An electronic lock (or electric lock) is a locking device which operates by means of electric current. Electric locks are sometimes stand-alone with an electronic control assembly mounted directly to the lock. Electric locks may be connected to an access control system, the advantages of which include: key control, where keys can be added and removed without re-keying the lock cylinder; fine access control, where time and place are factors; and transaction logging, where activity is recorded. Electronic locks can also be remotely monitored and controlled, both to lock and to unlock.
A feature of electronic locks is that the locks can deactivated or opened by authentication, without the use of a traditional physical key:
Numerical codes, passwords, and passphrases
Perhaps the most common form of electronic lock uses a keypad to enter a numerical code or password for authentication. Some feature an audible response to each press. Combination lengths are usually between four and six digits long.
Another means of authenticating users is to require them to scan or “swipe” a security token such as a smart card or similar, or to interact a token with the lock. For example, some locks can access stored credentials on a personal digital assistant (PDA) or smartphone, by using infrared, Bluetooth, or NFC data transfer methods.
As biometrics become more and more prominent as a recognized means of positive identification, their use in security systems increases. Some electronic locks take advantage of technologies such as fingerprint scanning, retinal scanning, iris scanning and voice print identification to authenticate users.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the use of an object (typically referred to as an “RFID tag”) applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader. This technology is also used in some modern electronic locks.