Access control is shining in the physical security industry, finding niches that range from traditional entrance control to COVID-19 identification and containment strategies and friction-free, touchless experiences. With wireless, integrators can take advantage of more opportunities where cable running may be a major issue and won’t be left wondering “how do I get a wire from here to there?”

I spoke to an integrator the other day working on an apartment complex that needed access control at the exterior doors.  I asked if the hallways had drop ceilings; the integrator said they did not and the wiring was going to be a real headache. We then talked about wireless solutions, including all-in-one door handle locks that incorporate access readers and that solved his cable running issues.  

You can easily expand your security specifications and add new services for existing customers and prospects with wireless. It promotes systems integration in access control, intrusion, sensing and even video surveillance while increasing technician efficiency and lessening dependence on difficult cable runs. Expanded signal strength and standards-based communications continue to boost its popularity — especially as the Internet of Things (loT) and connected devices in smart/safe cities continue to proliferate.

With wireless, the user can protect their current investment, yet still migrate and transition to this newer technology. Wireless is now available in many different products, and every day there seems to be a new device added to the list, which now includes facial recognition cameras, fingerprint readers and mobile credentials — all of which can address COVID-19 access control applications.


Do the Math

Consider the cost to hardwire a reader or lock at the customer’s premises. You’ve got the hardware and cabling, but one of the most significant costs (which can be a guessing game) is labor. Let’s say it takes two and a half hours to hardwire a reader. At a loaded labor rate of anywhere from $75 to $90 depending on the technician’s region, you’ve already invested about $188 to $225 in the job if everything goes smoothly — and that’s not including any long cable runs. With wireless, system installations can in most cases be completed in much less time, using fewer pieces of equipment. Always remember that labor is your biggest cost risk in estimating the job.

Using wireless equipment provides a more accurate installation timeline.  Running wires down walls and door channels seems straightforward when bidding, but most commercial suites have undergone numerous build-outs over the years and hold unseen obstacles behind the walls — possibly adding overages to estimated labor hours. Think about the times your customers remodeled and you had little notice removing and re-running wiring. With wireless, you remove the equipment, wait until the project is completed and then re-install.

Wireless has evolved to become a reliable and secure communication method, making it perfect for integration with other devices. When radio frequencies are used for signal transmission to hubs, as with some of the wireless lock options available today, they provide a more secure system over Wiegand and network connected outdoor access devices. Many conventional access readers use door control modules communicating one to one, while some manufacturers’ wireless access hubs receive signals from numerous locks and readers. The more readers that can be reached by hubs, the lower the hardware costs.


Opportunity Awaits

You have choices with wireless and can take a hybrid approach, hardwiring devices where it makes the most sense and integrating wireless in areas where cabling is difficult or prohibited, like a historical setting or concrete structure. It can leverage an electronic reader, locking device or even a mobile credential at a single door located remotely — like a recreation room or activity area at a clubhouse or gates/entrances in multifamily housing. Wireless all-in-one locks and access readers are perfect options for multi-tenant buildings where drilling holes for wiring and mounting devices is prohibited by the building management company, also alleviating the need to carve door-strike cutouts in frames. 

Consider the facility with hard-to-reach locations or impossible scenarios for running cabling, like underground garages, concrete structures, businesses with vast expanses of glass walls, windows and doors, or remote doors or locations without infrastructure readily available. How about warehouses with high ceilings that, if left to hardwiring, would require a lift or other expensive heavy equipment added to the cost of the job?


Pitfalls to Watch for

Of course, wireless is great when it works properly — and that’s where the integrator’s due diligence and design-application expertise comes in. Here are a few examples I’ve encountered with our dealers. In one instance the dealer installed wireless window contacts in a relatively inaccessible location where drilling would be costly and time consuming. After the installation, the client wasn’t getting proper detection, because they had moved a large block of metal shelfing in front of the area. The situation was remedied, but it was a reminder to talk to workers and stakeholders to make sure nothing will be blocking the space, such as shelving, file cabinets or rebar in concrete walls.

In another installation, an integrator wanted to install wireless access near a freezer, but the all steel enclosure proved to be tricky when it came to signal penetration. Never take for granted that the signals will reach the destination, hub, receiver, etc. Make sure to use products that provide signal readings and don’t stretch the signal to its limits or threshold. If you don’t do a signal strength reading while the technician is there, it could become an intermittent and troublesome signal.

With wireless you’ll not only have more profit per job, but you’ll also complete more projects to increase your monthly revenue stream. Think of all the different types of wireless devices available to offer your customers: keypads, biometrics, readers, cameras, sensors, lighting, water and gas detectors, critical environmental/temperature sensing devices and even energy management and control. Review your current customer list, start adding new services with wireless and watch your business grow.