Digital Access Needs Mechanical Backbone

Digitalization continues apace in access control. But electronics are not a replacement for – but a complement to – robust, secure, trusted mechanical design.

Finavia Oyj Helsinki Airport selected Assa Abloys digital solutions for doors...
Finavia Oyj Helsinki Airport selected Assa Abloy's digital solutions for doors and cabinets to integrate with their existing access management software
© Finavia Oyj Helsinki Airport
© Kelly Gill, Chief Technology Officer at Assa Abloy Opening Solutions EMEIA

Kelly Gill, Chief Technology Officer at Assa Abloy Opening Solutions EMEIA, discusses the enduring importance of mechanical locking and how it enables the latest innovations in digital access technologies.

Q: It seems that a rapid shift to digitalization in access is underway. Why, then, do the mechanical components of locking devices continue to be so important?

Growing demand for convenience, connectivity and new functionality continuously extends the power and level of choice in locking devices. Digitalization is a key enabler of more comfortable and tailored access solutions in residential and commercial buildings. Yet the necessity for innovations in mechanical design remains as great as ever. Why? Because any new digital locking functionality needs to be backed up by intelligently-designed, secure mechanical elements. It’s not the electronics that keep the door bolt in position – it’s the physical components.

Q: Your role at Assa Abloy spans both mechanical and digital security technology. How does Assa Abloy aim to marry the benefits of both types of functionality in access?

The digital components of our security solutions enhance usability and convenience. For example, they replace the need to carry a heavy keychain by providing a credential – card, key or smartphone – which can unlock several openings. In the event of a lost key or card, the digital element enables easy disabling of those specific access rights, eliminating the need to replace keys and cylinders. Our users enjoy the convenience of these digital features, but an effective lock requires the electronics and mechanical security to work in tandem.

Mechanical Heritage and Innovation

If the mechanical part of the lock is flawed, the door can be opened regardless of its digital security. This is why we emphasize the importance of working with access providers who have a strong heritage in mechanical manufacturing and innovation. It’s not just about choosing a solution with the widest set of features.

Q: Are there specific elements within a lock’s design which must remain mechanical, while others can migrate rapidly to digital?

In truth, many components will remain mechanical. The latest innovations in digitalization add the convenience and flexibility that consumers now expect. One nice example is the Yale Linus, which brings flexible access to a residential door lock without the need for the customer to invest in hardware changes. The Linus locking bolt is a mechanical component, but it is moved into place electronically. Opening or manipulating mechanical elements like this is where digitalization comes in.

I see many parallels with the payments industry: just as customers use their mobile instead of a physical credit or debit card, locking will also see a growing demand for solutions where mobile devices or PIN codes or fingerprints act as keys. Authentication and authorization will move to digital, while the internal mechanics keep the door locked and the space secure. Digitalization also enables seamless integration with other products – in the Linus case, with smart doorbells, security cameras and intruder alarms, all controlled by an app called Yale Home which directs the full security ecosystem.

When you choose an Assa Abloy solution, you place your trust in our reputation built on a long history of reliability and service. You can depend on us to ensure your locks meet – and often exceed – independent standards for security. Our in-house testing labs push every device and component to its limit, long before it ever reaches the market.

Strong Standards Inspire Trust Amid Cyber Threat

Q: What is the role played by standards in ensuring customers get locking products they can trust? And how is the regulatory landscape evolving for mechanical and digital security?

Standards help customers make an informed decision. They provide a scale to make security comparisons, for example, from high to low security needs. As a long-time industry leader, Assa Abloy Opening Solutions takes an active part in driving independent standards to a higher level, to ensure customers have access devices whose mechanical and digital components inspire their trust.

Growing focus on security is evident in the realm of IoT devices, where data breaches and cyber-attacks are, alas, increasingly common. In response to increased risk, regulatory bodies such as the European Union have begun promoting more robust cybersecurity measures, including to regulate the security of products with digital components. Very soon, companies which want to sell into the EU market must show that their product meets basic cybersecurity requirements.

The new Tekirdağ City Hospital needed a large mechanical master-key system for...
The new Tekirdağ City Hospital needed a large mechanical master-key system for all kinds of locking points
© Tekirdağ City Hospital

PSTI has been introduced in UK law which sets security standards for IoT devices. We have always taken physical and cyber-security very seriously, but these new regulations and standards will also help us in embedding a culture of continuously assessing our practices, fine-tuning our secured-by-design approach. The higher profile for standards will also help us to communicate our security features, risks and best practices with customers – and with the industry.

We strongly believe our commitment to developing secure products, both their mechanical and digital elements, provides a huge benefit in terms of peace of mind. All over the world customers rely on us – whether that’s the new Tekirdağ City Hospital which needed a large mechanical master-key system for all kinds of locking points, or Helsinki Airport selecting our digital solutions for doors and cabinets to integrate with their existing access management software.

Innovation Part of DNA

We have been designing and manufacturing solutions for all types of customers, and for a very long time, developing and patenting a vast range of products for almost every application. Innovation is in our DNA.

Q: You mention innovation, a term we hear a lot in marketing materials these days! How would you summarize your innovation ethos?

In brief, our approach is to consistently offer leading product performance when it comes to security and usability, providing solutions based on market knowledge which are tailored to the customer’s needs. We pioneer new solutions – one recent example being digital access powered by energy-harvesting technology, which enables wireless digital devices to work battery-free. And of course, in the modern world, innovation must involve taking responsibility for the sustainability of our products, with reduced carbon footprint in production and when our solutions are in use over their full life-cycle.

Business Partner


ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEIA

Dukes Street

Business Partner contact

most read

08.03.2024 • TopstoriesFire Protection

Choosing Door Closers is a Critical Element of Fire Safety

Every now and then, news reminds us of the devastation that a large building fire can cause. One consequence is that fire doors now receive the attention and regulation that they deserve, both nationally and internationally. Just as important, however, is that a fire door must be properly closed to be effective. Assa Abloy has a complete range of door closing solutions to meet the needs and regulations of almost every type of of door in every building.

15.02.2024 • TopstoriesSecurity

Latest in Retail Security: Experts Explain

In our special focus, we ask three questions on security for retail to five experts: Johannes Faber, Regional Sales Manager DACH at Optex; Ross Wilks, Global Head of Marketing Communications at Acre Security; Steve Green, Business Development Manager at Genetec; Muhammad Sheikh, Regional Sales Director, Middle East at Briefcam; Pread Um (Suk Bong), Product and Marketing ­Director at Hanwha Vision Europe.