Electronic locks can use various kinds of mechanisms to open doors and activate devices. These can be a simple lock that requires a key or they could be highly complex devices that require some kind of biometric identification. The electronic locks are sometimes called as keyless locks because they do without the traditional keys. They are usually powered by batteries. Electronic locks consist of an inputting device and an access control unit. However, more complex variations of the electronic locks will use more sophisticated components too.
Many technologies are used in electronic locks. On an increasing order of the level of security that they provide, these locks can be keypad devices that work by a code system, access devices that require some kind of a security token or a biometric lock that use some part of the person’s body or even some abstract aspect like voice for identification. The cost of the electronic lock generally depends on the level of security that they provide, which in turn will depend on the kind of technology that they use.
The keypad electronic locks are the simplest versions. These are operated through a code, usually a four-digit code that can be customized by the user. Once the code is set, it requires a password to log in to the system again to change the code. Some of the more sophisticated versions here can remember facts such as the user’s birthday or hometown or some other such detail as security information.
There are many problems with such locks though. The codes can be guessed by people, usually those that are close to the user. People commonly forget their codes too, and resetting these electronic locks is a very difficult procedure. Also, most people give access to their family by telling them what the codes are. This can make the information known to some people and hence increase the security risk.
Security tokens like cards are commonly used in some electronic locks too. These tokens are inserted in a particular reader slot where the software ‘reads’ the secret digitized information in the token and unlocks the system if it matches with the information present in its database. Such readers actually retain a memory of previous usage of the security token and decide on that basis whether the lock should be unlocked or not.
These systems are quite secure, but there is the difficulty of retaining the security tokens at all times. There is always the risk of losing these. The security tokens are very uniquely fashioned for each lock and replacing them could become very difficult. At the same time, their unique shapes become an advantage. If they fall into the wrong hands, the person will probably not be able to guess what they are about. This is a definite advantage over traditional keys where people already know that all keys are some kind of security device.
Biometrics is coming out in a long way in the field of electronic locks. Here, the person has to give some individual information in order to access the lock. This could be a fingerprint, a palm print, a retina scan or even the person’s voice. This information needs to be set when first configuring the lock. The access system of the device will then maintain a database of the information. When the user is trying to gain entry, the information provided will be matched with the existing information and then it will be decided whether the person has the authority to access the lock or not. More than one people can be given the authority to access the lock.
The biometric electronic locks are the most expensive, but at the same time they are the most secure. People are still warming up to the idea of using this system for residential security.