Smart Electronic Locks vs. Traditional Electronic Locks: Which is Better for Your Needs?

Whether your business needs the flexibility of having many employees able to unlock your front doors or you want to ensure that no one is able to access your business’ premises after hours, electronic locks can offer significant convenience and security to your place of business. The emergence of smart technology has led to the rise in “smart” electronic locks that offer additional features–and some potential drawbacks–over more traditional electronic locks. As you weigh your options for replacing your business’ lock system, what do you need to know about the similarities and differences between traditional electronic locks and newer smart technology-enabled versions?

How Traditional Electronic Locks Work

First, let’s take a quick look at how the older style of electronic lock works. In short, unlike mechanical locks that rely on physical keys for locking and unlocking, a traditional electronic lock requires an electric current to open and lock the device. The specific hardware that is actually used to operate the lock can vary; magnets and motors are both commonly used, each triggered by either cutting off or supplying electrical power to the mechanism.

There are several types of “dumb” electronic locks (that is, those that aren’t equipped with smart technology). Some traditional electronic locks are operated by a key pad where a specific passcode or pin must be entered in to unlock the door. Others rely on programed key fobs or access cards that must be either swiped or scanned to allow access. Less commonly, businesses that require a high level of security and controlled access can employ electronic locks that use biometrics such as fingerprint or retinal scanning or voice print identification in order to authenticate users and control the locking device.

Note that in some cases, traditional electronic locks are also equipped with a mechanical key cylinder to allow access using a standard key as well.

The Added Functionality of Smart Electronic Locks

In recent years, new electronic lock varieties have emerged that utilize smart technology and allow a user to open the lock with their smartphone (both in person and remotely) as well as monitor usage via alerts. While the locking mechanism of a smart electronic lock works much like that of a traditional electronic lock, the upgraded technology does add some additional functionality over older electronic locks. For example, many smart locks can be opened from anywhere in the world via an app on your smartphone. Certain smart locks also allow you to program the lock to automatically open when a person with an enabled smartphone enters a pre-defined zone–and to lock again when the device leaves the building.

One key thing to keep in mind as you consider investing in smart electronic locks: the features that make such locks “smart” require both a smart technology-enabled device (typically a smartphone) to control the added components and some form of wireless connectivity (typically Bluetooth or Wi-Fi).

The Pros and Cons of Traditional Electronic Locks versus Smart Electronic Locks

Ultimately, both types of electronic locks have both pros and cons, and neither is necessarily right for all users. Compared to standard mechanical locks, both offer several key advantages, including improved control of who is able to unlock specific doors, some level of activity tracking, and the ability to limit access to certain areas at certain times. Likewise, both traditional and smart electronic locks have certain disadvantages compared to mechanical locks, such as the potential of a power failure or a drained battery to cut off access temporarily.

Pros of Traditional Electronic Locks

The main benefit offered by traditional electronic locks over their more advanced smart cousins is their relative simplicity; they don’t require a smartphone and wireless connection in order to function, a plus for some business users. However, one potential drawback of traditional electronic locks is the system they use to manage access; keeping track of access controls and ensuring that the right people have access to the right areas at the right time can be challenging, and changes often cannot be made remotely.

Cons of Traditional Electronic Locks

The downside of traditional electronic locks is largely solved by smart electronic locks: access can be granted from anywhere that there’s a wireless connection, allowing for highly flexible access controls and on-the-spot access modification. Individuals can easily be granted one-time access, making it easy to let cleaning staff or delivery people onto your premises without giving them a key fob or access code. Because most smart lock systems send alerts directly to your smartphone, you can see in real-time if an unauthorized user is attempting to access your business and take steps immediately to stop their access–even if you’re at home miles away.

Cons of Smart Locks

Like any new technology, however, smart electronic locks do have some downsides. The major concern for many businesses is likely to be the potential security risks associated with smart locks. Like all other smart technology-enabled devices, smart electronic locks may be able to be hacked by malicious parties, presenting a possible security threat. Accidental interference with smart locks can also occur, such as when smart lock company Lockstate inadvertently cut off access for hundreds of customers because of a mangled software update. Another concern for many businesses: smart electronic locks are often significantly more expensive than their traditional counterparts.

Making the Choice Between Traditional and Smart Electronic Locks

So which type of electronic lock is right for your business? The answer will depend on several factors, including budget, usage requirements, security needs and more. Ultimately, whether you opt for a traditional electronic lock system or upgrade to a newer smart technology-enabled one, the convenience and security offered to your business and your employees will make the investment worth it. For a free estimate, please contact us by filling out our free online estimate request form or calling us at 610-644-5334.

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