. Unlike biometrics provided by a separate system, building or enterprise, biometrics that secure an individual’s cell phone build on a trusted relationship and understanding of how the information is stored because it’s something that most people have already interacted with, he says. Additionally, the fast upgrade cycle of cell phones supports the rapid pace of change, especially compared with building infrastructure that’s expected to operate for years, he points out.

Door security on campus

Many K-12 school districts began adopting electronic locks and exit devices that can be monitored or locked down. // IMAGE COURTESY OF ALLEGION

Mobile credentials for access are especially hot on college campuses because students use their mobile phones for just about every kind of transition, such as vending machines, dining, book and supply purchases and more, Boriskin says. “Devices integrated with the latest BLE [Bluetooth Low Energy] and NFC [near field communications] technologies have helped expand these capabilities,” he says. “Today, students expect their schools to incorporate mobile wallets and similar apps campus-wide. Some even make it a consideration when decided where to apply.”

Mobile devices are also far less likely to be forgotten, misplaced or lost, compared with card credentials, meaning fewer requests for card replacements and a much lower likelihood that credentials will fall into the wrong hands, he adds. “This adds up to creating a more secure campus, whether it’s providing a student with personalized credential to access a residence hall suite or lab, or for broader entry to classrooms and special events.”

Touchless Solutions on the Rise

Although low-touch and touchless entry solutions were already on the rise before the pandemic, COVID-19 increased interest, and now they’re in higher demand than ever before, Boriskin says. “Low-touch activation just takes an easy bump of a button with a forearm, elbow or hip, or a press of a foot pedal,” he says. “With fully touchless technology, a sensor automatically opens the door on approach. For restricted environments, a quick scan of a badge, card or fob credentials activates the sensor. Mobile access is also rapidly on the rise here, too.”

While touchless access is especially important in healthcare settings, other customers became more interested during the pandemic. “The fewer touchpoints coming through a doorway, the lower the chance of transmitting disease,” Boriskin says. “While this may not help as much with airborne viruses like COVID-19, the benefits are still great for reducing the spread of germs and infections in general, which is on people’s minds more than ever.”

Additionally, mobile credentials, visitor management software and automated doors are all evolving and leveraging touchless enhancements, adds Sweet of Allegion. “There’s a huge demand for interoperability and companies are following suit,” he says. “I’ve noticed a shift to interoperable solutions in the security space that provide more flexibility for the end user.”

Supply Chain Impact on the Locks & Hardware Market

“Companies that are dependent on manufacturing complete locks overseas are looking at increased costs as well as long lead times. As a lock manufacturer, we manufacture our complete product both in the States and in the Northeast hemisphere. We have brought a major source of parts domestically, so it becomes the sourcing of fewer parts rather than complete locksets.” — William J. Sporre, Marks USA

“When mechanical prices rose, we looked at sustainability — an area you may not consider in the face of supply chain issues. However, when you dematerialize a product, there’s less material, labor and cost. Addressing one of our sustainability goals of reducing our carbon footprint allowed us to make a positive impact on both the sustainability and resilience of our business. Frequent and open communication with customers gives us better visibility into construction and door and access control installation schedules further in advance. This allows our sales team to provide realistic delivery timelines and helps customers, builders, installers and our manufacturing teams plan so project schedules stay on track and costs stay under control.” — Peter Boriskin, ASSA ABLOY

“I see two aspects of this. First, being a privately held, local and ‘smaller’ manufacturer has a tremendous advantage over publicly traded, global and ‘bigger’ manufacturers because you can pivot and adapt much faster. Secondly, having diversification and redundancy in your manufacturing capacity while losing some economies of scale and costing your company a little more, has the advantage of protecting your manufacturing throughput and having products on the shelf when your customers order them.” — David Price, Camden Door Controls

“We have invested in additional finished goods inventories and raw materials stocks in order to protect our customers from experiencing extreme delays in deliveries. And we are focused on continuous improvement in the management of our supply chain. Our customers put their trust in us to deliver, but they also understand that sometimes we must make recommitments, and when we do, they know that our team is working diligently to pull orders back in. While we can’t predict the future, we continue to monitor for potential risks and carefully manage mitigation plans in order to adapt to changes in real time.” — Bret Holbrook, dormakaba

Interoperability and “future-proofing” a locks and hardware investment is a requirement for many customers; and for EAC systems, this means solutions with open integration standards that give customers the option to migrate intelligent endpoints across multiple systems, says Holbrook of dormakaba. “These integrations can create new value add to the customers by solving pain points they experience on a daily basis,” he says. “The integrations and opportunity to solve these new pain points are not possible without an open solution.”

Campus Security on doors

Electronic access control (EAC) enables customers to issue and customize credentials quickly and remotely, making it fast and easy to authorize access to specific users and places. // IMAGE COURTESY OF ASSA ABLOY

Moreover, open solutions are contingent on strong partnerships within the security industry, Holbrook adds. He advises integrators to choose electronic security solutions with open standards and to “work with suppliers whose products deliver a path to utilize and work with systems in the future, to ensure they are ready for the rapidly changing technology environment.”

And speaking of partnerships, this is something that integrators should pursue with their manufacturer partners to stay abreast of the latest developments in locks and hardware technology. “We’re constantly pushing for innovation, so it’s important to stay informed on the latest developments in door security and related door hardware,” Boriskin says. “Opportunity abounds in access control and the many other areas that a manufacturer like ASSA ABLOY offers, including extensive hardware solutions for glass installations, specialty doors, decorative options, and much more. Be sure to explore the possibilities that can help you continue to grow your business.”

Finally, “Be prepared to adapt to a changing marketplace,” Holbrook says. “This includes going beyond the norms of working with mechanical hardware, electronic access control, alarms and video systems. Security solutions now include low-energy operators, touch-free access devices, and electromechanical door hardware that work in conjunction with these systems. Invest in training — much of it free from manufacturers — to maximize expertise and advance business opportunities.”