Tyler's Take: The Case for ALOA's Webinar Revival

Introduction

Webinars are web-based seminars (web + seminar = webinar). Webinars allow anyone with a computer/tablet and an internet connection to attend a class, presentation, lecture, workshop, etc.
Consider the problems that locksmiths typically encounter when seeking continuing education related to the trade:

  • The opportunities might not exist within a reasonable vicinity of their home and/or office.
  • They may not be able to justify costs associated with traveling to a class or classes.
  • They may not be able to leave their business in order to pursue continuing education.

No matter the case, webinars are one solution available to potentially solve these problems and provide locksmiths with continuing education opportunities.

Benefits

There are great benefits associated with the use of webinars for continuing education. They include:

  1. Cost: With no venue to rent, no travel or lodging costs to cover, etc., webinars are inherently the most cost-effective instructor-led education option available to locksmiths.
  2. Availability: Again, webinars are available to anyone with a computer/tablet and an internet connection. Whether you’re in Bangor, Maine or Seattle, Washington, you’re capable of attending the same class at the same time. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
  3. Efficiency: Webinars are generally shorter in duration than their in-person counterparts, typically lasting between 1-3 hours. It is also not uncommon for webinars to be conducted on weeknights outside of normal business hours, such as between 6 and 8 PM. Each characteristic of webinars would reduce the impact of continuing education on an attendee’s schedule.

Historical and Modern Day Locksmith Webinars

In 2011 ALOA tried their hand with webinars. From an attendee’s perspective, I considered it a resounding success. I attended 3 classes offered and I recall that each one was filled to capacity; caps being set at either 25 or 35 attendees per class. Additionally, multiple offerings of the same class were offered which mean that, at the very least, the demand was there from the start.
ALOA is not the only one in the industry to try their hand at webinars however. ASSA ABLOY currently offers 58 online classes (essentially webinars) via their ASSA ABLOY Academy which are, by all indications, very popular. Other manufacturers, such as CDVI, have offered webinars for product training in recent years as well. Recently, Wayne Winton has offered and self-hosted multiple webinars via WaynesLockShop.com.  Having attended all of the aforementioned webinars, I can state unequivocally they have been well-attended and well-received, indicating that webinars are still viable and desired.

ALOA’s Benefits

From ALOA’s standpoint there are two very favorable benefits: revenue and reputation.
First, webinars would result in additional revenue for the association. Using historical metrics (25-35 attendees at $35 each), the Association stands to generate $875 – $1225 in revenue with each webinar. I am not privy to ALOA’s costs associated with conducting webinars but typical webinar “software” currently runs ~$40 a month for unlimited classes, typically capped at 25 attendees per class. Coupled with typical administrative costs and instructor fees, I find it hard to believe that ALOA couldn’t make money with each webinar offered.
Second, if ALOA were to re-take a proactive stance towards making education available online via webinars then that certainly would improve their reputation by way of increased membership benefits.

Criticism

Perhaps the biggest criticism of webinars is that they undermine in-person classes. The reasoning behind this criticism is that since you’re making education cheaper and more ubiquitous, there will be a reduced demand for in-person classes, which could have larger underlying effects such as reduced ALOA Convention attendance. Wayne Winton offered a great rebuttal to this. To paraphrase, Wayne says that since nothing can ever realistically compete with hands-on classes and training, it’s not really a threat. He’s absolutely right.
Nevertheless, if we conceded this argument – that webinars undermine in-person classes – a viable solution would be to offer topics/subjects that aren’t typically offered by in-person classes or utilize niche topics that would never be offered by in-person class. By adopting this strategy you would eliminate any possibility of competition, indirect or not.
Additionally, a solid argument could be made that even if you did cross-over topics, webinars could act as excellent “teasers” for an in-person class. If someone is able to get a cursory overview of a topic, such as frame removal and installation, they may be more apt to take an in-person class because they’ve seen that the subject/topic isn’t that daunting. Some people would rather $25-35 for a webinar on frame removal and installation to get a “taste” of things before spending $285 – $435 to attend an in-person class, plus all other associated transportation and lodging costs. In other words, webinars could feasibly act as a promotional tool for in-person classes.
 

By |2019-05-16T09:00:27+00:00May 16th, 2019|All, Industry, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: Locksmith Nation

Introduction

Over the last year, the focus of this website has shifted a bit. As we’ve tried stay true to our name (Lock/Locksmith Reference), certain early mainstays, such as the ‘Tyler’s Take’ editorial, have gone away. We’ve tried to get away from opinion and focus solely on facts, information, you know – reference material. Today is an exception though. The purpose of this ‘Tyler’s Take’ is to let other locksmiths around the world know about Locksmith Nation. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll see it’s value and join to take full advantage of all it has to offer.

What is Locksmith Nation?

Locksmith Nation, or LN for short, is a free Facebook Group comprised of nearly 2,000 locksmiths from across the world. If you are unfamiliar with Facebook groups, they’re essentially “community pages” where group members can write and respond to posts, share pictures and files, and communicate all within the privacy of that group. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics and discussion, new members are actively vetted by a group of other locksmiths to ensure that only legitimate locksmiths can join and remain members.

The Locksmith Nation Difference

Locksmith communities are nothing new. Some have come and gone, some have remained, but I don’t think any can beat the ease of access and participation of LN. Through the Facebook app, you can interact with the LN community in your shop with a computer or out in the field with your smartphone. This ease of use in turn encourages high-engagement and participation. In the last 28 days, for example, over 28,000 posts have been made on LN. Talk about an active community!
Because of the ease of use and participation, it doesn’t take long to get the answer(s) or input you’re searching for. Need help while you’re on a job site? Take pictures and ask the community. Trying to locate a part or supplier/distributor that carries it? Ask. Want feedback on a particular model or series? Again, just ask. Maybe you need input or an idea on a job you’re quoting? Provide some pictures and basic information and you’ll have plenty of input to, hopefully, steer you in the right direction.
Perhaps one of the greatest resources in this industry is having a peer provide guidance or an opinion when you need it. With LN, you have nearly 2,000 of those peers available to assist.

The Future

LN represents one of multiple tools that locksmiths now and in the future can benefit from. Others include this website as well as YouTube Channels, such as Wayne Winton’s or SE Lock and Key’s. Information is both plentiful and easily accessible thanks to advances in technology. Gone are the days where you are limited to what resources you had on hand or could hope to acquire. Whether you are just starting out or have decades of experience, there is value in these tools because, let’s face, we don’t know everything, it’s not possible. You may not have the information you’re looking for but, utilizing one of these tools, you’ll know where to get it.
Tools don’t have to be physical objects. If you already haven’t started putting together a “digital toolbox” then start today, it’s nearly always free. Bookmark this website if you already haven’t ($0), subscribe to the YouTube Channels ($0), and definitely join Locksmith Nation ($0). There is a lot of money to be made for yourself and/or company utilizing these tools properly. Don’t miss out.

By |2019-01-30T09:00:52+00:00January 30th, 2019|All, Tyler's Take|2 Comments

Tyler’s Take: Do It the Right Way

Introduction

In the July/August 2017 edition Keynotes I wrote an article titled Locksmithing Risk Mitigation: Preventing Callbacks. In this article, I identified the 3 sources of call backs:

  1. User error
  2. Technician error
  3. Manufacturer error

As I noted in the article, we don’t have much control over user and manufacturer error. Yes, we can try to do a better job of teaching our customers about utilizing their hardware and, yes, we can evaluate products prior to selling them but we will never have control over user and manufacturer errors in the way that we have control over technician error, or a callback that occurred due to our work.
In the article, I stressed that technician error can be drastically reduced, if not outright eliminated, by simply doing things the right way. So what is the right way?

The Right Way

The right way is nothing more than doing things the way they’re supposed to be done. Sounds trivial, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be.
The right way is installing door hardware the way the manufacturer’s instructions call for. Some may think or say that 6 screws in the case/head unit of a Von Duprin 98/99 is overkill but that’s what the instructions call for. Or how often have you seen hardware that wasn’t installed correctly? Examples abound but the fact remains: install per directions. Don’t make any interpretations or go off script; they developed and tested their product, they know what’s best.
The right way is going with the correct repair or installation, not the easiest. That’s not to say they’re always going to be mutually exclusive but often times they are. Stripped mounting screws on a surface mount door closer on wood or metal door. Easiest solution? Go to the next biggest size screw size and re-install. Correct solution? Through-bolt it because surface mount screws, of any size, obviously didn’t work the first time around. Or how often have we seen broken screws that the person before left? Easiest solution is just to ignore it but the correct solution is to remove the broken screw(s) and replace them.
The right way is recommending the correct solution, not the easiest and/or most lucrative. Most of us love this job and this trade but at the end of the day we’re all here to make money. That said, don’t let laziness or greed take precedence over professionalism.
These aren’t the only qualifiers of the right way but they should hopefully begin to paint a picture of what the right way is. To simplify the right way, how would you want someone to treat you or your property when you called on them to perform a service? You’d want them to install and/or maintain your property like a professional. You’d want them to make professional recommendations and sell you professional solutions. Put plainly, you’d want to be treated the right way.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, we all have to atone for our decisions in life, both professionally and personally. I cannot for the life of me fathom why anyone would not want to at least attempt to give their best and do things the right way. Never mind a reputation or customer satisfaction or a business practice, I’m talking about self-respect and self-worth. We should all strive for our very best and our work should absolutely be a reflection of that. Don’t take short cuts, don’t half-ass things, don’t be lazy about it. Do it the right way.

By |2018-11-08T09:00:13+00:00November 8th, 2018|All, Business, Tyler's Take|2 Comments

Tyler’s Take: Don’t Ignore the ‘Bible’!

Introduction

Far too often I have seen cylinders rekeyed incorrectly. I’ve seen this in person and online, specifically on YouTube. The incorrect rekeying process typically goes like this:

  1. Remove the cam/tailpiece.
  2. Remove the plug with a follower.
  3. Dump the old bottom pins.
  4. Install new bottom pins.
  5. Re-install plug.
  6. Re-install cam/tailpiece.
  7. Lubricate.
  8. Check operation.

What’s missing? Perhaps one of the most vital steps of all: checking the ‘bible’.

The Bible

We covered the ‘bible’ in Locksmith Terminology: Pin Tumbler Cylinders but to recap:

bible n. that portion of the cylinder shell which normally houses the pin chambers, especially those of a key-in-knob cylinder or certain rim cylinders

The bible for KIK/KIL, mortise, and rim cylinders houses the top pins and springs. In the above scenario, no attention is given to it. Why should there be?

Potential Problems

There are quite a few items related to the bible that every professional locksmith should be concerned with:

  1. Springs. Are the springs crushed or weak? If so, there’s a very good chance that the cylinder will operate intermittently.
  2. Top Pins. Are the right top pins being utilized? Manufacturer’s specifications are not friendly suggestions. Has someone inverted bottom pins to account for a prior, poor rekeying job? That removes a tremendous amount of pick-resistance.
  3. Potential Master Pins. Are there any master pins in the bible? Whether you disassembled the cylinder with a key or via shimming, the potential exists for master keys to rest above the plug and within the bible. With that comes the potential for incidental master keys.

incidental master key n. a key cut to an unplanned shear line created when the cylinder is combinated to the top master key and a change key

There’s also a chance that debris, such as dirt or excessive graphite, has worked it’s way into the chambers. That too could cause intermittent operation or failure.

Liability

Once you touch that cylinder  you “own it”, so to speak. If something goes wrong, you were the last person to touch it and you’re more than likely going to hear about it first. Avoid the headaches and liability by doing things right from the start. Rekeying isn’t simply replacing the bottom pins. A professional rekey job also includes inspecting what’s in the cylinder’s bible; a process that only takes an additional 10-15 seconds. It also includes correcting any mistakes the last person to touch it made. If those mistakes are beyond reasonable correction, a professional alerts the customer and makes the recommendation to replace it.
Here’s another way to consider it:
A call back results in what? An hour of your time? If we assume 10 seconds to check the bible, that means you can check 360 cylinders during that time, albeit broken up and over time. If you ignore the bible all together, you’re essentially gambling that at least 360 of the cylinders you touch aren’t going to have any of the aforementioned problems present AND those problems won’t result in a callback. On the 361st cylinder you touch, you’re coming out ahead by a whooping 10 seconds. See what I’m getting at? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Checking The Bible

You can complete the process of checking the bible in just a few seconds. Here are two ways you can do that:

By |2018-09-04T09:00:19+00:00September 4th, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, Locks, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: SSL Certificates, Google, and SEO

Just over a week ago, July 31st to be exact, Google released the stable version of the latest Chrome browser: 68.0.3440.83 through 68.0.3440.85, depending on the operating system. “Chrome 68” will begin to differentiate between websites that have SSL certificates and those that don’t by labeling them as secure and not secure, respectively. This didn’t come as a shock to many because in February of this year Google said they would start doing this exact thing.
If you’re unfamiliar with SSL certificates, I won’t waste your time trying to put my own spin on it. Instead, I’ll refer you to GlobalSign’s explanation.
Mozilla (Firefox) and others are joining Google on their push to encrypt communication between websites and users. Depending on how you’re viewing this website and on what browser, you’ll more than likely see either a locked padlock (how appropriate) or the word “Secure” to the left of our URL in the address bar up top. That’s exactly how they’re going to tell visitors whether or not a website utilizes an SSL certificate.
So, what does this mean for you and your businesses’ website? Will it impact it’s SEO?

Impact

If you sell items on your website, you might want to get an SSL certificate if you already don’t have one. A recent study found that 84% of users would abandon a purchase if data was sent over an insecure connection.
If you’re not selling items on your website, you still might want to get an SSL certificate. Why? While I am unaware of Google, or others, penalizing the search results between websites that have SSL certificates and those who don’t, browsers may soon do just that. Some studies have found that secured websites have slightly higher rankings than unsecured websites but I’m not so sure if it’s the sole reason behind that. No matter the case, not having an SSL certificate will eventually impact your ranking. When and how remains to be seen.
SSL certificates cost between $50-70, depending on your host, annually. If you’re lucky, you might already have an SSL certificate. There are multiple websites available online to check for you; I’ve become fond of SSL’s Shopper’s SSL Checker. Simply type in your URL and check it’s SSL status.

Additional Reading

If you would like to learn more about the new push for SSL compliance across the web and it’s impact on websites, here are some additional articles:

By |2018-08-09T09:00:29+00:00August 9th, 2018|All, Business, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: Standardized Locksmith Terminology

Adoption of standardized terminology is vital for many industries, disciplines, and professions. Whether it be for medicine or computer science or electricians, it’s important that the terminology being used is standardized so that everyone involved in those industries, disciplines, and/or professions are on the same page, or speaking the “same language”. This too applies to the locksmith industry. It’s in our best interest and the industry’s best interest to start learning (if we already haven’t) and utilizing (if we already aren’t) standardized terminology as a whole. Fortunately, the locksmith industry does have standardized terminology: The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary.
First published in 1982 and routinely updated through the years, The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary is a peer reviewed, readily available document provided by the Lock Industry Standards and Training (LIST) Council. The LIST Council’s goal has been to standardize locksmith-related terminology and definitions that haven’t been defined elsewhere, such as in a general dictionary. Over the years, manufacturers, associations, and numerous publications have utilized terminology as defined by the The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary.
If you weren’t previously aware of The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary, or perhaps you haven’t been proactive in learning from it, take a moment to visit it’s web page and begin reading through it in your spare time. Learning and using standardized locksmith terminology will ultimately benefit your career. First, it allows you to properly communicate with your colleagues. If you’re all on the same page and speaking the same language then you know what’s being discussed, such as ordering a part or suggesting a solution to problem. Second, it reinforces professionalism not only between peers and colleagues but also your customers.  As I mentioned in my Customer Retention article, consumers value knowledge and expertise. Third, it adequately prepares you for things such as ALOA’s Proficiency Registration Program (PRP) certification tests as well as other association’s certification tests.
Over the next few weeks, I will be releasing a series of articles that cover the terminology and definitions related to specific locksmith-related hardware, such as cylinders/cores, cylindrical leversets, and door closers. If you are a visual learner these articles may be especially helpful as I plan to include many high-resolution pictures with clear labeling. Ultimately, the goal of these articles is to help those who are either new or unfamiliar to the terminology and definitions found in The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary. As they say: knowledge is power.

By |2018-06-21T12:00:01+00:00June 21st, 2018|All, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: Distributing Competition

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”
This popular quote is often falsely attributed to a Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov; you may know him better as Lenin, the communist revolutionary of the Soviet Union. Catchy, I’ll admit, perhaps so much so that it’s also been attributed to one of Lenin’s associates, Joseph Stalin, and even Karl Marx. The phrase is still used today albeit in slightly different and less provocative manner. One version that I’ve often heard reads as follows:

“They’ll buy the rope that we will hang them with.”

This article isn’t about phrase origins, however, or political figures of the 19th and 20th century. It’s about how current business relationships in the locksmith industry could be accurately described using the above phrase.

Distribution

The relationship manufacturers, distributors, locksmiths, and customers has historically been as follows: manufacturers sell to distributors who sell to locksmiths (or other security professionals) who sell to their customers. Now it seems that some distributors are forgoing, if not outright bypassing, locksmiths/security professionals and selling directly to the customer. They are, in effect, subsidizing a change in their business model, even if only a slight one, at the expense of locksmiths all while being our competition. The parent company of one distributor has even gone so far as to actually bid complete jobs (parts and labor) using a separate business entity.
I don’t think I need to argue that this shift is not favorable to locksmiths, that much should be self-evident. So what can be done?

Solution(s)

I think the only realistic solution in this situation is for locksmiths to stop doing business with distributors that seek to usurp us. I’ve broached this topic on Clearstar but was told that, in no uncertain terms, locksmiths are “small potatoes” to distributors and they wouldn’t care. I find this hard to believe (we may not be a majority but we’re surely a sizable minority) but even if it were true, who cares? Why should we buy the rope, no matter it’s length, that they’ll eventually hang us with? Their endgame might not be storefronts where John and Jane Doe can stop by on Saturdays but anything that attempts to cut us out of the picture should be taken as no less than a personal affront. There are many distributors available to locksmiths and, near as I can tell, a good number do play by the rules. Why not give them your business?
Another possible solution would be to start buying direct. A growing number of manufacturers are offering direct buy programs with locksmith shops. There are certain requirements, such as annual or initial buy-ins, but get behind a brand you trust and try to make it work – you’d be surprised at how good their numbers can be.
If distributors want to abandon a decades old business relationship to squeeze out all of the revenue of your city or town then there’s not a lot you can do about it, but don’t be a party to it and don’t support it. Take your dollars elsewhere and urge your colleagues to do the same. Hit them where it hurts the most: their pockets.
 

By |2018-06-07T09:00:30+00:00June 7th, 2018|All, Business, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

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 CloneMyKey.com 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

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?

Theories

Cost

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

Tyler's Take: Manufacturer's YouTube Channels

I’m a big fan of streamlining my ability to learn. Short of hands-on or on-the-job training, I have found that videos, for me at least, are the fastest and easiest way for me to learn about X or Y when it comes to locksmithing. Videos discussing and/or demonstrating product overviews or servicing/installation techniques and the like are excellent educational tools. Thanks to YouTube, these videos are becoming ubiquitous by an increasing number of manufacturers and, best of all, they’re free.
It seems that just about every lock or access control related manufacturer has a YouTube channel these days. Just a few years ago, that wasn’t the case. The most you could really hope for in those days were a handful of videos and most of those only focused on product overviews. It seems that YouTube was just a “neat aside” for manufacturers at the time and they really only uploaded content that they already had. That, fortunately, has changed. More and more manufacturers are either producing content specifically for YouTube or at least making more of an effort to get their existing content onto it.
Some of my favorite manufacturer YouTube channels include:

Perhaps the brightest lights of that list are Allegion’s US channel along with their brands, specifically Falcon, LCN, and Von Duprin. These channels contain dozens of videos detailing product overviews, installation instructions, and troubleshooting methods along with door hardware basics, such as how door closers or exit devices work. Allegion’s US channel contains a series called “Decoded” which, like Lori Greene’s blog, discusses code requirements for various hardware and situations.
Granted, this is not a full or exhaustive list of all manufacturer’s channels; it’s only a small sample of what’s out there. Next time you’re searching for specific information, such as the aforementioned product overviews or servicing techniques, it might be a good idea for you to see if the manufacturer has a YouTube channel and if they already have a video covering the topic. You might be surprised!

By |2018-05-03T09:00:26+00:00May 3rd, 2018|All, Tyler's Take|2 Comments
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