Wireless Access Control in 2018

The market for access control is changing. But how? How fast? And what factors will affect your business between now and 2025? A new report by IFSEC Global, ASSA ABLOY and IHS Markit address these and other questions, presenting and interpreting freshly researched industry data.

Access control manufacturers and resellers can remain optimistic if the top-line market projections from “The Wireless Access Control Report 2018” are correct: it forecasts overall market growth at 7.9% CAGR by 2025.

The ongoing market shift from wired to wireless access control is forcefully backed up by a survey of senior security professionals. The share of respondents with a fully-hardwired access system has fallen below 50% for the first time, for example. Nearly two-thirds of respondents “have a more positive view of wireless than five years ago because the technology has improved.”

“These [wireless] locks have fewer components plus they can be installed at any stage during construction, meaning they are a better fit for retrofit projects,” explains Jim Dearing, senior analyst at IHS Markit.

The more applications that can be secured and unlocked with a single credential, the better for users

Beyond the door

Survey data from the report highlights some intriguing market trends. For example, responses back up the growth potential of wireless access control solutions for “non-door” applications like parking gates, server racks, lockers, cabinets and lifts.

Real-world use cases are not hard to imagine. Wireless SMARTair® cabinet and locker locks are widely deployed in universities, healthcare settings and sports facilities. Battery-powered CLIQ® mechatronic padlocks are popular with critical infrastructure providers including utilities, who often have dispersed, outdoor sites where traditional cabled access control is not a realistic option. The boom in co-location for corporate servers makes the Aperio® server rack lock a popular choice for ensuring data security even when a physical storage facility is off-site.

“Partly it’s about convenience,” says Russell Wagstaff, director for commercial solutions at ASSA ABLOY EMEA.

“The more applications that can be secured and unlocked with a single credential, the better for users. Facility managers benefit from the wider scope of their access system, which gives them more control. In addition, because these ‘non-door’ devices are wireless, access control can easily extend outdoors. Padlocks for gates, machinery locks, storage lockers: with the right lock, these can all be secured within the same access control system as your front door.”

It is anticipated that market growth in this particular sub-sector will out-perform the overall market, with a projected CAGR of 12.9% to 2025.

Phones catching keys?

The use of smartphones and other mobile devices is, of course, ubiquitous. But in the world of access credentials, mobile has got off to a sluggish start. Plastic key-cards dominate in most workplaces. Yet using your mobile as a credential has a number of advantages. It’s convenient: for users, who are carrying their phone anyway; for facility managers, because it enables them to issue or revoke credentials over the air. It’s more secure; unlike keys or smart-cards, phones are usually screen-locked with a PIN, pattern or fingerprint. It’s also cheaper: “the marginal cost… of creating an additional mobile credential is essentially zero,” says Jim Dearing.

The report probes users’ (relative) reluctance to adopt, so far, and identifies why app-powered access control may be on the cusp of lift-off. Security concerns about Bluetooth were cited by 60% of survey respondents, matching a 2016 survey for the Harvard Business Review in which 45% of chief information officers, tech executives, and IT employees saw connected mobile devices as the biggest weak spot in their defences.

IHS Markit projects 44 million mobile credentials will be downloaded by 2021, up from just 1 million in 2016

For a technology in its infancy — compared to the plastic key-card — this is not surprising. Where vendors and system integrators talk of enhanced user experience and operational efficiency, more conservative security professionals might see unnecessary cost, risk and complexity. Nearly everyone owns a mobile phone, true, but those phones come with a range of operating systems and compatibilities — and cyber protections. It is unrealistic to expect every employee to carry a corporate-grade firewall in their pocket.

By contrast, everyone gets the same, standard access card. Tried, trusted simplicity is appealing in an industry where risk aversion is an essential component of the DNA.

So, what is likely to change? IHS Markit projects 44 million mobile credentials will be downloaded by 2021, up from just 1 million in 2016 — primarily as a complement to, rather than replacement for, plastic smart-cards. Seeing mobile credentials as a convenient add-on may be one paradigm shift. Similarly, Gartner forecasts 20% of organisations will use mobile access credentials by 2020. Because smartphones can match biometric data centrally, they may negate the need for separate biometric readers, saving costs.

Gartner also highlights growing awareness of the advantages in adapting access rights in real time. Access control ecosystems including SMARTair® have seen huge customer interest in their new online, “real-time” functionality offering.

Standards & integration

An overwhelming majority of security professionals — both in the survey and anecdotally on the ground — recognise a growing importance of integrating multiple security technologies within a single environment.

The easiest, most cost-effective path towards integrated systems is to develop devices and technologies on open platforms and to agreed standards, including the OSS–Standard Offline from the Open Standards Security Association. Under this standard, each lock manufacturer has its own approach to writing and reading cards, but customers installing offline locks from brands that subscribe to the OSS–SO are guaranteed interoperability. With the OSS–SO, offline locks from different manufacturers read the same access rights from a card and interpret them in the same way.

“Interoperability is critically important for any end-user investing in new or upgraded access control,” says Matthias Weiß, product manager Aperio® at ASSA ABLOY EMEA. “They need to plan for eventualities they may not even see yet, and open standards allow them to do that. Ending reliance on a single, proprietary solution makes installed access control more flexible. You can add a new building, for example, and bring its access control into the existing system seamlessly.“

For buyers and manufacturers, the future is now

Open standards both make scaling-up more cost-effective and future-proof any large investment in access control — and most investments in security, of course, are large. Speaking recently about the OSS–SO standards, Ruben Brinkman, alliance manager at Nedap Security Management, said: “Our AEOS platform adheres to all the latest OSS–SO standards, meaning all current (and future) offline locks and updaters that also adhere to these standards seamlessly communicate with the Nedap system. That’s the beauty of it.”

Procurement decisions are made with the long term in mind. For buyers and manufacturers, the future is now.

About the report

The 22-page “Wireless Access Control Report”, following up on the 2016 survey, offers a much more detailed snapshot of the access control industry in 2018, including coverage of sustainability, cloud-based Access Control as a Service (ACaaS) and more. Analysis is informed by a targeted survey of senior security professionals across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 


  1. Introduction
  2. A growing, maturing wireless market
  3. The ‘non-door’ market
  4. Bluetooth & smartphone access
  5. The cloud and access control ‘as a service’
  6. Sustainability & energy efficiency
  7. Integration
  8. Wireless Access Control Solutions
  9. Recap & key trends: wireless access control in 2018

Download the full report here.


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One Response to “Wireless Access Control in 2018”

  1. Gunnar Frank

    Interesting, but a bit confusing. My understanding of this report is that when referring to “wireless” it include everything that works without wires, that is any battery operated locks, regardless if they are on-line or off-line locks. This is linguistically true, but when talking about wireless technology in general, it usually refers to some kind of radio communication. In that sense, an Aperio on-line lock would be considered wireless, while an Aperio off-line lock wouldn’t.