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Wireless solutions have consistently offered many benefits, and now we can further leverage this technology to foster social distancing as facilities prepare to re-open.
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7.17.20 – SIW – Lester LaPierre VIsit SIW

Reduced complexity, time savings and simplified coordination among the advantages wireless solutions can provide

As the construction industry prepares for the post-COVID-19 era, general contractors are seeking creative solutions to implement social distancing on the job site.

One practical option is the use of wireless locking solutions, which reduce the labor requirement per opening in terms of complexity, time, and coordination when compared to conventional wired solutions.

Typical wired online access control openings include multiple discrete components around the opening, such as an electrified lock, wall-mounted credential reader, door position sensor in the door and frame, and a passive infrared request-to-exit device mounted above the inside of the door. In addition, access granted/denied decisions are made by controllers that are often installed a distance from the opening.

Alternatively, many wireless locking solutions integrate these components into the lock itself, which provides numerous benefits that can promote social distancing. Some of these advantages include:

  • Reduced Complexity – Integrated wireless locking solutions eliminate the need for a team of low voltage technicians to pull wires from remotely-mounted controllers to each opening.
  • Time Savings – With integrated wireless locks that incorporate credential readers, door position sensors and request to exit sensors into the lock itself, it’s not uncommon for access technicians to install the lock in under an hour. This often results in time savings of 3-4 hours per opening, which translates to a 75% to 80% time reduction. This improved efficiency frees up other trades to occupy the same area much sooner and reduces risk of infection by other trades.
  • Simplified Coordination – Reducing the time at each opening by 75% or more and eliminating the need for low voltage contractor involvement, wireless locking solutions can simplify coordination of trades on the job site, which positively contributes to social distancing requirements.

Once the facility opens, an expanded access control footprint using integrated wireless locks allows facilities to have better visibility of what areas of the building are occupied. This not only helps to enforce social distancing but also lets you know who may have come into contact with someone who is sick or informs you if you need to restrict access to an area where a sick person has been.

Understanding Your Options

Not all wireless technologies are equal, and the specific needs of each opening should be carefully considered when selecting a wireless solution.

Intelligent Wi-Fi locks leverage a facility’s existing network infrastructure to connect to the access control system. This allows the benefits of wireless electronic access control to be delivered with little or no infrastructure to install, saving additional time and costs, making a Wi-Fi-enabled solution a natural choice to extend access control deeper into existing buildings. WiFi locks are offline most of the time, “coming to life” briefly when a credential is presented, to announce user specified alarm conditions, and at regular intervals to update access rights and transmit audit trails.

With intelligent Wi-Fi locks, access rights are stored in the lock itself, protecting it from a network or power failure and eliminating the need for access control panels. These locksets are optimal for openings that have relatively stable access rights, such as residence hall or office applications.

Less wired solutions use dedicated networks to connect locks to a pre-existing wired system. This can be extremely beneficial in retrofit applications where digging into walls could mean damaging a historic asset or exposing asbestos. In these scenarios, creating the ad hoc network and quickly upgrading using wireless may make the most sense.

These Zigbee-based electronic access control solutions operate over the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. One of the main differences between Wi-Fi solutions and Zigbee-based solutions is that Zigbee-based locks maintain a heartbeat that keeps them continually online, sharing data with the central host. This means that it can generate system-wide updates in a matter of seconds and, similarly, can lock down the facility in a matter of seconds as well. This gives the facility instantaneous control over the system, allowing credential changes to be made nearly instantly. This is ideal for situations such as a visiting executive, locking out a terminated employee, or canceling a lost or stolen credential. Zigbee-based solutions also tend to be more readily applicable to non-door applications such as cabinets, lockers and drawers.

Wireless solutions have consistently offered many benefits, and now we can further leverage this technology to foster social distancing as facilities prepare to re-open. As always, it is important to understand the functional and performance goals for each door to ensure that you are implementing the right solution.