Mechanical vs. Digital Keys – The Pros and Cons

Authored by InstaKey

Authored by Whitney Fay, Sales & Marketing Administrator for LockNet

Digital Keys: Are They The New Future?

If you look around, you will notice more and more people use digital keys; they are definitely the wave of the future. I’m continually amazed by the new smart locks and technological advances in today’s market.

With digital keys on the rise, many say mechanical keys will soon become a thing of the past. However, most industry professionals disagree.

Digital Keys: The Downsides

Digital keys have taken the market by storm and are definitely here to stay. They offer a host of benefits such as audit trails, simple rekeys, and ease of use. However, these advances aren’t without a few downsides:

  • Cost: Both the locks that use digital keys, as well as the keys themselves, inevitably cost more than those that only use mechanical keys. The increased dollar signs alone are enough to encourage some organizations to opt for mechanical locks.
  • Battery Life: Another potential downside of digital keys is they must be physically charged or have the batteries changed on a regular basis. Imagine trying to get into your office only to find that your key is inoperable because it’s low on battery.
  • Failure Rate: The final vulnerability of digital keys is the technology is more prone to failure than mechanical locks. Digital keys and the locks they operate are sometimes plagued by defective computer chips. In these instances, one cannot gain entry or secure the lock without a mechanical key override.

Mechanical Keys: They are Here to Stay

Because of the aforementioned downsides of digital keys, industry experts believe that, while the use digital keys will continue to rise, mechanical keys are here to stay. They are a safeguard against electronic failures and are easier to use.

As long as a lock functions properly, a mechanical key will always work—you don’t have the same risk for electronic failure. As such, many electronic locks will continue to offer mechanical key overrides. The LockNet director of business development, Elise Miller, says, “There will always be a need for at least one mechanical key per location, because there will always be at least one lock that needs an override. In other words, there will always be locks that need the most basic and simple operation—a key.”

Rob Owen, the LockNet director of national accounts-construction, is also on board with the idea that mechanical keys are here to stay. “Digital keys are definitely here to stay, but by no means will they replace mechanical keys. First, some doors simply won’t need the sophistication of a digital key, and it would be a waste of money to install digital locks on these doors. Secondly, digital keys will always be plagued by a higher failure rate due to the ability for the computer chip to fail.”

As technology advances, digital keys will be increasingly refined and will be more of a mainstay in the market; however, the mechanical key is here to stay.

A version of this post originally appeared on the LockNet blog, LockBytes.