Wireless Residential Access Control Closer to Mainstream Adoption
Wireless residential access control is inching closer to mainstream adoption. SDM examines why it is growing and how to manage the nuances of the technology to get installations done right.
More of today’s homeowners are going with electronic wireless access control, eliminating keys and opting for keypads and codes or access via a smartphone, with keys playing a back-up role for access. In addition to changing end user preferences, wireless residential access control is getting greater exposure from new players in the market. It offers installation and cost benefits for homeowners and installers, and, as a result, is adding new opportunities for security dealers.
Locks are used each and every day, multiple times a day in millions of residences across the country. As a result door hardware is one of the most commonly used “tools” in the home, observes Larry Goldman, North American sales and business development manager, Kwikset, Lake Forest, Calif. People like the idea that they no longer have to carry a key to their home with wireless access control, he adds.
“Children will no longer be given the opportunity to lose a key at school or while playing with friends. The neighbor that gets a key while you are on vacation can now be provided a code. Keys become an obsolete part of the lock and now get used as a backup means for locking or unlocking the door,” he shares.
People today move much faster than people did 20 years ago, observes Gary Phillips, W. & E. Phillips Locksmith Inc., Albany, N.Y. “They want modern locks that work with modern devices. The ability to lock and unlock doors using smartphones or computers is what a lot of customers want. They do not want to carry a lot of keys around,” he adds.
Randi Elrad, founder and vice president of sales, Crime Prevention Security Systems, Gainesville, Fla., agrees that busy lifestyles are pushing keys into a back-up role behind the programmable codes and smartphone control that wireless access control offers.
“Providing smart remote locking is the wave of the future because people today are so busy. They don’t have the time to take off work to meet repair people for their homes or manage who has a key. Instead, wireless access control gives homeowners the ability to add and delete codes to allow people to have access in their property and then delete their access when needed.”
Elrad adds that this capability is ideal for vacation rental properties because the owner can change the codes for the access just prior to check-in and delete those codes at check-out from anywhere. “No keys, no maintenance people, no management companies to have to be involved,” she adds.
Carrie Lewis, senior channel marketing leader, Multi-Family Group, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, Carmel, Ind., also lists multi-family residences as a growing market in addition to single family homes or rental properties. Read more in “Ease Common Multi-Tenant Property Headaches With Wireless Access” on page 84.
Want proof that wireless access control is becoming mainstream? Turn on your TV.
“When you start seeing network TV ads about locking doors and checking security systems while on vacation, you know mainstream adoption is not far off,” says John LaFond, vice president integrated systems, Linear LLC, Carlsbad, Calif.
With the number of telecoms and major security companies getting involved, market awareness of residential access control is greater than it’s ever been, he observes.
Telco/cable companies are one of three key players providing momentum and “rapid growth,” shares Jason Williams, general manager, Yale Residential, New Haven, Conn., a part of Yale Locks & Hardware, an ASSA ABLOY Group company.
“This is a rapidly growing market, gaining momentum from three key areas. The advertisements and consumer outreach from cable and phone companies like AT&T’s Digital Life, Comcast and Time Warner, etc., are reaching more people than the typical security dealer can and are spreading awareness.
“Secondly, security dealers are starting to feel more comfortable installing locks as part of their security package. That in turn keeps getting easier as the security systems being offered by manufacturers and automation service providers continue developing systems that integrate into the locks. Those companies are pushing the bar up in terms of the user interfaces and the hardware that controls the locks,” Williams says.
NEW VERSUS RETROFIT
The new wireless access control technologies are offering more reliability than ever — and make the debate over whether to target new homes versus retrofits a moot point. The technology works well in both applications, according to Williams.
He does observe that existing homes have become the primary market for the company’s connected access control products. A major reason is the big timing issue during the construction process for when a system would be put in place and connected. “Some pre-installation is possible with new construction, but getting the system up and running can’t fully happen until someone is living in the home with an active Internet provider,” he explains.
Keith Horowitz, president, Alarm2000, San Diego, says, “Since our residential access control is achieved by installing a Z-wave door lock that replaces a conventional door lock, it does not matter if the installation is in an existing home or new construction. There is no difference.”
Horowitz adds that his company primarily started offering wireless access control “because the price has come down to a level where just about any homeowner who needs access control can easily afford it.”
Wireless is changing the price point for residential access control — and making it more appealing to the mass market.
“Access control may bring to mind the old electric door strikes and mag locks that required extensive wiring and door modifications. These technologies typically cost a great deal to implement. In this new world of wireless connectivity, inclusive of both Z-Wave and ZigBee technologies, it truly brings a whole new meaning to the phrase residential access control and its ability to be cost-effectively employed,” Goldman says.
The offering is cost-effective enough to be a retrofit option for homeowners. Phillips shares that customers in his area are coming in looking to update or upgrade the existing hardware. “The nice thing is that the access hardware easily replaces the existing hardware. Selling the hardware is not hard. Explaining the advantages of the product sells itself,” Phillips says. Eight key advantages he emphasizes are:
- The ability to change one person in the system quickly without affecting others.
- Being able to add users easily.
- Having the ability to remotely unlock and lock the door.
- Having the ability to check and see if the door is unlocked and, if so, lock it.
- Being able to audit the hardware.
- The ability to set up schedules for allowing users access.
- Getting notified when door is opened and locked.
- The ability to monitor or operate lock with smartphone or PC. The door is literally at the homeowner’s fingertips.
“If your customer is given this information and does not purchase your product they are either not into modern electronics or have no money to spend with you,” Phillips bluntly says.
What many people do not recognize — which is where the sales representative is a critical component — is that with the introduction of Z-Wave and ZigBee integration, the lock is now part of a vast ecosystem that can trigger a series of events based on simply locking or unlocking the door, according to Goldman.
“When you leave your home, wouldn’t it be nice knowing that when you lock your door, your door lock can communicate wirelessly with your security/automation system and tell the security system to arm? Or when you come home, by simply unlocking the door, the security system could be programmed to disarm, lights come on to illuminate a path into the home and the thermostat goes back to your favorite comfortable temperature?” Goldman describes.
Today’s wireless access control is unleashing the power of the lock, in Williams’ opinion. “The lock is the first and last device homeowners contact when they enter or leave the home. It allows the ability to create scenes and rules when connected to a home automation application, and is the most important device to creating them,” he shares.
The possibilities really are incredible for integrating the lock into the ecosystem of the home. As dealers and customers continue to learn more about wireless access control, it makes sense that the lock really is the “key” to winning business in the home.
Pay Attention to Measurements
According to Kwikset’s Larry Goldman, where installers have to be careful, regardless of the type of home, is to check the following:
1. Are the bores in the door standard United States/Canadian hole sizes and backsets? A typical bore size is 2¹⁄8 inch with either a 2³⁄8 inch or 2¾ inch backset. However, there are doors in older homes and mobile homes that may be 1½ inch in diameter.
2. What is the thickness of the door? Typical doors are anywhere between 15⁄8 inch to 17⁄8 inch. For doors thicker than 2 inch, but not greater than 2½ inch, which may include custom-style doors on higher-end residential homes, Kwikset offers a “thick door kit” at a minimal cost to satisfy most types of installations.
3. Is the backset a standard 23⁄8 inch or 2¾ inch? Some custom doors and high-end residential doors may not utilize the standard United States/Canadian backset lengths (See Fig. 1).
4. What type of lock is currently installed on the door? Is it a tubular style lock, which is the most common installation, or is it a mortise style lock, which is typically found on older and custom high-end homes that will have a tall metal box inserted into a hollowed section of the door frame that incorporates both the deadbolt and door knob in the same mechanicals? Today’s Z-Wave and ZigBee locksets only support the very common tubular- style door installation.
Check the Door
Not all doors are created equally. Yale’s Jason Williams suggests doing an “opportunity check” on doors before committing to an installation. For example, if the door has two holes, one for a deadbolt and the other a passage knob or lever (and you verify there are two individual latches), then the door is an opportunity. If there is only one hole on the door, further modification would be required, but the opportunity still exists. If there is a mortise lock installed on the door, the door is not an opportunity. He also suggests checking if there is additional hardware surrounding the door, the thickness of the door, and the ease of locking. Yale offers worksheets and checklists for assessments and installations for its dealers.
Creating a Signal for a Z-Wave Lock
Keith Horowitz, Alarm2000, emphasizes installing enough Z-Wave modules for a strong signal. “The Z-bridge that receives the signal from the Z-Wave lock and all other Z-Wave devices is located in the alarm system control panel. The limitation is that there is only about a 50-foot range that the Z-Wave signal can travel. Thankfully, every Z-Wave device acts as a repeater, so if the lock is more than 50 feet from the control panel, other Z-Wave devices like light controls or thermostats can be installed in between the locations to bridge the signals. If the lock location is not close to the control panel, be sure to sell other Z-Wave modules that can bridge the distance,” he cautions.
Maximize the Signal
Z-Wave Alliance Chairman Mark Walters offers the following installation tips:
1. When working with radio-controlled devices, ensure that there is adequate signal strength between the “authentication’” mechanism and the door lock itself. This is particularly important when the authentication mechanism is a fixed location alarm panel.
2. If working with a mesh network technology like Z-Wave or ZigBee, ensure this by installing several intermediate or repeating nodes. One area that needs particular care is when the entry or unlocking is performed remotely via an Internet connection.
3. In most of these types of installations the home’s WiFi network is used to make the connection from the Internet modem to the alarm panel or gateway / hub device. It is extremely important to set up the WiFi network’s security encryption and change all default passwords. Virtually all of the remote entry hacks reported have been attributed to non-existent WiFi encryption or use of factory default user names and passwords.
Allow for Egress
Linear’s John LaFond cautions to make sure the technology allows for egress should the wireless or retrofitted system malfunction. “A homeowner who can’t lock a door or open their gate is not something you ever want to deal with,” he observes.
Ease Common Multi-Tenant Property Headaches with Wireless Access
Wireless access control is helping dealers and integrators sell into the multi-family residence market. Apartments, retirement facilities, military housing, student housing or other multi-unit residences can have access control devices installed in new construction or renovations.
Three benefits of wireless access control for multi-family properties include:
1. Allowing dealers to penetrate the multi-family residence property by easily installing access control in existing properties because wireless access control eliminates the labor costs and installation headaches of wired access control.
2. Besides saving on the costs of having to string wire through a complex, building owners are also very concerned about any disruptions such an installation would cause the residents. Drilling, trenching and many of the noisy and dirty aspects of installing wire are eliminated.
3. Multi-family properties spend a lot of time and energy managing key systems, constantly rekeying and cutting keys because such residences are typically transient and tenants lose or misplace their keys. A system that provides centralized control for all doors — from a private residence to public/common areas — helps property management issue or change new credentials easier. For instance, Schlage’s multi-unit access control and property management solution, Nexia™ Property Intelligence (dashboard shown above), allows property managers to manage one multi-unit residential property or multiple properties from anywhere and simplifies issuing new credentials without cutting new keys or rekeying locks.
Looking for even more on multi-family access control? Read “Moving Beyond Lock Systems to Access Control” by Chris DeSchamp, Ingersoll Rand Portfolio Leader, Electronic Security on www.SDMmag.com.