SJUK Exclusive: Unlocking potential with smart sustainability

April 19, 2022

Security Journal UK speaks exclusively with Pip Courcoux and Pat Jefferies of Abloy UK.

There are major changes taking place within the world of security. Not only is the global industry experiencing exponential growth from a smart technology perspective, perceptions are changing and so are the needs and wants of end users.

Those working in and around the access control sector specifically will know that its development has coincided with the need for efficiency – a requirement which has paved the way for innovative manufacturers with a mindset focussed on sustainability, efficiency and, ultimately, safety.

In the past, if you had mentioned the word ‘Abloy’, many people’s minds would have jumped to the thought of high security locking solutions. And, whilst this still remains a staple of the company’s offering – experts will always have a desire to set trends and evolve in-line with the markets they serve.

The team at Abloy UK – a specialist regional division of ASSA ABLOY – works closely with its customers across a variety of critical sectors and provides knowledge and support from project specification through to maintenance. As the company continues to add digital layers to its product portfolio and expands its work within areas of wireless connectivity, Security Journal UK caught up with Pip Courcoux, Head of Product, Technical and Digital Transformation and Pat Jefferies, Commercial Director to find out more about how Abloy UK is growing.  

Education: A key component

Education has been and always will be at the heart of Abloy UK and the ASSA ABLOY Group; in 2022, this will be no different. Both Courcoux and Jefferies value education as a key component in the company’s strategy and see it as a major driver for product development. Courcoux explained: “Over the past three or four years we have brought more products into the portfolio in what has been an extremely difficult time to do that.

“We have seen some major changes at the organisation, including the rapid growth of our team. As a result, educating the market on what we have in the portfolio and what we can do is one of our key objectives.”

Abloy UK is historically known for its mechanical strength. However, whilst there is no doubt the business will remain a component supplier to the industry, a separate “business transition” is also taking place. 

“We are a solutions provider, a company that is slightly moving away from the ‘fit and forget’ approach,” Courcoux continued. “Our solutions can be integrated with other products and we have split the portfolio into four key areas: Wired locking solutions; Wireless locking; Digital key systems and our core mechanical locking business.”

Jefferies added: “I would say that the disk tumbler mechanism is probably the world’s most secure locking system. Whilst it is physically secure however, it doesn’t tell you who has been there, how someone has accessed it and at what time. The real secret here is to be able to combine all these benefits and also try and do it at very low energy.”

A smart period of change

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant amount of disruption in the door locking and access control markets. With sites and facilities left vulnerable, security was high on the agenda for those looking to limit entry and control the whereabouts of on-site staff. Jefferies elaborated: “There are a lot of things we have seen during these strange times. We could have predicted what we might see – now, we can actually look back and see how it differs.

“Many sites relied on power to keep access points secured. I think at the height of the pandemic, manufacturers thought that anti-bacterial coatings for handles, for example, would be a massive driver going forward, however they have become something more of a default; mobile credentials have been put into much greater focus from a convenience and futureproof perspective.”

“There were many examples where people found themselves locked out of their own premises because credentials had expired,” said Courcoux. “Moreover, the mobile trend came initially from the identity and cybersecurity space, particularly as we log in to apps and systems which are starting to ask for verification – this is because people have got to a point where passwords are no longer good enough.”

There is no doubt – the ability to identify individuals is critical to the development of the access control sector. This has birthed the mobile revolution. As a need for flexibility and convenience has grown, so too have the solutions available such as Abloy UK’s Incedo™ Business Mobile Keys that can be enabled on mobile phones, tablets, watches and other wearable electronic devices. Courcoux expanded on this: “On your first day of the job, instead of having to go and collect your own key or fob, you can now just go to where you need to go at the appropriate time and simply check in with your phone.  

“From a COVID-19 perspective, I actually don’t think we have seen the proper impact on the commercial workplace yet; I think there will be some major access control trends emerging over the next two to three years.”

Sustainability and standards compliance

For a long time, one of the prominent mistakes was that if you needed to secure a door, there was an easy answer – an electromagnet. With an electromagnet however – though the door may only get used for a total of an hour over the course of the day – it needs power to remain locked and is in fact still drawing power for the other 23 hours.

Whilst one magnet does not seem a massive cost, “if you look at the bigger picture, this can add up very quickly across a site with multiple access points,” Jefferies clarified. “When we therefore think about changing that device to something more familiar, we have lever handles which meet escape standards, provide improved security and use significantly less energy because they only require power when a valid credential has been used to unlock the door. It is not all about saving money, but the move towards green credentials reflects a bigger, more sustainable picture.”

Sustainability is a number one priority for the ASSA ABLOY Group and Abloy UK are keenly supporting this objective. Operationally, Abloy product comes from Finland and, as an organisation, it is very proud of the initiatives that have been put in place. Courcoux provided details of this journey: “We have had digital key systems for some time now and they moved from being a mechanical key to becoming an electronic one that we had greater control over. By putting a battery in the key instead of putting a magnet on the door, it improves efficiency, something that has many sustainable implications.

“We live in an incredibly mechanical market and there is a long way to go before we can digitalise these components. The exciting next step we are taking on this journey is creating a kinetic energy key system that, as the key is inserted in the lock, creates the power to have encrypted communication, access control flexibility and traceability in the system. Not only do you get rid of the complicated wires and installation difficulties, you remove the battery power aspect.”

If sustainability is the destination, standards compliance is a vehicle that drives businesses along the way. As Abloy UK began its journey, Jefferies clarified that the arrival of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) had significant implications for both the company and the wider landscape: “The CPR looked at the critical jobs a door could do: One, to help us to escape; Two, to stop the spread of fire,” he said. “At this point, the market began to change quite substantially. This has evolved into the UK CPR now in place; these rules tell us how to address doors and what we need to do.”

Reflecting the company’s dedication to positively shaping the industry, the Abloy UK Academy was established 15 years ago and has moved from strength to strength. “By meeting standards, we give confidence to customers and end users that our products match what we intend for them to do,” he added. “In the digital space, it is very easy for a customer to get caught up in the excitement of new features and new functionalities; what we seek to do is remind them that sometimes, without focussing on the primary functions of products, dangerous situations can arise. If you take your product seriously, standards compliance is vital.

As the growth continues, Abloy UK’s Digital Access Solutions Academy will also be opened soon – not as a replacement of the existing academy, but as a new area of focus. Ultimately, this will help the company to push smart, sustainable messages whilst developing its product portfolio.

Opening a lot of other doors

A very end user focussed business, whether that be through the Critical Infrastructure Division or the company’s Specification Team, Abloy UK is all about identifying the right products for the right settings. Strengthening its team with vertical specialists who know areas such as education and finance in great detail, the company is able to go into greater depth to fine-tune its offering on a bespoke basis.

“The strength of our product portfolio is very important to us and we have a solution for every door and every customer,” stated Courcoux.

Jefferies concluded: “When we look at our portfolio, the possibilities are endless. We have a solution to match most problems. Zoom and Teams is great, but there is nothing like taking our products out into the marketplace and showing people what we can do.”

Cost versus wants and needs will always be a conversation in regard to security, but Abloy UK has a range of partners that enables them to open a lot of other doors, helping the customer in the long run.

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This article was originally published in the April edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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