For security integrators and dealers many sales often don’t go beyond the front door the customer wants to secure, which can represent a lost opportunity. There are a multitude of applications for security locks (both mechanical and electronic) that go far beyond external or even internal doors.

One of the most unusual installations manufacturer Bryan Sanderford, national sales manager, Dortonics Systems, Sag Harbor, N.Y., came across was when one of the company’s magnetic locks was used on a refrigerated cattle stall called a “cow cooler,” which is used to prompt the cow to grow a long coat of hair. Brendan Coster, director of marketing, Trine Access Technologies, Bronx, N.Y., once had a customer use electric strikes on a horse feeder.

While installations like these are more infrequent, the concept of specialized or atypical installations is one it does pay to embrace. Integrator David Porter, general manager, Alpha Corp., Salt Lake City, Utah, found this out when a hospital client came to him about mobile hospital carts that needed to be locked due to narcotics. “They didn’t have a solution in mind, just a need, and we were able to take that request and find a solution for it,” Porter says.

“To put it simply, the inside of the building is fair game now,” says Heather Goldman, senior product category manager, ASSA ABLOY EMS and OEM, Phoenix. “You can now add the same level of access control and monitoring and sensing to interior doors, cabinets, server racks, glass doors and other areas that may have been cost prohibitive in the past or simply not achievable.”



There are a few things driving certain industries to look for special lock products. “Compliance is a big driver,” says Adam Auer, product manager, ASSA ABLOY EMS and OEM. “New regulations go into effect and people need to react.”

Other applications grow out of circumstances and events that call attention to the need for greater security.

“I have been around for 20 years and there is definitely more awareness now of lockdowns of things like medical cabinets and server rooms,” says Ron Bandur, technical manager, Security Door Controls (SDC), Camarillo, Calif. “In general everyone has become more conscious of security.”

Integrators and dealers themselves are also adding momentum to these kinds of sales, he adds.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase from our integrators in the assimilation of mechanical hardware with electronic access control to create customized solutions.”

Integrators bring a different spin to the hardware side, says distributor David Pilchick, owner, Brooklyn Supply/MKS Sales, Brooklyn, N.Y. “We find that a lot of the installers that are branching into locks are identifying all sorts of unique things to go with it that a locksmith might not pick up on. For example, someone asked me for an alarm contact that could stick inside a door with a deadbolt application so it could notify the access control system that the deadbolt was locked. That was something we never considered previously.”



There is no limit to the individual needs of the customer. However, there are some solutions that are specifically being designed with these new situations in mind. From the more high-profile needs like schools (especially due to recent events), server rooms and medical facilities, to the underserved applications like glass doors, there are a host of products available.

 “School safety and security is a hot topic now among the door hardware crowd,” says Roy Crute, vice president of sales, Akron Hardware, Akron, Ohio. “There are a lot of products that are unique to that market and have been designed to allow a relatively easy retrofit.” 

Allegion (Formerly Ingersoll Rand), Carmel, Ind., recently introduced a remote control lock for schools. “We have a new offline lock that allows the teacher to wear a fob around their neck to lock and unlock the classroom door,” says Ron Taylor, OEM Integration Engineer for Allegion. “No matter where they are in the room, if there is an emergency they can lock the door. The whole idea is to provide a faster way to lock the door and not require someone to actually go to the door to lock it down.”

Other manufacturers offer mechanical solutions, which are in line with the tight budget issues many schools face.

“Typical classroom locks lock from the outside and allow free egress from the inside,” says Bill Sporre, vice president of sales and marketing, Marks USA, Amityville, N.Y.

But in a shooting situation it is not safe to go outside the room to lock it with a key. Marks USA offers the mechanical Loc-Down Classroom Intruder lock, which can be locked from the inside. It also provides a clear visual indicator (red or green) of whether the door is locked or unlocked. “This is a big cost savings for schools because it just goes right into the door they are already using,” Sporre adds.

Another vertical market starting to ask for custom solutions is data centers for their server rooms, racks or farms.

“Data centers are moving to a co-location type business model,” Auer explains. “Multiple company’s servers are now located in one room and these end users are searching for ways to allow access to specific racks, but not to the other companies’ racks located in the same place.”

In some cases, one server may even have three or four virtual servers all hosted on the same machine, says J. Brian Moses, director of integrator sales, KABA ADS-Americas, Winston-Salem, N.C. “They want to know who has been in there and when.”

KABA’s server lock offers both biometric and keypad options, he adds.

ASSA ABLOY’s new HES lock designed for server cabinets adds another layer of security and offers an audit trail and live status on each server rack, Auer says. “The form factor is designed to fit into a typical server rack cutout, so it can be installed in most cases without cutting or drilling. It can be retrofitted in a matter of minutes.”

In the medical and pharmaceutical industries, tighter regulations on narcotics and records mean many more things need to be locked.

“We have noticed in our business that people have been requesting ‘man traps’ more and more,” Sanderford says. “The early projects for these were money counting areas like casinos and banks, but we are now becoming more involved in the biomedical world. Pharmaceutical and lab testing facilities require access control for security as well as sealed airlocks for environmental controls. Increasingly they are combining those elements.”

In the case of Porter’s customer, the end user needed to secure mobile carts used for operations and included narcotics. “They needed to not only secure but track, run reports and provide audit operations of who had accessed that narcotics drawer.”

Porter used the ASSA ABLOY Aperio cabinet lock , a wireless lock that ties in with the hospital’s main access control solution.

“We used to sell mechanical drawer locks years ago,” Crute adds. “With the advent of medical security where they have to carefully track medicines, there are some neat products out there that allow full access control and auditing for cabinets and carts — everything from electronic cylinders to biometrics.”

SDC offers a small battery-operated keypad for use in cabinets, including medical carts, Bandur says. “It’s a small stand-alone unit that operates on two batteries.”

Trine’s 3000 series electric strikes are the smallest available and have also been used on medical cabinets and carts,” according to Coster.

Besides these well-publicized situations, facilities have many more specialized locking needs. For example, indoor applications like office suites, meeting rooms and other glass-enclosed rooms often need greater security and audit trail capabilities.

ASSA ABLOY’s new RITE Touch glass door lock was just introduced last month to fit this niche. “Traditionally that has been an underserved application,” Goldman says. “This is a surface-mounted digital glass door lock that can be applied by using an adhesive plate. It is a battery-operated, stand-alone unit.”



Unlike front door security, solutions like the above special applications are sometimes ones that even the end users don’t know they need until it is pointed out to them. This can make selling more of a challenge for the integrator.

“Keep your eyes open when looking at a project,” Sanderford advises. “There may be applications for electronic locking devices other than just on the doors. We’ve run into projects where there were roof hatches that needed to be locked, or trash chutes in a high rise.”

Thinking outside the box is a necessity to get to these types of customer needs, Taylor adds. “It is really important to understand that not every place you want to put security on is a door. I call them access points — any place where you want to control who is getting past whatever line in the sand you have drawn. There are many other access points than those that have a standard door, and you need to be able to identify those to grow your business beyond the door. You have to identify the customer’s need and let them know you have a solution where they didn’t realize one existed. By observing their operations and processes you may be able to come up with new ways of using these locks to help them either get more control, efficiency or security.”

Manufacturers are also being proactive.

“We get to interface with integrators a lot and when they struggle to create a solution it is a clear flag to us that we have an opportunity,” Auer says. “By definition a niche is smaller than the majority and we do the majority of our business in the traditional security realm. But we do think exploring these niches is a way to the future and we are investing a lot in finding the niches and building products to fit them.”

Integrators need to get back to being true ‘integrators,’ Moses adds. “What I find is that if the integrator can customize the solution to the customer, they will be the most successful. Integrators that can say, ‘This product does A, B and C, but let us also create and D and E for you,’ are designing solutions to fit the need. That is what true integration is all about and we get away from that sometimes.”

Crute advises asking customers what keeps them up at night. “Ask them how they use the building. Address their concerns.

“We had an integrator tell us about talking to a business owner about access control. The owner wasn’t very enthused. But he said, ‘If you can keep people from stealing chicken from my meat locker I’d be interested.’ You never know where it is going to end up. Pain points are not always the front door or office door. Sometimes it is an obscure part of the business that is driving them nuts. It is a different way of looking at a building or customer’s site.”

Niche locking situations are one way for integrators to help expand their business, Porter concludes. “In today’s environment where margins are shrinking and the market is very competitive, integrators who stay stationary and keep thinking about access control in the traditional sense will lose out on opportunities. These types of locks and solutions are just a small piece of trying to think outside of the box and find new ways of doing business.”


A Menu of Potential Niche  Needs/Solutions


◗ School Lockdowns —Both mechanical and electronic options are available at an affordable price point.

◗ Glass Doors — Locks affix to glass and operate wirelessly and/or via battery power.

◗ Man Traps — Combine security with environmental regulations in one package.

◗ Server Rooms/Racks — Custom-fit locks that offer full access control and audit trails.

◗ Machine Locks — Locks on machines create an audit trail every time someone stops or starts a machine.

◗ Safe Locks — Tie safe locks into online access control.

◗ Padlocks — Add key and access control to gates, freezers, and garages.

◗ Mustering/Open Areas — Wireless reader interfaces allow cards to be read in areas without doors.

◗ Roof Hatches/Trash Chutes — Lock with electronic access control instead of mechanical access control.

 ◗ Refrigeration Units — Locks for refrigerators or freezers require a valid credential to access them.