From Silicon Labs: IoT Hero Allegion Electrifies Mechanical Products to Strengthen Building and Home Security
Earlier this year, we spoke with Ryan Kincaid, an Allegion global hardware architect, who focuses on connectivity and the security of embedded systems. Allegion is a long-standing and trusted brand in mechanical security, with a 100 + year history of building locks and entry systems for residential and commercial buildings. With more than 30 brands in 130 countries, Allegion has been specializing in security since long before electronics of any kind even existed.
True to its pioneering roots, Allegion sees tremendous opportunity in IoT to create even more value within its product portfolio. Over the past few years, the company has been working closely with Silicon Labs to add connectivity to a broad spectrum of smart home and commercial security products in its portfolio.
In the blog below, Ryan shares insight behind some of these new products and use cases for access control technology, including enabling features like granting delivery personnel access into homes without the need for the homeowner to be on-site.
Tell me a little bit about Allegion.
Many people are familiar with Allegion’s brands without even knowing it. For example, if you look at your key chain, there’s probably a key that says Schlage on it, which is one of our core U.S. brands. Schlage can also be found on exterior and interior locks in your house. When you walk through an entry way of a commercial building, people often push our Von Duprin exit devices to open the door (that’s the bar running across the door) or use a credential reader to gain access. Many people first think of these brands as mechanical, but what is happening in the industry is a migration of electrifying mechanical devices. We are adding in connectivity, sensor technologies, and fairly high-end embedded security to make them intelligent.
Can you tell me about how Allegion is working with Silicon Labs?
We use Silicon Labs in a variety of different products, especially related to connectivity and our connected home solutions. We started using Silicon Labs’ technology through the acquisition of BlueGiga and quickly saw the benefit of the support Silicon Labs provided. We have gone on to leverage products like the Silicon Labs Mighty Gecko SoC and others over time. For example, we recently worked with Silicon Labs to develop a Zigbee-certified smart home lock, a solution great for people who want in-home delivery. A homeowner can grant access to a third-party, such as Amazon, and allow that delivery service access on a limited basis to that person’s door (which can also be paired up with a camera). When the delivery person arrives at the home, he or she can unlock the home and lock on their way out.
Another product we launched recently is a networked version of an exit device that allows remote monitoring and access control in commercial settings. This product utilizes the Blue Gecko SoC and is targeted specifically at the K-12 educational vertical. We call it a safe school application, as it enhances perimeter security by providing electronic override of mechanical solutions for an emergency facility lockdown. This product can be invaluable to school administrators as prior to this type of technology, a human would have to go around to every single access point and ensure it was securely locked.
What are some of the major product design challenges you typically run into?
Time to market is always a challenge. We have found Silicon Labs’ offering of both SoC and pre-certified module (FCC certified modules) solutions especially valuable to us. The pre-certified modules accelerate our time to market because we can circumvent some of the compliance and certification processes. For example, the Zigbee product I mentioned earlier was not a new technology to the industry, but it was new for our product line, and being able to use the tools and certification support Silicon Labs provided really sped up our product delivery. One of our other largest challenges is decreasing our time to market while maintaining our high standards for safety and security.
How important is security and how do you see security evolving with IoT?
Security is priority number one – there is no question about that. For example, at schools, connected devices allow for fast and safe lockdowns. At home, you can get an alert when your child arrives home from school and enters the door, allow temporary access to a visitor, and verify that the door is locked before you turn out the lights.
Our reputation is built on security, so when it comes to adding electronics to mechanical solutions, our security mindset comes with us. We have added roles within the company that specifically focus on cybersecurity. When we look to products that we’re using within our embedded system, we’re constantly refreshing our security requirements around those pieces. This includes enabling security updates in the field. When we look for silicon or firmware partners, security is always the first thing we review.
One of the things we want consumers to be mindful of is the market is full of products touting home security, but some of these are companies don’t necessarily have the history or track record that we do.
Where do you see IoT going in the next 5-8 years?
I think consumers are becoming more and more aware of security. They might not know all of the encryption standards and data privacy laws, but they’re getting to the point where they are asking sophisticated security questions, and people developing IoT products need to meet these new demands. This will drive new security standards, data storage requirements and computing at the edge.
There will be an increase in consumers questioning a product’s digital longevity. How long will this be supported? Will I continue to receive updates? Will the pricing model change? To be successful in the IoT market for the long run, manufacturers must have scalability and sustainability product plans in place before delivering each and every IoT device to market.
Finally, we will see a demand for a better user experience in IoT. Devices need to be easily commissioned and seamlessly work within the intended ecosystem. This could include sharing data with a smart devices or cloud services. Products constantly need to be checked for compatibility due to the rapid change in these technologies. Products genuinely need to address customer needs without becoming an annoyance.
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