StrongArm Carbide bits

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Today, we’re going to be taking a look at drill bits. Obviously, there are many different sizes and qualities of drill bits that we all carry in our tool bags. I, personally, always start with ¼”, 3/8”, and then jump up to ½”, especially when I know that I will be drilling through metal. It is always important to phase up in size instead of just trying to ram a ½” bit through metal, as this will be hard on you and on the drill battery, not to mention the large bit you started out with. Self-auguring wood bits are nice to have in your bag for wood, and heavy-duty extensions are wonderful for very thick walls. Some extensions just have a hex head and don’t actually grab and secure the bit you are using, so be sure you have to extensions that utilize ball bearings in order to secure your bit in place with a click-locking type mechanism. You do not want to lose your bit in your workspace or, worse yet, the wall you are working in!

Let’s talk hardware store drill bits. In this department, you’re going to find that the selection is pretty limited in terms of what materials you can drill…mostly wood. You could probably drill through metal with these, but you won’t be drilling for very long, and I would not recommend it. You won’t be able to do any support metal or other thick pieces, maybe just a thin piece of trim. Again, we want to be sure to phase up in size, and not just jump into a large application. Another bit you could pick up at the hardware store is what is called an HSS, which stands for high-speed steel. This bit is going mild steel, but not hardened steel and not concrete. The HSS bits go up to larger diameters like 1”. This is great for enlarging and stuffing wires into the hole. Other sizes include ¼”, 5/8” and ¾”. The idea of starting small applies to these bits, as well.

Now for the game-changer, the StrongArm carbide bit, the king of drill bits. Since I have started using StrongArm bits, I have had great luck. I have ¼”, 3/8”, and ½” in these, as well. Looking at the ¼” Strong Arm and hardware store brands high speed steel bits side by side, you will notice that the fluting that runs the length of the bit on the hardware store brand makes it very weak. These bits are not very flexible because they are made from hardened steel. If you get hung up on something while drilling, this bit will snap right in half under the pressure caused by any kind of binding or even just a little bit of an angle. StrongArm carbide bits have more of a mild steel shank, so there is a lot more flexibility and very little chance of it breaking. It’s got a sharpened carbide tip that will allow you to drill through just about any type of material out there including metal, wood, and concrete. A little tip from me, if you can scratch some of the material off the surface of your thumbnail, you’ve got a really sharp tip on your bit and you’re ready to tackle all of the fore listed materials. These are basically masonry bits that are put through a special process with higher (and better) brazing. Thicker tips, thicker and higher-grade carbide, and really nice sharp cutting edges that will easily cut through anything you can imagine. Another highlight of these amazing bits are the various lengths they come in. 6”, 12”, 18”, and even 24”. These bits are really marketed to the safe and vault industry, but I quite enjoy them for electronic access jobs. Another really handy bit to have is a four headed bit. These would be used for getting through concrete with rebar in it because instead of having two sides to the bit, there are four. Hitting rebar with a two headed bit could bind your bit and snap it, but the four headed carbide head supports the bit all the way into the hole so that it cannot be shoved to the side with a weird angle on it. Putting enough pressure on the bit at this point will get you through the material at hand.

I also carry a couple of other gadget-y things in my truck because you never know when you need to get creative. If you need to get a fairly big hole that’s pretty far out there, step bits locked into ball bearing extensions will get the job done. The reason we came up with these was because years ago, we did not have access to these longer bits, and the hardware stores did not carry anything 24” long. I ended up making these tools myself at the hardware store and now, they are a great back up plan. In order to make this tool, you just need to have a big enough diameter to let the collar pass, and a hex shaped bit. Once you factor these things in, this tool is pretty interchangeable.

Now, we will move onto hole saws. I have learned my lesson with standard hole saws burning up while being used on stainless steel, so I always make sure I am carrying carbide hole saws in my truck as this is the best material on the market to get through stainless steel. The sizes on hole saws vary vastly. Sometimes you will need a 5/8” hole, and sometimes you will need a fist sized 6” hole for shoving a hand-full of wires into a wall. Be sure you have carbide so you can defeat any material.

Check out my assessment and comparison of the StrongArm carbide drill bit to a normal hardware store drill bit. Contrary to popular belief, all drill bits are not created equal! First, we will look at the hardware store bit. In my comparison video, I drilled for twelve seconds on stone with ample pressure, and did not even make a dent. The StrongArm bit made easy work of boring a hole through the many different materials on this application such as stone, metal, and wood! The stone was penetrated in less than two seconds with this bit, and the total drill job took just a couple of minutes. There is nothing that will pose a problem for this bit, it is worth the investment to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Remember, time is money! If you are interested in trying these bad boys out for yourself, please click the amazon link. For more information, visit

This link is an affiliate link to amazon.

Thanks for stopping by, we’ll see you soon!

By |2022-03-29T00:14:32+00:00March 29th, 2022|Access Control, Door Operators, Exit Devices|0 Comments

HES Smart Pac III

Here we have a HES 1006 CS in 12-hour continuous passage with more cycles. The strike was getting hot while receiving continuous power reaching temperatures in excess of 121 degrees Fahrenheit (see figure 1).

After purchasing and installing the HES smart pac (See figure 2) the temperature was reduced to a more reasonable temperature and has maintained function well. We recommend installing a smart pac with all heavily used access control systems, especially ones that are receiving continuous power for extended periods of time like this one being put in passage mode for hours on end. (See figure 3)

The author of this post may benefit from a commission from the use of this link.
See the link below to purchase here:

Specs from the manufacturer:

For dependable installations, add the SMART Pac III

The 2005M3 SMART Pac III is an in-line power controller that is able to receive input voltages from 12 to 32V AC or DC. It has a built-in bridge rectifier. The continuous duty timer reduces the initial voltage by 25% to extend the life of the electric strike. Includes built-in resettable fuse, MOV, voltage regulation, and input status LED.

Standard Features

  • Accepts a wide range of input voltage: 12-32 Volts AC* or DC
  • Output 12VDC or 24VDC, depending on input voltage
  • Smart LED Input Status Indicator
  • Built-in bridge rectifier
  • Built-in surge protection / voltage regulation
  • Supports fail-secure or fail-safe configured electric strikes
  • Continuous duty: reduces initial voltage by 25% after a fixed period of time, to provide cooler more efficient operation of the strike
  • Self-resetting overcurrent protection
  • Configures strike eliminating the need for voltage specific pigtails
  • Extends the warranty of HES electric strikes

Installing a SMART Pac III power controller with any new products extends the 1-year warranty on electrical components, including the SMART Pac III, to the full 3-5 warranty term applicable to each Series mechanical component as outlined in standard terms and conditions.

*Note:  For use with a 1006 electric strike, the input voltage must be a filtered DC with a ripple of less than 1 volt RMS.
**Note: The SMART Pac III can not provide an output voltage greater than the input voltage.

Here we have a He’s 1006 CS in 12 hour continuous passage more cycles. The strike was getting hot while receiving continuous power reaching temperatures in excess of 121 degrees Fahrenheit (see figure 1).

After purchasing and installing the HES smart pac (see photo 2) the temperature was reduced to a more reasonable temperature and has maintained function well.We recommend installing a smart pac with all heavily used access control systems, especially ones that are receiving continuous power for extended periods of time like this one being put in passage mode for hours on end. (See figure 3)

See link below to purchase here:
(affiliate link here)
Specs from manufacturer:

For dependable installations, add the SMART Pac III

The 2005M3 SMART Pac III is an in-line power controller that is able to receive input voltages from 12 to 32V AC or DC. It has a built-in bridge rectifier. The continuous duty timer reduces initial voltage by 25% to extend the life of the electric strike. Includes built-in resettable fuse, MOV, voltage regulation and input status LED.

Standard Features

  • Accepts wide range of input voltage: 12-32 Volts AC* or DC
  • Output 12VDC or 24VDC, depending on input voltage
  • Smart LED Input Status Indicator
  • Built-in bridge rectifier
  • Built-in surge protection / voltage regulation
  • Supports fail secure or fail safe configured electric strikes
  • Continuous duty: reduces initial voltage by 25% after a fixed period of time, to provide cooler more efficient operation of the strike
  • Self-resetting over-current protection
  • Configures strike eliminating need for voltage specific pigtails
  • Extends the warranty of HES electric strikes

Installing a SMART Pac III power controller with any new products extends the 1 year warranty on electrical components, including the SMART Pac III, to the full 3-5 warranty term applicable to each Series mechanical component as outlined in standard terms and conditions.

*Note:  For use with a 1006 electric strike, the input voltage must be a filtered DC with a ripple of less than 1 volt RMS.
**Note: The SMART Pac III can not provide an output voltage greater than the input voltage.

Installing a RFID/EAS system

This week we’re featuring a guest column by Wayne Winton of If you would like to submit a guest column, contact us.


What the heck are RFID or EAS systems? The details are readily available via Wikipedia or other sources, but in a nutshell, they’re the things that beep if you exit a store and the tag hasn’t been deactivated during checkout. We’ve all heard them before, but not many of us know how they work or how to install them, even though they’re a huge part of the security industry. Stores are literally spending billions on theft prevention, and they’re not spending the bulk of that money on locks; it’s on these systems to catch criminals in the act. We all know that investing in layers of security is important, and this is one of those layers.
I received a call to see if I would be willing to bid on installing one of these systems in a very high-end clothing store. I was in the middle of replying “no,” but I caught myself mid sentence. I had a flash thought and quick conversation with myself. “Hmm… maybe this could be a new source of income and a new skill for me to learn. How hard could it be?”
So I started asking questions about what was involved and the total process. Turns out, it didn’t sound that bad, with the exception of making a slot 56″ x 9″ x 56″ x 9″ rectangle in solid concrete 1″ wide x 1½” deep. Oh yes, and don’t make any dust whatsoever!
So, my brain computes the numbers and the solution, and I responded to the caller. “OK, I’ll do it. Here’s my price.” I bid high enough that I wanted to scare them away, but to my surprise, they gladly agreed. It started to sink in that I was now committed to doing this!
I did the proper research on cutting concrete and how to keep dust down and added a bit of my own thoughts into the mix and came up with a plan. I always look at every job that seems difficult and tell myself, “There is some man or woman doing the same thing somewhere right now, so it can be done. I just need to learn how.” The following description and photos will explain exactly how I did just that.

The Job Begins

Upon arriving to the job site, I surveyed the area and double and triple-check my installation measurements. Then, only when I was 100% positive of the location, I began measuring my cut out (see Figures 1-3). I used a large 4′ x 2′ square to make sure everything was centered and a perfect square. I crosshatched out the area to be cut to avoid confusion from all the lines laid out. Having a good plan and staying committed to it is the key to a good job. I had never cut concrete in my life, so it was important to stay on track and organized.

Figure 1.

Figure 2

Figure 3

I decided to use a cordless 18V Milwaukee 7½” saw equipped with a diamond blade to make my cuts. I’m highly invested in the system, and I had plenty of batteries to keep it turning. I did bring a corded unit just in case, along with a backup blade. So, rigged up and ready to go, I set the cut depth to 1½” (Figure 4) — and I had a secret weapon.

Figure 4

The Secret Weapon

This is the part where I added my own thoughts into the equation. I sealed a shop vac attachment to the largest part of the saw and sealed the rest of the openings up with Gorilla tape to make a tight suction (Figures 5-9).

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9

This ensured every bit of dust got sucked into the shop vac and didn’t land in the store or on the high-end clothes. This was the one bit of information I couldn’t find online: how to keep the dust contained without using water. Water wasn’t an option in this location at all, so this was my solution to the problem. You never know if a new untested idea will work until you hit the power button and see your plan in action. It worked flawlessly! Truly not one speck of dust could escape. It’s one of the ideas that came together in the field perfectly (that doesn’t happen that often). I could hear the shop vac struggling about halfway through, so we took a break, emptied it out and cleaned the filter outside. We examined how the cutting was going (Figures 10-11).

Figure 10

Figure 11

The Work Continues

After adjusting to cut the lines out as measured and being sure I cut well past the corners to ensure proper depth, it was time to bring out the air compressor. Again, we were faced with the dreaded dust issue.
Using an air chisel (Figure 12) with the shop vac hovering over every move, it was time to clean the slot out.

Figure 12

This was to ensure it was the proper depth to fit the wire and plastic conduit while having room to seal it back up in concrete (Figure 13-14). After the slot was cleaned out and dust-free, it was time to see if the loop fit. The system is basically a dual copper wire in plastic conduit in a premeasured circle or rectangle, leaving enough wire to run to a computer system that reads the signal when the tag comes within a certain radius.

Figure 13

Figure 14

I crossed my fingers and really hoped my planning paid off. Success! It fit like a glove, and no further modification was needed (Figure 15).

Figure 15

The wires run over to the wall, where white conduit covers it along the baseboard to the receiver (disguised in a heater vent) and then back out to a power source converting the system to low-voltage 12V power. This allowed me to be able to work on it in the first place (Figure 16).

Figure 16

I then needed to cut a hole in the wall to hide the receiver and place the heater vent over it to hide it. A spot was measured out and cut (Figure 17), but a false wall was discovered; mounting had to be reevaluated.

Figure 17

We cut a larger hole, and the system was mounted vertically. (Figure 18).

Figure 18

Then, the heater vent was placed to see if it would conceal the unit (Figure 19).

Figure 19

Then came the really scary part: checking to see if the system worked and setting the sensitivity. For this, the receiver housing must be opened and the wires attached (Figure 20).

Figure 20

The knob in the unit adjusts the sensitivity and how far the tag needs to be from the wires in the ground to set off the alarm (Figure 21). Now I’m no tech guru, so tech support for the unit was able to walk me through the process. It was pretty simple, really.

Figure 21

The deactivating pad was installed under the desk (Figure 22), along with the alarm pad (Figure 23). Again, wires were run and disguised under a power strip threshold to provide power to these units — also quite simple. The system was tested repeatedly and screwed down into place.

Figure 22

Figure 23

Wrapping Up

After noting the entire system was working properly, it was time to seal it all up and make my mess look pretty. I mixed up some Portland cement (no rocks) to fill in the groove (Figure 24) and then troweled the mixture to a smooth finish (Figure 25).

Figure 24

Figure 25

This made it look as if we were never there once the carpet was placed over it. Then, we caulked in all the conduit and made it seamless from the floor to the power source; we made it very professional looking (Figure 26-27).

Figure 26

Figure 27

Finally, we replaced the carpet and threshold to make it look like we were never even there (Figure 28).

Figure 28

We received approval from the manager of the store and the company who hired me to do the job, and there was nothing more to do but clean up and pack up tools. This job sounds ultra-complicated, but when broken down into individual tasks, it suddenly becomes much more manageable and simple. Really, the most difficult part of the job was keeping it clean. No one part was actually that difficult or intense.
So, the next time you get a call to try something outside your comfort zone, break it down into pieces and individual tasks, and give it a go. You might be surprised at what you can do — and the price you can charge — when you think outside the box.

By |2018-11-01T09:00:31+00:00November 1st, 2018|Access Control, All|1 Comment

Intercom and Monitoring Stations Library Update

We’ve added more manufacturer’s literature and manuals to our Intercom and Monitoring Stations in the Library. New user manuals, data/sell sheets, installation instructions, and wiring diagrams have been added for the following manufacturers:

  • Aiphone Corp.
  • Alarm Controls Corp.
  • Alpha Communications
  • Dahua Technology USA, Inc.
  • Digital Acoustics, LLC
  • DoorKing, Inc.
  • Flair Electronics
  • Mobotix
  • Optex, Inc.
  • Schlage
  • Seco-Larm USA, Inc.
  • Talkaphone
  • WatchNET, Inc.

Library Update: Electromagnetic Locks

We’ve added more manufacturer’s literature and manuals to our Electromagnetic Locks page in the Library. New installation instructions and wiring diagrams have been added for the following manufacturers:

  • Alarm Controls Corps.
  • Alarm Lock Systems Inc.
  • DORMA Americas
  • DynaLock Corporation
  • Hager Companies
  • Rutherford Controls International (RCI)
  • Schlage
  • Security Door Controls (SDC)

In the Resources tab of that page are two white papers authored by Richard Geringer of Security Door Controls (SDC). One covers magnetic locks in general and the other delayed egress hardware. Both papers are exceptionally informative.

By |2018-06-12T09:00:55+00:00June 12th, 2018|Access Control, All, Electromagnetic Locks|0 Comments

Locksmith News – 6/4/2018

Access Control

New Atlas: System locks down schools in response to gunshots It’s a sad fact that school shootings are becoming a semi-regular occurrence in the US. While there are varying opinions on what to do about the problem, Intrusion Technologies’ Active Intruder Mitigation System (AIMS) is designed to minimize casualties when a shooter does enter a school. [READ MORE]


Cision: ASSA ABLOY Recognized by Forbes as One of the World’s Most Innovative Companies ASSA ABLOY is once again included in Forbes’ World’s Most Innovative Companies list. The 2018 rankings see the company among the 100 leading businesses in the world.”I’m very proud that we have achieved such success with our innovation,” says Nico Delvaux, President and CEO of ASSA ABLOY. “Inclusion in Forbes’ list is clear evidence that our innovation- and technology-driven culture pays off.” [READ MORE]
CNet: China’s AI-powered CCTV camera makers just got $1.6 billion in funding The maker of China’s 170 million AI-powered CCTV cameras is a hot property among investors the past few months.SenseTime has secured $620 million in fresh funds from investors Thursday, adding to its previous $600 million raised in April. The company is now valued at $4.5 billion. [READ MORE]
Digital Journal: Embedded Security for Mechanical Locks Market to Grow at CAGR of 4.5% Through 2022 A recent study published by Future Market Insights assesses the future prospects of global market for mechanical locks. Key findings from this report reveal that by the end of 2022, around US$ 7,160 million worth of mechanical locks are anticipated to be sold across the globe. The report also forecasts that for the assessment period, 2017-2022, the global mechanical locks market is likely to attain growth at a moderate CAGR of 4.5%. [READ MORE]

Case Study

Denver 7 ABC: Thieves cutting through locks, stealing bikes in downtown Denver The Mile High City is seeing a lot of growth in the cycling community, which also means more bikes being stolen.“It feels horrible,” said Mike Stejskal, a buyer for Turin Bicycles in Denver. “You walk up to it assuming that your possession is going to be where you left it and it isn’t.”Stejskal said choosing the right lock is important to keep your bike safe. [READ MORE]

Wireless Electronic Locks

Digital Trends: Schlage locks and Google Home team up to make your smart home safer If you have a Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt, your front door just unlocked a new capability.Schlage announced that its smart locks will now work with Google Home, Google Assistant on Android devices and the Google Assistant app on Apple devices. The company first announced in January it was working on the integration at CES 2018, and the feature went live on Tuesday, May 29. [READ MORE]
Gear Brain: Gate Smart Lock Review, a 2-in-1 Connected Device The Gate Smart Lock combines an HD security camera and intercom functionality into an all-in-one connected device that operates much like a Ring or Skybell smart video doorbell. Real time video streaming lets you see who is at your doo, while the lock also supports remote access in case you want to open the door for visitors. The Gate Smart Lock also comes with a backup plan in case the device fails or loses power, with a standard key hole to open and lock the door. Gate sent GearBrain a lock to test and we were surprised how this new multi-functional smart lock performed. [READ MORE]

Tyler's Take: KeyMe and RFID Cloning

Earlier this year, KeyMe, makers of the “Locksmith In A Box”, began offering cloning, or duplicating, services for 125 kHZ RFID access control credentials at select kiosks around the country. Customers could present their credential (usually a card or fob) at one of these kiosks, have the data read, and a duplicate credential would then be shipped to the customer within 2 or 3 business days. KeyMe, which already offers standard key duplication services, said the decision to begin offering RFID credentials was in response to customers “asking for more opportunities”. KeyMe’s decision to offer this service fascinates me for a number of reasons but it also creates a lot of thoughts and questions for me:
First, it’s the first time I’ve seen a retail company openly circumventing an access control system by allowing users to obtain duplicate credentials from a source other than the systems’ administrator(s). Sure, there are online services and aftermarket cloners available/able do the same but how many people know this? And how convenient is it for someone to go that route as opposed to visting one of these kiosks on a Saturday afternoon while already out shopping?
Second, what’s the limit for these types of services? If the technology and/or knowledge to clone other formats is either known or discovered, would KeyMe begin offering cloning services for those formats if demand were large enough? Would KeyMe either develop or lease an app along the lines of the MIFARE Classic Tool to assist in the process? The potential is there for some very, very interesting possibilities if KeyMe is so inclined.
Third, what does this mean for access control? It may seem that I’ve been picking on access control lately (I promise, that’s unintentional) but there is no question that we’re seeing more and more mainstream sources openly promoting what most would consider flaws in existing access control systems. Whether it’s Kisi publicly discussing and demonstrating the vulnerabilities of their competitors’ products or companies like KeyMe and allowing users to clone their cards or fobs on their own accord, it appears as if Pandora’s box has been opened for access control vulnerabilities and it’s going to be fun to watch moving forward. Who’s going to be the next manufacturer to say this or do that? What’s next?
I talked about “cannibalization” in When Will The Future Arrive? but only as it relates to markets. We may be seeing unintentional corporate cannibalism, or companies competing against themselves. Throwing other companies or systems under the bus or circumventing them to make a dollar may be good for the short game, but for the long game? Reputation is everything and if you help devolve the very market you serve, well, you might just go down a slippery slope that you can’t come back from. Time well tell but I’ve got my popcorn ready to watch how this all unfolds.

By |2018-05-24T09:00:30+00:00May 24th, 2018|Access Control, All, Credentials, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

Testing Electrified Hardware with 9V Batteries

Very often I, and anyone else that dabbles in access control, get called to troubleshoot problems with an access control system. Whatever the symptoms, the usual checklist of diagnosing the problem(s) includes things like checking for continuity, proper voltage and amperage, integrity of splices, etc. There have been times where everything seems to check out and the only thing that hasn’t been tested is that electrified door hardware itself. This could be an electric strike or an electrified panic device, for example.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking: if it’s getting the proper voltage and amperage it’s obviously the electrified door hardware that’s the problem. Fair point and nearly always true. When diagnosing something like a stuck solenoid or a solenoid plunger that needs adjustment on, say, a Von Duprin panic device with an EL or QEL kit, it can be very problematic to constantly swipe or read a card to send voltage/amperage to the electrified door hardware while diagnosing and/or adjusting it. This is especially true if you’re trying to observe or position a multimeter or pay close attention to something in particular, such as inrush current. Examples abound for the benefit of a makeshift power supply in the field when troubleshooting access control components.
This need doesn’t arise all that often but when it does it’s helpful to know that you can create one of these makeshift power supplies with nothing more than scrap wire and a 9 volt battery, or two.
Note: Keep in mind that this is only for DC powered electrified door hardware.

Basic 9V Circuit(s)

Let’s start by recapping electrified door hardware basics as they relate to our situation. A vast majority operate on either 12 or 24V. Some operate on 16V or 18V and while these are outliers the methods discussed below can still be utilized to diagnose them.
If you are diagnosing electrified door hardware operating on 12V, a 9V battery is enough to test it. I have yet to encounter any 12V electrified door hardware that won’t operate when connected to a fully charged 9V battery. If the electrified door hardware operates on 16, 18, or 24V you will need two 9V batteries connected in series.
If you’re unfamiliar with wiring batteries together, here is brief summary:

  1. Two batteries wired in series combines their voltage.
  2. Two batteries wired in parallel combines their amperage.

By wiring two 9V batteries in series we essentially get a 18V battery (the makeshift power supply). And some of you might be saying, “that’s not enough for 24V!” It’s never not worked for me. If you run across the unicorn I’m still looking for, just add another 9V in series for 27V.

Wiring 9V Batteries

The positive and negative terminals are clearly marked on 9V batteries; the bigger of the two is negative (anode), the smaller positive (cathode).

To wire a battery in series, you connect the positive terminal of one battery to the negative terminal of the other. The remaining positive and negative terminal then become your positive and negative leads, which you connect to the electrified door hardware. It’s that simple.

In a pinch, you can cut wire for the connections and tape them in place. If you diagnose access control systems/components regularly I would highly advise you to grab a pair of snap connectors (they can be salvaged from electronic equipment or purchased at Radio Shack or Frys for less than $2 each) and wire them in series so that you don’t have to cut and splice and tape every time you want to use this makeshift power supply; they’re also much more reliable. I also solder the tips of the leads to keep the wires from fraying or breaking. You could buy clips or probes instead and attach them if you desired. Up to you; no right or wrong answer.

Tyler's Take: When Will The Future Arrive?

The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed. – William Gibson

I have the unique privilege of having at my disposal just about every trade magazine published since the 1970s. It’s a wonderful library for sure but in between the voluminous information that is contained within, there are many editorial and opinion pieces, much like this one. Judging by the editorials and opinions, access control was, at any given point, “the future of the industry” and every locksmith needed to familiarize themselves with it before the industry eclipsed them and left them in the dust. In 1990, one manufacturer was even so bold to announce the impending demise of the mechanical key in an advertisement that ran for many months (they’re still making tons of them as of this article, 28 years after the fact).
For nearly 50 years we’ve been told about pending impact of access control as it relates to not only our industry but the marketplace as a whole. So…..when will the future arrive? I presume some would argue that the future has been here and access control has already met and eclipsed the goals of the prophets of yesteryear. Of course, they’d be wrong.
In 2013, it was predicted that the access control market share would reach $16.3 billion by 2017; it didn’t, it was valued at $6.39 billion in 2016. This figure was then revised and now it seems that by 2023, the market share will be worth $10.3 billion. That figure pales in comparison to the over all value of physical security market share, an estimated $133.94 billion in 2016, despite being a “best guess” for 5 years from now. As it relates to overall physical security, access control is still very much a “niche” market.
The IHS projected revenue growth of mechanical locks and electronic locks between 2013 and 2017. Electronic locks, annually, were projected to track a little over 2% MORE growth than their mechanical counterparts. Considering the growth of mechanical locks for the last 25 years has been, on average, ~4%, the access control’s market share will not begin the traditional “cannibalization” of mechanical lock market anytime soon if the IHS’ projections are even remotely correct. In other words, the number of openings will increase but we will see mechanical locks used at a rate that virtually negates any inroad that electronic locks may be making.
Put frankly, the anticipated future of the last 3 or 4 or even 5 decades hasn’t arrived. The only question remains: why?



The first reason is simply cost. It costs far more to secure an opening with an access control-based solution than a traditional, mechanical lock. Most companies, large and small, simply can’t justify the costs to equip every door, or even most doors, with an access control-based solution. Additionally, access control prices haven’t gotten all that better. Here are a few examples:
In 1993, Alarm Lock’s DL2500, an electronic digital lock, had a list price of $415.00. In 2018, Alarm’s Lock DL2700, the closest modern day equivalent of the DL2500, has a list of price $881.00.
In 1995, Hanchett Entry Systems, Inc.’s (HES) 1003 Series had list prices, depending on the model, between $260-321. In 2018, the 1500 Series, the modern day equivalent to the 1003 Series, has list prices that range between $520-689.
Granted, the DL2700 has a few more features and a larger code bank than the DL2500 and the 1500 Series allows the users to determine fail-safe and fail-secure in the field while the 1003 Series did not but neither improvement can realistically be argued to warrant such a large price increase.
You may be saying, well it’s not just features, it’s also the cost of materials, like steel. That is true, the price of commodities, specifically steel and aluminum, has increased quite a bit since the mid 1990s (steel increasing by as much as 122%, for example). But consider this: the prices of durable goods, things like cars, computers, and even CCTV cameras, have dropped since 1995. So why is access control one of the few exceptions?
One answer may be that while things like cars, computers, and CCTV cameras have experienced great technological advances, access control hardware has not. We’re still utilizing electric strikes and electromagnetic locks today that are largely the same as the ones utilized 20 and 30 years ago. They still use roughly the same amount of materials and are manufactured in much of the same way. If you’re using the same materials and processes then you’ll largely float the proverbial wave of commodity prices, labor wages, etc. Sure, you can mitigate some costs via out sourcing and offshore manufacturing but given the current Administration, that’s no longer a guarantee. The recent steel and aluminum tariffs along with multiple manufacturers either restarting or building new plants/mills will add yet another consideration in the matter and time will ultimately show the impact of these changes. Suffice to say, the future, as it relates to costs, is definitely going to be interesting!
One final note: integrator strategy. Larger commercial integrators are now selling access control systems at or slightly above cost with multi-year service contracts. In other words, subsidizing the cost of materials so that they make their money on guaranteed labor and the occasional upgrade or up-sell. They’ve realized that cost makes access control a hard sell and are coming up with creative ways to secure future work and profits. Is this the solution to the cost barrier? Perhaps, but time will tell.

CCTV’s Rise

A strong argument could be made that the low costs of CCTV cameras/equipment coupled with CCTV’s growing ubiquity and advances in technology, such as facial recognition software, have negated many benefits of access control. You no longer have a need for an audit trail if you can physically see who entered the room, at what time, and how long they were in the room. Furthermore, unlike access control, CCTV can potentially show what, if anything, left the room with them. And, with the exception of biometrics, credentials for access control systems can be shared. CCTV prevents this by, again, allowing the staff to physically see who used the credential.
If I can secure a room with a restricted key and point a camera in it’s direction, I’ve just about satisfied all of the benefits of an access control solution and at a fraction of the cost.

Vulnerabilities and Image

If you’ve followed the news for the last few years you’ve no doubt heard of the vulnerabilities associated with access control solutions. From Ransomware attacks plaguing hotels to “zero-day hacks” striking entire product lines and from an entire credential standard being compromised to firmware updates accidentally “bricking” hundreds of locks, people are being reminded that access control may not always be the best solution. In the case of the hotel that was hit by multiple ransomware attacks, the Seehotel Jägerwirt in Austria, the hotel manager was so fed up with it that he said they were going to go back to using “old-fashioned keys and locks”.
Another factor is the rise of information security professionals, who now largely influence if not outright dictate security policies for companies. They follow the news and the industry; they are well aware of the caveats. So are most IT professionals. When’s the last time you had a pleasant encounter with a network administrator when trying to configure IP addresses for a system that utilized existing IT infrastructure? There’s a reason they don’t want them on their network(s); it puts it at risk.
There’s also consumer skepticism and distrust. While this issue is almost exclusive to residential wireless or “smart locks”, privacy concerns and data leaks are causing consumers to seriously re-think the convenience of “smart homes” and “smart products”. That uneasiness may also carry over to the commercial world – we are all consumers, after all.

Policy and Habit

To quote a member of our team:

Part of what keeps access control from becoming more ubiquitous is the management side of things. Policies and administration of the systems are so divorced from the real needs of the end users that they end up circumventing the policies or falling back to mechanical locks for 90% of their security.

The Future

The future of access control remains to be seen but this much is true: no one knows what will happen and/or when it will happen.
If I had to guess, I think that the future of access control is largely dependent on which product(s) can satisfy the theories (read: hurdles) identified in this article. For some, cost is all it will take. For others, it will take more. Whatever the case, the hurdles that are now associated with access control will need to be addressed and more than likely solved if it will truly become what we’ve been told it will become for the last 50 years.
Until then, I hesitate to say access control is the future.

By |2018-05-17T09:00:12+00:00May 17th, 2018|Access Control, All, Tyler's Take|3 Comments

Locksmith News – 5/14/2018

Access Control


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