Gone are the days when a locksmith’s job consisted only of dealing with mechanical keys.

Now the men and women who have helped evolve this profession find themselves experts in software and online systems thanks to a number of facilities’ adoption of electronic locks, such as the Onity Integra locking system—adding another layer to locksmiths’ marketability.

Onity , a provider of electronic locking solutions, is part of UTC Fire & Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

“We switched to electronic locks in 2001, and at first, I wasn’t sure how it would affect our profession,” says Edward Amader, lead locksmith with California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“It turned out there weren’t many differences, and the amount of work essentially stayed the same. Because the trend is moving from mechanical locks to electronic locks, the experience can help bring us additional income because we must become familiar with programming technology and the corresponding software.”

According to Ron Kandcer, western regional sales representative for Onity, many locksmiths are excited about the transition, but sometimes believe the system will create a heavier workload.

“Electronic locks actually provide them more control because the technology allows access to be managed, with key cards expiring at locksmith-determined times and key duplication made impossible by students ,” says Ron.

“Most, however, look forward to gaining more experience, realizing that mechanical keys in commercial buildings will eventually disappear.”

During the initial education process, Kandcer first explains to locksmiths how the technology will not be a hindrance to them and, if something goes wrong, such as a theft or burglary, an audit trail from the lock provides the starting point for an investigation.

“There’s also the misperception from several leaders at universities that, if they adopt an electronic locking system, they will no longer need the services of a locksmith,” Kandcer says.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth. The new system will not only still require the services of a lock shop, but will also help elevate the locksmith’s knowledge about various types of locks.”

Lauren Granlund, assistant director of facilities for Santa Clara University, has made that transition, which started in 2003. Currently 20 percent of the school’s 5,000 locks are electronic.

“One of the main reasons for our switch was that, because of our transient students, the metal keys we issued were never returned. By switching to electronic locks, we aim to secure better control and save money because cards are cheaper to replace than keys.”

Granlund also says that the locksmiths at Santa Clara University have been just as busy as they were before the switch, installing electronic locks during the conversion process, updating locks on a regular basis, coding keycards and troubleshooting. And he does not see the need for locksmiths changing; just evolving.

“When a locksmith utilizes an electronic system that manages their keying system plus provides enhanced security by allowing them to see who entered a particular room, the benefits outweigh any offered by the old, mechanical key system,” says Granlund.