If you’re exploring physical security and access control for your office, and you work at a modern, tech-enabled company, odds are that you’ve come across wireless locks at some point. Wireless locks are electronic locks that are, as their name suggests, wireless — in both power and connectivity. They generally function with batteries, and have some sort of electronic access method, be it a keycard or swipe card reader, or a pinpad, or something of that nature. In this article, we’ll explore wireless lock installation and unlocking procedures.
How a Wireless Door Lock Work
In this section we’ll explore the tech behind a wireless lock, and explore how you’d go about installing one in your home or office.
Essential Components of a Wireless Lock
The most important components of a wireless lock are the locking hardware, and the unlocking mechanism. The locking hardware here refers to the bolt, strike, or magnet that will actually latch the door shut. While most wireless locks take the form of a simple door lock with a latch and handle (more on this later), there is some variation here, so based on your needs and your door configuration you’ll want to be intentional about the selection here.
The unlocking mechanism refers to how the lock is actually unlocked. Whereas most wireless locks have an analog key backup, the primary unlock method will be a key card, swipe card, or pin number on a pin pad. There are options out there for whatever use case you need, and if you want a good selection check out Allegion’s wide range of offerings.
Fail-Secure, With an Analog Backup
For an in-depth discussion of the distinction between fail-safe and fail-secure unlocks, check out this guide from Kisi. For the purposes of this article, though, it’s enough to know that fail-safe locks are designed to remain open when the power is out, whereas fail-secure locks will remain locked when the power is out.
Wireless locks, by their design, are fail-secure: They take the place of a regular latch in a door. This means they are not suitable for emergency exits, as they are not easily exited through in case of an emergency, unless the door in question also has something like a panic bar installed.
That being said, a lot of wireless locks will have a backup option in the form of a key cylinder. With these, you’ll be able to gain entrance to the room even if the power is out, and the primary unlock method (electronic) is deactivated.
How a Wireless Lock is Installed
A wireless lock is installed just like a regular door lock would be installed, and that’s because the inner mechanism is exactly the same as a normal latch lock, but with an added electronics panel.
In the graphic above, you can see one of Schlage’s primary wireless locks, the NDE cylindrical lock, with details of the actual lock mechanism inside of it. The electronics panel is just added on over that as an easier unlock method. For the easiest installation process, simply check to see what sort of lock you currently have on your door (cylindrical, mortise, etc) or contact an installer to do so, and replace it with the equivalent wireless lock, without having to cut into your door at all!
Preparing the Door, Purchasing the Proper Lock
The simplest solution when installing a wireless lock is to simply go with the lock that fits the lock hole that you already have in your door. Thus, if you have a mortise lock in your door now, go with the Schlage LE mortise lock, whereas if you currently have a cylindrical lock, go with the NDE cylindrical lock. This will greatly simplify the installation process.
It’s also important to note that not every door works with every lock — for Schlage, for instance, if your door is 1 and 3/8” thick, you’ll need to purchase spacers for the door to ensure that the lock can function properly. In addition, there are multiple lengths of cylinders (1”, 2”, etc) that function for different doors, so you’ll want to measure it out on your door, and ensure that you communicate this fact to whomever is installing or purchasing the lock, so that they can get the appropriate size.
Installing the Lock
When installing the lock, you’ll want to make sure that not only are the electronics in place and functioning properly, but also that the mechanical components are functioning together as well. For instance, the cylinder has to be properly inserted into the torque mechanism, the handles have to be oriented properly, and the handle with the optional manual key cylinder ought to be facing the outside (unless it is a door that locks from the outside). There are many considerations for many different locks, so make sure that you follow the instructions to a tee!
How to I Test It
With a lock of this nature, with tricky electronics inside, you’ll want to be sure to thoroughly test all the components before writing off any installation as done and dusted. First off, of course, you want to check that the main electronic unlock method works. This will depend on what access method you choose, more on this in the next section! You’ll also want to be sure to test the analog key components as well, as these can be key in a pinch.
Wireless Locks and Access Control — Case Study
Wireless locks sometimes come with off-the-shelf unlocking methods, but most are configured to be compatible with modern access control, and the unlock method will depend on what access provider you opt to go with. In this section, we’ll cover those two unlock methods, and look at a particular use case with Allegion wireless locks and Kisi access control. For more detailed guides on NFC wireless locks and Bluetooth wireless locks, check out those links.
Allegion locks are generally built to be integrated with other access systems, meaning they don’t offer too many off-the-shelf solutions, but for installation purposes and general access purposes they will come with NFC access cards. These wireless locks have NFC and Bluetooth sensors inside of them, and can read most card protocols and communicate with most handheld electronics.
However, this way of entering is not the one we’d advise: Integrations with access control are the future for this tech, and Kisi is at the forefront of that wave.
Unlocking With Kisi Access Control
Modern access control apps are realizing the demand for wireless locks, and as such many have started building an integration with them. Kisi has built a software integration that allows you to unlock all the normal electronic locks and the wireless locks in your office by simply tapping your mobile device against the lock. This makes the unlocking experience much more pleasant, and users can avoid juggling between various unlock methods, and focus their energies on more productive things.
Wireless locks are certainly an important part of modern access control suites. With new technologies and software integrations, and an easy-to-install model, they are definitely an alternative worth exploring for any futuristic office.