Here’s a set of answers to our most commonly asked questions about electronic latches. Steeves Agencies is happy to supply electronic latches to companies in Canada, particularly Southco’s line of electronic access hardware.
What is an electronic latch? What makes it electronic?
An electronic latch is a latching mechanism that is actuated by an electronic circuit board, which is connected to a power source. The circuit board typically controls a low-voltage solenoid or drive gear that locks or unlocks the latch, or both.
What things to electronic latches do that regular latches can’t?
Much like the “smart appliances” and other “smart” devices we’re seeing, access hardware is getting smarter! Until a few years ago, you had to be at home to change your thermostat, check to see if your garage door was open, or even set your PVR¹ to record your favorite show. Now you can do all these things from your phone, from almost anywhere.
How do they get power? What happens if the power is cut?
Electronic latches need power to operate. Most have very low-voltage requirements, and can operate for hundreds (or thousands) of cycles with as little as 4 AA batteries. If power is available nearly through an outlet, most electronic latches have the ability to plug in to an adapter to provide the correct voltage from a 110 household plug.
As with anything else electronic, though, when the power goes out, the electronics could become temporarily inoperable. If that’s a risk, then providing a manual “backup” option is an important consideration. There are a number of creative ways to provide “manual” access with a simple keyed cam lock in the event of a power outage.
Southco offers a self-contained electronic latch that comes with a “manager” key with batteries in it. This special key can provide temporary power to the latch even if there’s no other power to the unit.
Can they be part of the IoT? Bluetooth? WIFI? What are some advanced applications?
Electronic latches can definitely be part of the IoT! With Bluetooth(™)and WIFI connectivity, the applications are limitless. One of the largest applications you might be familiar with is the banks of customer pickup boxes used by companies like Costco, Amazon, Home Depot and other large retail stores.
If you place an order online and choose to pick it up after hours or in-store, you might get to use one of these. When you go to pick up your order, you can use your phone or enter your order number to access your order easily and quickly.
How long have they been around?
Electronic latches have been around for a few years now, but you may start noticing them more and more in places other than cars or security doors. Home Depot, for example, started installing their pickup lockers back in 2018.
What are their tolerances? Heat/Cold/strength…
Whether your product is a compartment that lives outside in the wind and rain or one that resides in a climate-controlled server farm, there’s an electronic latch for that. Southco has an impressive range of options to suit nearly any application.
Are they a lot more expensive side by side vs other latches?
Electronic latches don’t have to add a lot to your project cost. If you’re looking for an electro-mechanical “assist”, there are a range of rotary latches and other options that add a lot of value without a lot of expense.
What are the coolest applications of electronic latches?
Another cool application for electronic latches that we found was a boat manufacturer who outfitted a tournament bass boat with remote locks. Using a key-fob (like you would with your car), the driver can lock or unlock all the compartments in the boat at once, with the push of a button².
What companies typically buy electronic latches the most?
Electronic latches seem to be well suited to a lot of industrial cabinet manufacturers, companies that make server racks, electronics enclosures, etc. These are generally high-security areas where access is very limited, and where audit trails are needed. But there are so many more places where electronic latches can be used!
You might be surprised at the kinds of manufacturers who are looking at electronic solutions. We’ve had requests from oilfield production equipment manufactures, storage box manufacturers, boat manufacturers, even RV and truck body manufacturers. The sky’s the limit! If you want to restrict access, only allow selective access or monitor user access remotely, electronic latches can do that without having to manage physical keys.
What lines does Steeves Agencies carry? What are some of your personal favorites?
We’re proud to carry Southco’s product line of electronic hardware. Together with their Electronic Access Solutions (EAS) Team, we have been able to help a few of our clients find the perfect solutions for their projects. There are other product lines that have electronic solutions out there, but none of them have the support in place to help you from the design stage right through to the end user experience.
How do you manage multiple users with varying access requirements or schedules?
Pretty much anything is possible with electronic latches: restricted access by time, user ID, or any number of criteria. Southco offers a system that’s web-enabled and can be scaled to virtually unlimited users, all with their own access credentials and schedules.
- The initial draft of this post used “VCR”. Don’t judge me.
- We’re not sure if this actually improved his fishing skills, but we like to think it made his competitors envious of his cool boat.