Unless you live in Mayberry (and maybe even if you do), chances are you wouldn’t be comfortable leaving your house or going to bed and just leaving your front doors unlocked. Nor would you likely approve of anyone who passed by your home being able to just come in uninvited and roam around unescorted. Despite an uptick in recent years, U.S. crime levels—even in big cities—are historically low overall. But that doesn’t mean that security isn’t a major concern for boards and residents alike. Condos and HOAs still need to secure their properties and control who’s allowed to go where.
Security technology follows security needs—and today, that path usually involves electronic access. According to Bob Maunsell, CEO of Electronic Security Group in West Boylston, Massachusetts, when it comes to condo and HOA living, electronic access usually means key fobs. “Anyone who is in the process of refinancing or doing any major capital improvements is installing keyless entry systems,” says Maunsell. “Everyone is moving toward key fobs. They’re also doing intercom upgrading and video surveillance.”
Lack of that type of security tracking is a major factor leading buildings and associations to replace old metal key systems with electronic fob systems. “There’s no good way to keep track of old-fashioned mechanical keys,” says Maunsell. “With keyless entry, you know who has entered the building and at what time. You can disable a fob when it’s lost, or when a tenant moves out. It’s much easier than having a locksmith come and change the lock.” Changing a lock on an entry door also requires replacing what could be dozens or even hundreds of keys. Electronic technology simply eliminates that problem.
It also saves money. Tony Dahlin, a security expert and owner of Bullis Lock Co. in Chicago, Illinois, says, “Fob popularity has really grown as the price has dropped. [They’ve] long been popular in the commercial sector, but with the price dropping, condos and apartment buildings are increasingly using the technology. If you hand somebody a [mechanical] key and they don’t return it, you have to change the locks. They can make duplicates of the missing key, and you don’t know who has access to your building. With fobs, that can’t happen—they give you control over who enters, and when, and eliminate the need for a physical key. If a fob is lost, you just go into the software and deactivate it without affecting anyone else’s usage.”
How We Got Here
The first big move away from physical keys was in the early 1990s, with the introduction of Dallas chip keys, also known as ‘transponder keys.’ They were originally used as a car-key technology and contain a very small computer chip inside that sends an identifying message to authenticate the key for the lock.