Electronic Locks

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Electronic locks are technology's improvement on the mechanical deadbolt lock. The deadbolt, of course, has long been the most secure way to keep a door in the door frame. It still is. A deadbolt lock mechanism--essentially modern society's answer to a bar across the door--operates independently from the door knob.

How Electronic Locks Work

First: electronic locks are deadbolt locks. That is, a steel bolt seated in a steel housing within the door is, when the lock is activated, moved laterally so that its free end is seated firmly, with no allowance for movement while locked, in a corresponding steel housing in the door frame.

Electronic door locks can be operated by radio wave frequency, key sequence or infrared mechanisms. Many of the radio wave type feature what is called rolling code technology. This means that the lock unlocks by any one of as many as four billion sequences, which it "chooses" randomly each time it opens. Key sequence mechanisms--essentially combination locks--are based on a computer chip rather than a mechanical device. Infrared mechanisms, which you see in hotels and motels, use an access card--in essence a key--inserted into the lock, which is "read" by a sensor on a computer chip.

Some models of electronic locks offer motion detectors that illuminate a keyhole or indicator lights signaling whether the lock is fully engaged or disengaged. Indicators can also be audible signals. Another possible feature is a computer chip autolock setting. The lock itself can be either a single- or a double-cylinder lock. The double-cylinder design requires a "key" on both sides of the lock. That is, in the case of a glass door, breaking the glass isn't enough to open the door.

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