Locks have been in use for thousands of years. The desire to keep unwanted people out of a property – and to reliably let the right people in – predates any contemporary nation state or political system.
The oldest lock ever found was unearthed in the ruins of the Khorasbad palace and is estimated to be around 4,000 years old. Lock technology has improved drastically in the many years since it was used to protect the belongings of Assyrian royalty. This article is a brief guide to some of the lock systems employed today. Two of the entries on this list concern the actual locking mechanisms used. The other two are authentication systems – modern updates to the long dominant ‘key and lock’ system.
Traditionally, lock bolts are held in place with a spring. If you close your home’s door and it automatically locks behind you, then you have a spring bolted lock. These are convenient, but remarkably easy to circumvent. Spring bolted locks can be easily jacked open by a person with enough skill and the right tools. Deadbolt locks are far more secure. Most locksmiths will recommend the installation of deadbolt locks on external doors. Search for a ‘locksmith near me‘ on Google to find a local installer.
A deadbolt cannot be locked or unlocked without the correct key or electronic authentication. It locks in place and is completely inert – not spring loaded. This makes them far harder to jack open. Deadbolt locks are very secure, but the fact that they need to be manually locked and unlocked has caused some issues with fire safety in the past. Modern deadbolts often allow keyless exit from the inside of a property in order to maintain fire safety while providing good security.
Mortice locks are even more secure than deadbolt systems, but tend to be a little more complex. They are unique in their utilization of a ‘mortice’ – a strengthened pocket into which the lock bolt slots. Although the installation of a mortice pocket actually weakens the strength of some doors, the added security of having a very tight hole into which the bolt slides makes these locks considerably harder to break into using normal tools than conventional systems. These lock systems typically use conventional pin and tumbler keys, but can also be made compatible with keycard, fob or biometric authentication technology.
Doing away with the traditional key – the lock mechanisms taking keys being relatively easy to pick – keycard and fob systems are programmed to transmit a distinct radio frequency. This frequency is picked up by a receiver inside a lock, which only slides a bolt across when presented with the correct radio frequency.
Biometric authentication systems are even more secure than keycard and fob systems. They are programmed to scan for unique biometric data such as fingerprint or retina shape before unlocking. These systems are often installed in high security areas, but are becoming more common in general commercial use thanks to the spread of cheap scanning technology.