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Southco discusses how designers and operators of enclosures can benefit from latest generation electronics access technology solutions.

Ten years ago options were limited – normally a simple mechanical lock and physical keys – for making a product, site or enclosure secure but readily accessible to authorised personnel.

Today, electronic access technology has moved inside and is fast becoming the preferred method of access management for a vast array of product enclosures, offering heightened security, improved functionality, better traceability and more convenience.

For enclosures, Southco said that the major benefits of electronic access over traditional mechanical systems can be broken down into the following three categories: heightened security, more flexible industrial design and system integration.

For controlling and monitoring access, systems must provide flexible control of access privileges, create audit trails and integrate with existing security systems or technologies.

Using an existing network, an electronic access system can create an audit trail by monitoring access remotely through signals that leave an electronic ‘signature’ each time a lock is actuated.

An additional security benefit is the capability for enclosures to have no visible access point, making them less vulnerable to vandalism or direct attack.

Electronic access allows the integration of electronic and mechanical functions including soft-touch-switch door access, wireless remote access and the integration of lighting with access points – plus enhanced ergonomics.

A level of intelligence, on-board computers and advanced electronics are often standard features of modern equipment.

For such products, electronic access is a natural fit and can deliver system-wide benefits, including easy addition or subtraction of credentials from the authorised access list and quick updates.

In custom applications, such as multi-point access/latching systems applications, electronic access lock systems can be actuated with a low-voltage electronic signal from a single electronic source, avoiding the limitations and space requirements of mechanically connected rods or cables.

At the heart of the most robust electronic access systems is a reliable, electromechanical lock or latch (EML), which can be designed into the product.

Many latch/lock products that worked well for simple lock/unlock functions are not designed for more complex electronic access applications, many of which favour gear motor drives that use less power and provide higher load capabilities than solenoid driven systems.

A microprocessor and gear-motor-based EML operates only during the moment of actuation, thereby saving energy.

Secure, heavy-duty, lock/latch mechanisms are key to long-term reliability, particularly in demanding outdoor or remote, vandal-prone areas.

Mechanical override is mandatory in many applications and the override mechanism has to be considered in the EML itself and during the design-in phase of the project.

Finally, comprehensive, easy-to-use monitoring of latch status must be designed into an electronic access system.

This can range from a simple light indicator to a remote computer with a full graphical user interface (GUI).

At the heart of the Southco system for enclosure latching is its H3-EM electronic locking swinghandle with a blue LED status indicator, providing the local and remote functionality of a manual latching system with the benefit of electronic locking and unlocking.

The H3-EM accommodates single or multi-point latching with a low-power, gear-motor-driven lock mechanism and high-security DIN lock manual override.

To meet increased physical and network security and access demands, Southco has developed the push-to-close R4-EM electronic rotary latch – enabling electronic access control with the security of an all-metal rotary latch design in a compact integrated package.

For simple or smaller applications, plug-and-play access control with no need for software or network administration can be achieved with a wide range of lock/latch mechanisms controlled by a single, standalone point of contact.

Conversely, access to a fully networked system can be monitored, managed, configured or reconfigured from a remote location over a network.

In addition to new products, there’s a vast installed base of cabinetry and enclosures across a wide range of applications – such as data centres – where far more can be done to monitor, control and record what happens inside the cabinets.

Most enclosures can have some level of electronic access added, from standalone, software-free latch/lock mechanisms that can be installed for a fraction of the cost of cabinet replacement, to more sophisticated, fully monitored and networked systems.

For both manufacturers and customers, an electronic access system should be developed with a partner that can integrate all mechanical and electronic aspects, including post-installation service.

As demands for tighter security, real-time monitoring, accurate audit trails and centralised control grows, companies that can provide simpler and more flexible, long-term cost-saving electronic access solutions can have a significant edge, concludes Southco.

Southco offers a broad range of latching solutions including locks, latches, hinges, handles and fasteners.  Southco´s distinctive human touch point solutions are important components of products that people interact with. They ensure a positive first impression while never overlooking the importance of optimum safety and secure operations.

For over 100 years, Southco has helped customers solve and overcome engineering challenges and our passion, vision and focus today is to help customers differentiate their products´ engineered touch points.

Southco is a leading global supplier with more than 2000 employees in over 20 countries, together with sales, distribution, engineering and customer service centers in over 30 countries. Southco can support you wherever you are in the world.

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